A Dartmouth, Northwestern, Princeton, Berkeley and Vanderbilt Breakfast!

This morning I met with Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Princeton University, University of California, Berkeley and Vanderbilt University for some breakfast and campus/admissions updates. This Coast to Coast College Tour is a great opportunity to check in with admissions and hear new information! Colleges are always growing, adding new programs, tweaking plans and it’s amazing to hear what’s happening. I always end up leaving these things wishing I could go through it all over again! Remember, you have OPTIONS and it is important to take the time and comb through what’s important to you in a college before applying. Think of WHY you want to go to a school. WHY is this a good place for you? Before I continue on, go ahead and take a look at a short summary of my morning.

UC Berkeley

  • Enrolled more Californians throughout the UC system this past admission cycle.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Now a part of the Berkeley review (but not required and not asked of all students) What does this mean? When Berkeley wants a little more information they will send a request for a letter of rec AFTER you apply. If you don’t get that request, DON’T PANIC, just note that it might come and be prepared.
    • Your letters from a State Senator or some prominent person doesn’t matter and won’t be impressive. What matters is it comes from someone that knows YOU, has worked with you consistently and can write an authentic reflection of you in the classroom or in life and can speak to your character.
  • Two different Chemistry Majors.
    • One housed in the College of Letters and Sciences (for the student who wants science, but not as in depth and wants more freedom to integrate minors/double majors, other areas of study, etc.)
    • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, will be more in-depth. (looking for strong math in their student applicants to handle the work)
  • Why might a student not graduate in 4 years? Few causes included students who double major, study abroad or don’t keep a consistent relationship with their advisor.
  • Paraphrased words from admissions: We’re never looking to tear down students. We’re reading applications and looking in the best benefit of the applicant.
    • Example: If you have stronger subject tests and not the best APs, they’ll look at the subject tests.
    • They’ll take the higher test score from one sitting (no superscore)


  • Living learning communities on campus are important and will continue to grow.
  • Engineering innovation center: This “think tank” is to encourage  innovation and entrepreneurship. The center will have a devoted state-of-the-art space for collaboration, workshops and programming as well as prototyping and visualization tool space.
  • Diverse campus: 70% of students are from outside the Nashville region.
  • SAT superscore, no writing, subject tests not required (but if you have them and did well…Submit them!) ACT do not superscore.
  • Over 31,000 applicants, admitted about 3,660.
  • College of Arts + Sciences, School of Engineering, Blair School of Music and Peabody College
  • Financial Aid: Need-blind (don’t factor in admission decision) meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students. Financial aid awards DO NOT include loans.
  • Read Vanderbilt’s page on their selection process: http://admissions.vanderbilt.edu/apply/selection-process.php

Dartmouth College

  • New to launch residential system (6 houses to incorporate more living/learning communities) 90% of students live on campus (very residential campus)
  • New set of supplemental questions (5 smaller questions)
  • SAT subject tests not required (reason being to help students who do not have access to subject tests, not to penalize them). If you can take subject tests and do well, submit them.
  • 50/50 Gender split on campus, Greek like available (but students have a lot of flexibility to participate then take time off from activities/clubs and focus on their academics/internships, etc.)
  • Small, 4,200 undergraduates, average student debt is one of the lowest in the country!

Northwestern University

  • New visitors center, new sports rec space for students and athletes
  • New Entrepreneurial think tank
  • Redoing housing system, students now required to live on campus first two years, assigned to neighborhoods to encourage living learning communities and student interaction across all majors.
  • New Neuroscience major (for psych/bio interests)
  • Computer Science major housed in two different places
    • Computer science in the arts and sciences (more for a student looking for a liberal arts base)
    • Computer science in the Engineering and design school
  • School of Journalism: it has a myth of being harder to get into and sometimes students will apply through a different major, truth is, it’s very similar admit rates to other schools (with exceptions of music) If Journalism is for you, apply!
  • Writing portion of SAT/ACT not required
  • 10.7% admission rate, no student loans given in financial aid packages

Princeton University

  • 5-1 student faculty ratio
  • Two new minors, Musical Theater and Ethnographic Studies
  • New center for renewable energy (great for students looking for sustainable research)
  • Going to build new arts neighborhood complex (want every student to take advantage of the arts, not just the arts majors)
  • Need-blind, meets 100% of financial need, no student loans given, regardless of citizenship
  • Over 29,000 applicants, admitted 1,911 admit rate of 6.5%
  • Princeton today, in general looks very different, more diverse!


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Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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