Links to college search sites

To keep you busy, I thought I’d provide some quick links to sites with information on the process. Just a reminder (DANGER! legal jargon coming), the information in these sites does not necessarily reflect the views of this institution, is not necessarily correct, and may in fact be completely bogus and out of date. That, of course, is the joy of the Internet!

Some places to search for colleges:
These crack me up because they’re almost always based on data that’s 1-2 years out of date. They also do some really dumb things, like if you search by state they don’t give you what’s really close by. If you search D.C., for instance, few of the engines bring up Mason (even though we’re in the suburbs) since our address is Virginia, and the same goes for University of Maryland (guess where they are). You may want to search by distance from a city or by multiple states to help with that issue. There’s other quirks to these things (if you don’t call a major what they call it, does it come up in your search?), but you’ll find those as you go. These are presented in no particular order. Have fun!
College Board
US News

Happy searching! Be seeing you.


A Few Words About Recommendations

Responses to a few questions on this subject:

1) How many recommendations should I send?
Remember that each admissions officer or committee reads THOUSANDS of applications, so this is not a competition to see who sends the most. The truth is that you can really annoy a reader with a ton of recommendations, especially if they don’t explain different information. Whatever the school asks for is sufficient, although I’d always send at least one from a teacher. A good rule of thumb is no more than one to two more than required.

2) Who should write them?
The ideal is a recent teacher in an academic class where you had to work hard but got a great grade, and who knows you well and likes you. Obviously there are trade offs as not very many students can find the ideal, and the most important part is finding a teacher that knows you well and likes you. Once you have that teacher and he or she talks about you as a student, other recommendations can focus on other aspects of your abilities – such as a coach talking about how determined you are, a clergy person talking about your dedication, a boss talking about your sense of responsibility. This relates to the next question:

3) What should they write?
Ask them to write what they know. If a teacher only knows you in the classroom, have them focus on you as a student, not about your great extra-curriculars, and if a coach only knows you from the team, don’t ask that person to talk about what a great student you are. Otherwise, it isn’t believable. Remember, they don’t have to be long, just positive!

4) What is the best way to ask for a recommendation?
I encourage you to be really straightforward, but very specific. Try, “will you write me a GOOD recommendation.” Sometimes they will qualify their answer, “Well, I can write you an HONEST recommendation.” In that case, I encourage a, “no thank you!”. The object of a recommendation is to hear from people that recommend you, hence the name. I really don’t need to hear how you toilet-papered a teacher’s house when you were a freshman (true story – that was in a rec I read years ago. It’s all I can remember about that candidate).

Other interesting sites to find info on the subject:

Hopefully this new information will prove INCREDIBLY helpful. In the meantime, I hope you find many schools that will be great matches, I hope you get in everywhere you apply, I hope you get every scholarship you want…and of course, I hope you choose Mason.

Be seeing you,
Andrew Flagel
Dean of Admissions and
Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Development
George Mason University

Advice on campus location and admission

As promised, for newcomers to the blog here is an exceprt from the first of my posts on navigating the admissions process. Just a reminder (DANGER! legal jargon coming), the information in these notes does not necessarily reflect the views of my institution , or anyone else in admissions or counseling (even though, no matter what anyone else has told you, I’m right and they’re wrong). And of course, thank you for putting up with my gratuitous promotion of GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY while you are receiving my oh-so-helpful advice!

I’ll start with a bit about picking a school, then next time post a bit about how to get in, and keep switching back and forth until you get bored, or confused, or both…

And so, with great fanfare:

Picking a college: LOCATION

I see it all the time. You go to a website to check out schools and are asked what kind of location you want, but they only give you three choices: urban, suburban, and rural. Not very helpful! How great would it be if they said things like, location: really fun, no fun at all, medium fun but very attractive students, right? No such luck! The websites are built on really simple (and boring) databases. So what to do?

First, you need to get a better idea of what you really want in a location. Are you someone who prefers a smaller atmosphere? Lets say, for instance, you like to hang out with a friend (we’ll call him “Bob”). Bob is fun. Bob is entertaining. Bob turns gray skies blue. And, when you are ready to put down the books and hang, Bob is the guy you want to find, and you want to find him right away. If you’re at a small school, Bob will be easy to find. Bob rarely hides – he is most likely at one of the two campus hangouts. That’s also where you’ll find everyone else. All the time. Or in their room, since, really, those are the options. This is an incredible atmosphere for many students who want to walk into a room and have everyone say “Hi,” not because of some freakish need to be falsely friendly, but because they actually know you.

On the other hand, Bob may be a bit harder to track down at another school. Take Mason, for example (why? Because I can). We’ve got three awesome student unions, an incredible Center for the Arts, and a 15,000 seat stadium with Division I basketball (you heard about that, right?) and music performances ranging from Gwen Stefani to Bob Dylan. And we’re just outside Washington, DC, so you’ve got the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, the monuments, and a ton of night life. To tell you the truth, this may be totally overwhelming for some students. Bob could be anywhere!! Like most schools, there are several on-campus events and programs where you can find pretty much everyone, but on most days and most times, you may need GPS to track Bob down (or at least a cell phone number).

Here’s the bottom line – you need to do more than look up a school online to get a feel for its location. You can find large city schools with that nice, isolated, always-knowing-where-Bob-is feel. And you can also find small rural schools so incredibly connected to their region that students are all over the place all the time. Yes, it’s generally true that major metropolitan areas offer a bit more to do and those smaller schools have an edge with getting a bit more personal. But don’t just limit yourself to two or three options because those are the only ones on a web site. Get to know what you really want, what kind of atmosphere will help you succeed, and then look deeper into the schools to find the ones that match best. Before you make a final decision, you’re going to want to visit to see if your impressions are right or wrong.

Other, less helpful, advice on campus location issues can be found at:

All right, that’s more than enough for now. Feel free to pass this on to your friends (or enemies, should you have found it that torturous). In closing, I hope you get in everywhere you apply, you get every scholarship you want, and (you knew it was coming) I hope you decide the only place for you is George Mason University.

Insider Admission Advice on Your College Education

No matter what you keep hearing, there is no secret formula for getting into college. You don’t have to hire a private jet to personally deliver your application or spend hours joining every school club or organization just to make yourself look better to college admissions counselors. So, if you want to find the RIGHT college for you, please take my advice. I’ve reviewed thousands of college and scholarship applications. I know how the admissions process works inside and out, and I’ve decided to share that information.

Why would I just give out advice? What’s in it for me? Well for one thing, none of this information is all that big of a secret – pretty much any experienced admission officer or guidance counselor will tell you the same thing. Plus, and here’s the real bonus, in exchange for giving you helpful information, I get to put George Mason University’s name in front of you and brag about us. (Of course, if you already know you want more information about Mason, you can go to our website —see, I started already).

At Mason, we receive tens of thousands of applications each year, so I can’t work with everyone individually. Instead, I’ll post some new information about once a week with advice on picking and getting into the right school for you. It’s a good deal for you since, even if for some strange reason Mason isn’t the school of your dreams, at least I might help you make some good choices about college.

If you don’t want my advice, just stop clicking whatever link got you to this page. If you do, check back in when you get a chance, and feel free to post some comments or questions – just don’t expect me to get back to everyone individually! Either way, I wish you all the best and hope that your senior year turns out just as you dream.

Andrew Flagel
Dean of Admissions and
Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Development

George Mason University