Expert Admissions hosted a webinar with Mike Devlin, Director of Admissions at Stanford University, and Christina Lopez, Dean of Enrollment Management at Barnard College. We discussed trends in applications, how Covid impacted this year’s admissions results, what admissions officers look for (and don’t) when they read applications, and more. In this three-part series, we’ll give you the highlights from that conversation. Keep reading to learn about the college search process – from campus tours to considering college fit – and to read more about our panelists.
College Fairs and Tours in 2021-2022
For this fall, most admissions events will be virtual, though both Stanford and Barnard are considering the possibility of local in-person events and having alumni attend out-of-state college fairs. The hope is that admissions officers will be back on the road by the spring to meet rising juniors. In terms of on-campus opportunities, guided tours will be hosted again in the fall by both Stanford and Barnard. You can see our list of schools currently offering in-person tours here.
Both Devlin and Lopez emphasized the tremendous opportunities opened up by virtual programming and stated that their institutions will retain a hybrid model moving forward. Limitations of distance and space were removed by going virtual. Dean Devlin offered an example of how Stanford and prospective students benefited this year. Stanford has long had an admissions “Officer of the Day” available to speak with any prospective student who comes by the admissions office on campus. But those admissions officers were only accessible to students who could travel to Palo Alto, CA. By switching to an online appointment system, they were able to connect with students they wouldn’t have been able to before. Overall, the benefits of virtual programming have been many, and schools will try to hold onto what worked well.
Thinking About College Fit
It can be difficult for students to narrow down the list of schools to which they want to apply. Unfortunately, when it comes to highly selective colleges and universities, some students (and parents) focus on the name rather than whether the institution is a good fit. We’ve written before about the importance of considering college fit in your search process. Now we asked Deans Devlin and Lopez to tell us a bit more about their campus cultures to give students a better sense of whether Stanford or Barnard might be right for them.
Dean Lopez discussed Barnard’s unique positioning as a liberal arts college in the middle of New York City and as a women’s college connected to an Ivy League institution “literally across the street.” She spoke of Barnard as “a community of students who are intentionally making the decision to attend a women’s college because they want to be surrounded by other women who are going to support them and encourage them and really inspire them throughout their four years.” She also emphasized the desire to take an interdisciplinary course of study, to examine issues through the lens of various identities, and to grow personally by examining their own identities and positions within existing power structures.
Dean Devlin said that Stanford is “very much collaborative over competitive, so our students are very high-achieving, but they are not high-strung. There is a real irreverence to the excellence that happens on campus…it’s definitely part of the Stanford mantra that we really care a lot about what we’re doing, we care about impacting the world and creating a positive change in the world, but we do it all with a sense of kind of like a family and cooperation…”
There can be a danger that students think they need to chase perfection to get into college. But in fact, the presentation of perfection can be a hindrance to success. Dean Lopez reminded us that perfection is an illusion; between every institution and every applicant there will be some aspects that are a great match and others that aren’t. Dean Devlin warned against thinking of your courses and activities in terms of what you think colleges want to see; instead, by exploring your own passions, you will likely be a more compelling applicant.
Supplemental Essay Questions
We ended our conversation by turning the tables to ask Deans Devlin and Lopez supplemental questions from their own applications! Both deans emphasized that the kind of response admissions officers find most insightful will reveal something about the applicant and demonstrate a good fit with the institution. Watch our webinar to hear their full responses.
From Stanford’s application:
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
Dean Devlin chose the Stonewall riots in June 1969 in New York.
From Barnard’s application:
Pick one woman (an historical figure, fictitious character, or modern individual) to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. Why does this person intrigue you? What would talk about? What questions would you ask them?
Dean Lopez chose Zora Neale Hurston.
Mike Devlin joined Stanford University in 2016 and assumed the role of Director of Admission and Associate Dean of Admission, Financial Aid, and Visitor Services in 2017. In his current role, he provides strategic and operational oversight for all aspects of the admission office and leads the enrollment process for all incoming students to Stanford. Prior to joining Stanford, Mike was the founding Director of Admission for New York University’s newest campus in Shanghai, China – the first ever joint Sino-US university – where he oversaw the recruitment, selection, and enrollment of its inaugural four classes. He has also directed the admission process for several of NYU’s schools and colleges in New York. Mike holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU.
Christina Lopez has served in college admissions for 15 years and truly loves this field. She is currently the Dean of Enrollment Management at Barnard College, where she leads the Office of Admissions and the Office of Financial Aid. Christina attended New York University Tisch School of the Arts and has a BFA in Drama and an M.Ed. from NYU Steinhardt in Higher Education Administration. After graduating, she worked in television and film casting but realized she enjoyed working with young people. Her first admissions job was at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Later she moved back to her alma mater, NYU, to work in undergraduate admissions. During her time at NYU, she read for the Stern School of Business and managed the admissions process for Tisch School of the Arts. She joined Barnard’s admissions team in 2014 as the Associate Director for Multicultural Recruitment. During her career in higher education, she has served as an Executive Board Member for the New York State Association of College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC) and Co-Chair of the Association of Black Admissions and Financial Aid Officers of the Ivy League and Sister Schools (ABAFAOILSS). As an advocate for access and equity within higher education, she currently serves on the board of Go-To College NYC and Minds Matter, two Community-Based Organizations in NYC that serve under-resourced students as they navigate the college process.