College Smart Advising

My Thoughts on College Applications

March 2019

Decision Day

It is hard not to view the end of the college application season as the grand finish line to the marathon process of researching colleges, drafting and revising essays, and submitting applications. 

For some, the finish line is a celebration with balloons and a Gatorade bath. If this is your story, Congratulations on your good news! Take a moment to reflect on your journey and thank the people who helped you: your parents, teachers, counselors, friends, and others. But, after the confetti settles, keep in mind that your story is just beginning. Simply getting in is not enough. Make sure you keep up the pace that brought you here, finish high school and start college with determination, energy, and enthusiasm to take advantage of the opportunities you have been given.

Unfortunately, other students may not receive the results they had been dreaming about. Instead of the hoped-for outcome, they receive a polite email with soothing platitudes about how competitive the applicant pool was. And, other students may be waitlisted at their top choice and discover that the finish line has shifted from Spring and into Summer. These students might question whether all of their efforts over the past few months and years was wasted. I get it. Rejection sucks. Take a moment to mourn. And then, my advice to you should sound familiar: Thank the people on your support team. Choose a new destination and rededicate yourself to embracing the challenges and opportunities of the coming years.

Getting into one college or another does not guarantee success. Likewise, not getting in, does not make you a failure. The reality is, that, no matter the outcome of this round of decisions, the race has just begun. Lace up your shoes and grab some Gatorade, you have many more miles to go.

A Response the College Admissions Cheats

The sordid college admissions scandal has caught the public's attention and brought attention to just how far some families will go to get into the "right" college. There are many parties to blame for this appalling crime: the high-stakes private consultant, the cheating doctors and test proctors, the desperate parents, greedy college coaches, athletic directors, and (in some cases) the students. There have been a number of articles written about high priced college counselors and their role in stacking the deck in favor of certain applicants - their wealthy and well-connected clients who seem to be willing to pay almost any price for insider information, influence, and guarantees. As a proud and professional member of both the Higher Education Consultants Association and the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I would like to provide some tips to help you discern between the bad actors and the ethical and professional Educational Consultants I know and  with whom I collaborate.

My role as a Professional Independent Educational Consultant is:
• Encourage a thoughtful exploration of the student's best fit college (academically, socially, and financially)
• Support students in building a realistic and balanced college list based on those factors
• Identify and share authentic avenues for exploring a student's academic and extracurricular interests
• Facilitate the process for students with genuine learning disabilities to receive legitimate accommodations on testing and in the classroom
• Meet with Educational Psychologists, test prep, and tutoring providers to ensure that they are qualified professionals acting in a student's best interest
• Brainstorm and act as an editor (not a writer!) on essays, activities, and other application materials
• Visit colleges throughout the country and build relationships with other admissions professionals to understand the culture and environment on those campuses
• Promote a mindset where the outcome of the (unpredictable and sometimes unfair) college admissions process does not determine your self-worth as a parent or student
• Follow the ethical guidelines of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and other professional groups like IECA and HECA
An ethical college consultant will NEVER:
• Make a guarantee of admission to a certain college
• Discuss potential "side doors" into a selective college
• Encourage a student to fake a learning disability
• Fabricate extracurricular or academic accomplishments on behalf of a student
• Accede to the parent's wishes about the perfect college without working directly with the student to discern the student's best fit
• Draft, complete, or submit essays or applications that are not the student's own work
• Lie to, cheat, or bribe high school counselors, test proctors, or admissions professionals
The college search and application process is filled with uncertainty and anxiety. As someone who has worked with hundreds of students and their families, I assure you that the ultimate prize is not getting in to a top college. It is the growth and self-awareness gained from how you address those challenges. A student's potential and future successes are not defined by their parents, test scores, GPA, or the colleges they get into, but rather by their own efforts and willingness to do difficult and challenging things. And, while the outcome of admissions decisions can be different from what students and parents hoped for, those decisions are not the final chapter. Our role is to support them in that journey, not to complete it for them.