College Night Recap: Ann Fleming Brown Returns to RHS

Claire Killian

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Last night, Ann Fleming Brown, the director of admissions at Union College, returned to Rye for the fourth time to be our college night speaker. She has presented here so often because she offers insightful advice paired, but presents it in a way which both interests and entertains the audience. College night is an annual event hosted by RHS where people with experience working in college admissions come and talk about the application process, and what they look for, or recommend, in applicants. While this may seem like an extremely stressful evening, Brown pairs her intellect with wit to create an informative, yet comedic, speech.

So what did this admissions director talk about? She started off by stressing the importance of college visits, and the role of the student vs. parent in these excursions. She encouraged potential visitors to wear the gear of the college they’re visiting, from their high school, or of a regional athletics team. Brown shared stories of students in the past who have been visiting her college wearing the colors of another school, or accidentally asked her questions about the wrong school. She recommended that, when visiting, students ask current college students about the actual college culture and lifestyle, while the parents may want to learn about the cost, graduation rates, second-year return rates, and how many graduates go on to get jobs. Important things for both parties to keep in mind included: class size, course selection, and what departments.

Brown highlighted the importance of an ongoing dialogue between students and both their teachers and guidance counselors. As she said, guidance counselors are like Amazon, if you tell them that you visited and really enjoyed one college, they can name five more similar schools you may also like. Besides just an academic conversation, it’s also very important to talk to your parents about money. Out of your top five schools, number one might give you nothing besides a stellar education, while number five is prepared to offer you lots of money in scholarships. It’s very important to have that discussion regarding your finances vs. education.

At this point, the presentation got interactive. Brown invited seven students from the back rows down to the stage to represent the  seven different parts of an application: the essay, extracurriculars, test scores, transcripts, guidance counselor recommendation letters, interview, and teacher recommendations. She talked to each of the representatives about how they felt about their given subject, and then asked them to line up by importance. The final order from most to least important was: transcript, test scores, guidance counselor recommendation, extracurriculars, essay, and interview. She encouraged students to only take their standardized test of choice two, maybe three times, because statistically they won’t improve that much. When working with your guidance counselor, Brown prompts students to tell them about themselves, by providing a resumé, or a list of interests, and thanking the counselors with a letter, or as she put it, a bribe in the form of a gift.

Brown repeatedly reminded attendees that the application was about the student. That means that the essay should be about the person applying, their letters of recommendation should be about the merits of the student, in the interview students should use “I” rather than “we”. She also left students with some more technical advice, check your emails, study 10-15 minutes a night, move on if it doesn’t work, double check everything, and always try your hardest. Overall, the presentation was enlightening and interesting, and we can’t wait for Brown to hopefully reprise her role in the future.