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Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- I'm a junior at Carmel (Ind.) High School. We are a large school, with more than 4,500 students.

Everyone seems to be involved in some kind of sport or extracurricular activity. I'm a top student, but not involved in any activities because I have to work after school and on weekends.

I'm not planning to apply to an Ivy League school; I'd be happy to go to Indiana University. Ball State is my second choice, with Butler a long shot, as my family would have a hard time paying private tuition.

My question is, do I need to get involved in extracurriculars in order to have a chance at IU?

My SAT scores are only average. Several teachers and my guidance counselor say it's getting harder to get into IU because of the increasing number of out-of-state applicants. Is this true? -- Concerned Junior

State Schools Get Selective



Junior -- I agree it is getting harder to get admitted to Indiana University in Bloomington.

The number of out-of-state students applying to IU is up again this year. On top of that, IU is experiencing an increase in the number of students transferring from expensive private colleges.

If you add to the mix the increase in international students on campus, there are, indeed, fewer seats for Indiana residents. This is a growing trend at many state universities. Flagship universities like IU, the University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan are under pressure to admit more state residents. But budget pressures continue to build. Full-tuition-paying, nonresident students are becoming the largest sources of income for many state universities.

In addition, with colleges like Harvard and Stanford offering generous financial-aid packages, it often is less expensive to attend a premier private college than a top state school. That trend often siphons off top state students who normally would help state colleges keep their U.S. News & World Report rankings -- and these rankings often play a decisive role on where the best students apply.

So it is a vicious cycle to attract top scholars while bringing in full-tuition-paying students.

To counter the brain drain, IU has upped the ante by offering the Wells Scholarship to our best state scholars. But that is not enough to balance the deficit.

In previous years, 30-35 percent of IU students were nonresidents paying full out-of-state tuition.

If it seems IU is working against you, I can understand. It sends contradictory messages when it recruits out-of-state as vigorously as it does.

It is widely known that officials from IU and other flagship state universities make annual visits to New York high schools, searching for top candidates. The net result is about 37 percent of this year's undergraduates at IU are not Indiana residents.

Working in your favor is that most state schools follow the "whole applicant" rule when making admissions choices. In that sense, they are becoming more like private colleges. They focus on admitting a more diverse student body.

That means if you have to work after school and can't participate in extracurricular activities, be sure to tell them about it in the application. A job can be as important to the admissions committee as a solid letter of reference or playing a sport.

But the pressure is on. That should be a warning not to let up with your studies, even if you must carry an outside job.

On the other hand, if you add together a strong academic record and work, they might be the right formula to get you in.

Gerald M. Bradshaw of Crown Point consults with students on how to gain admission to selective colleges, universities and law schools. Contact him at www.BradshawCollegeConsulting.com or by calling (219)663-3041.

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