As admission to the Ivy League and other schools becomes more competitive, parents and students turn to coaches like Leonardo Radomile, hoping to “crack the code” as to what will get them into into elite schools.
But Radomile, director of the nonprofit Cambridge Learning Center (CLC) in Cambridge, says parents should take care not to squeeze children into schools based on prestige and reputation, but rather find schools that best fit students’ needs. “Remember that your child is going to college,” he said, “not you.”
If a parent says, “Please get my son or daughter into Stanford or Yale,” what do you say to them?
Parents operate under the misimpression that you need to teach how to take the SAT or write an essay. It’s not about test taking techniques but developing the whole student. My attitude is build the person first and find what they love to do.
What goes into a good admissions essay?
There is a real art to it. No cookie cutter formula exists. A good college essay is one that shows qualities of self-reflection and insight, where the student shows he is a well-developed human being who is really thinking about himself and the future.
How do you motivate students?
Motivation is an internal thing; students who are unmotivated often don’t see the relevance of what they’re doing.
You were on the admissions committee at Harvard. What was that like?
An application comes in, and a list is made. There’s a cut off point, say 3.75 GPA and 2,100 SAT. Each member of the committee will look at 200-300 applications over a six-to-eight week period. You see what the student has done and look for excellence, even if it’s just in collecting baseball cards. It’s a very holistic and open process, not cut and dry.
Do you have any horror stories about ambitious parents?
A woman came in, sat her son in front of me, and said, “Harvard undergraduate and Johns Hopkins Medical School.” I said, “What?” And she repeated these words. I said, ‘What does he want?’ The son said, “I want what my mother wants.”
You have kids. Where did they go to school?
My son could have gone to Harvard but went to McGill University. He would have been miserable at Harvard. Students have to find their own “Harvard.”
You went to Harvard and University of Chicago. Did your parents help you with your applications?
No, my father left school in fourth grade to go to work and was not academically inclined. I had to do my own admissions work. I came to this stuff by trial and error.