TODAY

TODAY   |  February 13, 2013

College searching tips from an Ivy League dean

For high school juniors and their parents, it’s time to begin thinking about college. Whether you’re looking at an ultra-selective university or your state school, Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, has advice to help you find the best choice.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> choosing colleges. dean of admission from the university of pennsylvania . good to see you.

>> honor.

>> what's the questions, when you're starting to think about college, both for the student and for the parent? what do they need to ask?

>> i think they have to be honest with each other. they really need to think about what their anxiety level will be. as a parent, would you allow your child to go far from home? what do you want academically? talk about the careers, too. why are you going to college, to really think about the education you're going to receive and not just the linear path, let's say, to a job.

>> a lot of kids and parents are planning the spring break vacations and visiting colleges. what do you want to look for when you go to that college?

>> i like seeing parents and students walk into the admissions office and seem like they're relaxed, because they're going to really be able to take in the place that way. think about just planning a vacation. you could be really stressed about it or you could make the most of it. i think if they're honest with each other, what they want out of that visit and go off the beaten path. go to the library. look at the -- go to the library. not the first on the list, but you should. on penn 's campus, it's locust walk. stand in the middle of the college quad at any school when students come out of classes. hear those conversations. go to the information session and tour. try to get a sense of what day-to-day life is like.

>> is it a lot like buying a house, you know it when you see it as far as the fitative college?

>> i think it's intellectual and emotional. you can look and say this plans to be a right fit but you walk in the door and know right away it's not. i think it's a good analogy.

>> what about the academic facilities, how important are those?

>> certainly. you want to see where an institution is investing. at penn we just invested in a music building and also in our stem field, in engineering and math and science. so i think it's important to see the priorities that an institution has. and i think for some students those facilities will really dictate a decision.

>> isn't it important for parents and students to have a pretty frank discussion about what they can afford?

>> absolutely, al. i think that affordability is something that maybe even ten years ago families would not discuss. you try to protect your children.

>> sure.

>> nowadays i think it is very important to be honest about what need-based financial aid may look like. penn has a no-loan financial policy as a example. also do we need to get that scholarship? what does merit money look like? what about the state institution where you live and maybe even out of state? that could still be more affordable.

>> as an admissions person when you look at a child's transcript, what's better, an a in a regular course or a b in an ap course?

>> it is the old-age question of rigger versus performance. i think the important piece here is recognizing in the process, it is a human process, al, that students aren't equally strong in all fields.

>> sure.

>> i don't want to see a student avoid a language, math or science in their senior year but that doesn't mean that they need to take the ap physics in their senior year.

>> how important are the essay questions?

>> common application among the common application -- we just came up with new prompts with a lot of input from guidance counselors and others about what do students -- what do they internalize when they read the question? at the end of the day , we want to hear the student's voice. let them take down the trappings and not speak to an admission's dean, per se , but tell the story what they want us to hear about.

>> i hear my friends saying their kids are applying to 10, 15 colleges. what's a good average number?

>> sitting here in manhattan or philadelphia, those numbers are higher. the average number of applications submitted to the common application , which has about 500 member schools, is four.

>> so that's not a bad number?

>> that's not a bad number. realistically, students are pry probably applying and cover their options academically, admission wise and financially with about eight schools.

>> extra letters of recommendation?

>> schools have very specific policies on these extra letters. one letter is fine. i think if you're going to three you're really distracting the admission officer. you want to focus their attention in a limit eed time span.

>> eric furda, thank you very much. i hope you're working still at u penn when my son is coming up. you hang on a little while longer.

>> all righty.