Penn families get help with the college search

The students were eager. Tiffani Taylor was the youngest, just one day shy of 14. Her cousin Quiana Braxton, 17, was one of the oldest. And then there were the parents, aunts and friends. What they had in common was they were all about to face the college application ordeal — with a little help from the Office of Admissions.

Nearly 50 people came to a seminar last week at College Hall, open to all members of the University community, to hear some advice from Admissions about admissions.

Talks like this have been given annually for the last five years, according to Regional Director of Admissions Bruce Chamberlin. “They attract a whole cross section — faculty, staff, everybody from maintenance through to academic departments, and also the hospital.”

They all come for the same thing.

“There’s a lot of tricks to know,” said Mike Carman, an instrument design specialist at the med school, who was there with his wife Peggy and his son Michael Jr., 15.

Tricks are not exactly what Admissions was purveying. What they hoped to do was “demystify the process,” said Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson, who confided to the group that his own daughter was a junior and that when he did the college tour this summer, he learned that touring “two colleges in one day is a challenge.”

Those tours sometimes don’t tell all, so wander around campus and talk to students afterward, advised Regional Director Leslie Smith. “Just pretend you’re lost,” she suggested. “It’s a good way to find out about the campus.”

For filling out applications, Gwynne Lynch, also a regional director, advised students to read the directions.

Lynch also said the supposed SAT-score cut-off point was a myth. “We read every application fully. There was never a stopping point,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s SAT assurances fell on deaf ears. Student Rob Corman, 16, said he felt less confident at the end of the session. “I have a high grade point average, but I don’t test well.”

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Originally published on September 16, 1999