"Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be": Advice from a UPenn Admissions Dean

Posted by Mary Foley, Director of College Guidance on Jan 29, 2019 12:34:17 PM

“Form good study habits, ask for help, and read, read, read!”

This simple, sage advice came from Alison Berryman, Associate Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Berryman visited Montrose School in early December to talk with our parents and students about navigating the changing landscape of college admissions.

Berryman Staff PhotoPenn is an Ivy League university. Sometimes when high school students hear the term Ivy League, palms start sweating and hearts beat faster at the very idea of applying. Yet Penn is one of many wonderful schools where Montrose students have applied and enrolled in recent years.

In fact, it was our Montrose applications that caught Ms. Berryman’s attention. After reading about the courses our students take, the activities in which they participate, and the scores they achieve, Ms. Berryman asked to come to Montrose to learn more about our school. When I invited her to speak at the Early College Planning Night, she accepted and flew to Massachusetts to meet faculty and have a personal tour.

It turns out that Ms. Berryman has something in common with our students. She, too, attended a private, all-female school -- and rigorous academics, focus on character, and strong relationships with dedicated faculty felt very familiar to her.

In her role, she is well-acquainted with the intensity of the college admissions process and how it can affect teenage girls. In that context, her advice to parents was particularly powerful:

“Allow your daughter to drive the college process,” she told the audience. As parents, we should encourage self-reflection -- giving teens space to explore the type of environment they are looking for in their college home.

“Set reasonable expectations for her college list,” said Berryman. “Be supportive and a good listener.”

Most importantly, make sure she hears the messages -- over and over if necessary -- that “Where you go is not who you’ll be!”

Ms. Berryman ended by turning her attention back to the students. “Enjoy the moment!” she counseled.” The high school years pass quickly. Keeping a true balance of academics and activities is important in this process.”

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