Lessons Learned: College Admissions

We know you don’t believe us.

You’ve come to our presentations, and we’ve met privately with your family.  You’ve heard us say it on webinars, multiple times:  that Harvard rejects 80% of the valedictorians who apply each year; that Stanford rejects 70% of the applicants with perfect SAT and ACT scores.  That Yale could fill its class three times over with 1500+/4.0 students, they just don’t have the room in their freshman class.  That admission to what most people refer to as “top-tier” schools – meaning in the top 50 nationally-ranked universities and liberal arts colleges – is basically a lottery.

That all nine UCs combined have about 70,000 seats in their freshman class – and 18+% of those go to out-of-state and international residents – for the half a million California high school seniors who graduate each year.

You’ve heard us say that a 4% acceptance rate means that 96% of the applicants get rejection letters.  That “holistic” means students with lower grades and test scores could be admitted instead of your child.

But when you hear us say these things, we know the voice inside your head says, “Yeah, but they’re not talking about my kid.  My kid will be one of the ones who gets in.”

At least, that’s what the voice had been saying, until your best friend’s kid, the one with the perfect ACT score and 4.7, twelve AP courses and some pretty awesome volunteer experience, was rejected from 8 colleges, all in the same week, four on the same day.  And your best friend had to watch her daughter cry.  Over and over again.

So the best approach to building your college list, if you’re a sophomore or a junior right now, is to come at it with an open mind, and a different approach.  College is not a prize to be won, we say in counseling, but rather, a match to be made.  Think about where your child goes to college as the place where s/he will be surrounded by supportive peers and mentors, learn not only academic “stuff” but life skills, and launch to the next phase.

If this is your goal – finding those “best fit” colleges – your child will have a nice balanced list and choices in the spring.  THIS IS THE GOAL!  So you must be willing to put aside any preconceived notions about what’s a “good school,” and you must be willing to invest some time into researching colleges outside the names you know.  You will be rewarded with better decisions than students who do not take this approach.  And you MUST include colleges on your list that have acceptance rates higher than 30 or 40%, or you are most likely in for some serious disappointment.

Here’s where we come in:  we’re here to help you (and your teenager) love colleges other than the ones you know off the top of your head.  We’re here to help you (and your teenager) believe and understand that your child can have an incredible experience, get a fabulous education, build relationships with academics and peers, and land a great job after college – EVEN at a school whose name is not splashed on every bumper sticker in town.

We’ve been saying this for awhile – balance your list, manage your expectations.  Here are a few articles to help you understand the importance of this step:

We know you don’t believe us.  But it’s true.  If you start early, you can avoid a big, big heartache, for both you and your child.

Let us know if we can help.


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