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Originally published November 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Page modified November 18, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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UW's admissions director offers advice for applicants

The head of admissions at the University of Washington has several pieces of advice for high-school seniors still putting their applications together, including: your chances of getting in are better than you might think, but your essay is crucial so don't put it off another day.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

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If the Thanksgiving gathering at your household includes an anxious high-school senior sweating over college application essays, this advice from the University of Washington's head of admissions, Phil Ballinger, might be helpful:

• It's an urban myth that it's difficult for Washington students to get admitted to the UW, Ballinger says.

Nearly 60 percent of in-state freshmen applicants were admitted last year. Compare that to the University of California, Los Angeles, which admitted 19 percent of in-state freshmen who applied.

So if you think you're on the edge, go for it anyway.

Ballinger thinks too many Washington students are self-selecting themselves out of the UW applicant pool: "Students sometimes are amazingly inept at assessing themselves."

• Those essays — should you be agonizing over your words? Yes.

They're truly important, Ballinger said, because they give the admissions staff a glimpse of the context and fabric of your life.

But he adds: "There is no right answer to written statements. There's only your answer. Don't try to guess what Philip Ballinger is looking for."

Your essay should speak to "who you are, and what you're going to bring, and what's important to you."

• There is no single "right" college out there for you, Ballinger says. There are many colleges where a student can do well. Choose your schools well, but know that "if you don't get admitted, honestly, you'll get over it."

• With the deadline for incoming freshmen to apply to the UW coming up on Dec. 1, it may be a little late for this advice, but Ballinger offers it anyway: "Procrastination is evil. Students are awful procrastinators, and it gets them in all sorts of awful trouble."

So get busy.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219

or klong@seattletimes.com.

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