Admission Dean Rapelye has 'Conversation With…' students on Facebook

Janet Rapelye

Janet Lavin Rapelye, dean of admission at Princeton since 2003, will become president of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) on Nov. 1.

Photo by Brian Wilson

More than 100 high school students from around the world who logged on to Facebook recently weren't there to update their "status" with their recent trip to the mall, or to post their favorite music video. They visited the popular social media site eager for the chance to have their college application questions answered by Princeton University's Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye.

The dean is the first featured host for Princeton's interactive "Conversation With…" video series on Facebook that gives members of the public and the broader community an opportunity to engage with University leaders, faculty, students and alumni on a wide range of topics spanning academic study, research, social life and University initiatives. Visitors to the Facebook page post questions to the comment thread after watching an introductory video, and then return to Facebook to view responses in a follow-up video.

In a video posted Thursday, Oct. 21, Rapelye responds to students who asked what makes a good college essay; to learn the importance of different parts of the college application; to understand the importance of standardized tests; and whether there are opportunities to explore wide and varied academic interests at Princeton.

Responding to students -- including those posting as Donald and Timo -- interested in studying engineering, but also the liberal arts, Rapelye explained that Princeton encourages study across disciplines.

"Some of you would like to study economics and also do creative writing, and some of you would like to study engineering and be able to pursue the arts," she said. "Can you do both at Princeton? The answer to that question is yes. We encourage our students to have a breadth and a depth in their course selection and also in what they study."

She explained how students can have a concentration or major in one subject and pursue a certificate in another, rather than having a double major. "We encourage this kind of cross-disciplinary work," she said.

Rapelye facebook

In the second installment of the "Conversation With ..." interactive video series posted on Facebook Oct. 21, Janet Rapelye responds to questions prospective students posted about Princeton University and the college application process. More than 100 high school students from the United States and abroad posted questions about Princeton admissions, academics and campus life to the comments thread on Facebook after watching an introductory video in September. View the video on Facebook. (Video still by Evelyn Tu)

The interactive "Conversation With…" series launched Sept. 14 with an introductory video on Facebook featuring Rapelye providing an overview of Princeton University and the admissions process, and inviting prospective students to post comments and questions that she would answer in follow-up segments.

A description of the series posted with the video explained: "Princeton University is a vibrant community of learning, and much of that learning comes from the knowledge and experiences that members of our community share with each other and with the world. The 'Conversation With…' series takes advantage of the online medium to allow robust conversations with a diverse group of people representing an abundance of philosophical views."

A brief biography posted with the video helped students get to know Rapelye before engaging her in "conversation."

Students from throughout the United States and also Nigeria, Thailand, Pakistan and other countries posted questions to the comments section of the video through early October. To respond to questions about the college-application essay from students, such as those posting as Yashar and Shun, Rapelye explained that admission officers are looking for how well students write, "because it's a reflection of how you think."

"In your essay, what we are looking for is your ability to convey an idea," she said. "And so choose a topic that you know well, where you'll write well about it. And then spend some time talking about whatever the idea is and why it has meaning for you."

The final installment of the three-part "Conversation With…" series with Rapelye will address questions students asked about the arts at Princeton, scholarships and financial aid, and extracurricular activities. That video will be posted on Facebook in November.

Future "Conversation With…" video series will feature other senior administrators, faculty and staff. Participants can ask questions, or simply watch. Anyone on Facebook can participate, and interested individuals can follow the conversation by becoming a fan of Princeton University's Facebook page. Princeton currently has more than 23,500 Facebook fans.

The video series and the Facebook site are managed by the University's Office of Communications.