College Admission Advice for Parents

You know how in your industry, there are a few people who are thought leaders, and everyone listens when they offer their opinion?  In college admissions, Jon Boeckenstedt (“bock-en-stet”) is one of those people.  He’s the VP of Enrollment at Oregon State University.

Warning:  this post contains homework! The linked articles will help you understand college admissions, from the perspective of the people who make the decisions.

Jon is pretty active on Twitter and writes a blog regularly.  His primary audience is college admission officers at colleges across the U.S., but occasionally he writes things that are meant to help “regular people” – mostly parents – understand what admission officers do and how sometimes-competing factors influence their decisions.  This recent Twitter thread may help you understand how the COVID year has upended college admissions – and why we won’t actually be able to analyze the data from this year for another few years.  Which we know is frustrating, if you have a junior or even a sophomore in high school.

“EM” means “enrollment management.”  That’s a subtle reminder that while students and families say “college admissions,” many colleges say “enrollment,” because in the end, they’re a business, and they need to enroll a particular number of customers (that’s you!) to make their budget for the year.  Jon also wrote this piece for the national organization that represents the “industry” of college admission.  Again, it’s a business, and the advice for parents that Jon offers will help you understand the different forces that have input into admission policies and decisions.

Read that article, and then read this one, which was published as part of “Making Caring Common,” an effort through Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education to move the focus of college admissions away from numbers (grades and scores) and more towards the human factors.  We call it “holistic admission,” and it’s important for parents of high school students – particularly high-performing high schoolers – to understand that this is how college admission officers approach their job.  Read that Jon B. article again – college admissions is not just about skimming the top scoring kids off the top and admitting them.  It doesn’t work that way, and the more you are willing to believe that, the more smoothly your child’s application process will go.  More on that in this post from our blog.

So why are we throwing all of this parent advice at you?  Because we want you to see college admission as an experience, a time to explore all of your child’s options, and apply to the ones where they’ll fit well, and contribute to the campus community.  This process, as opposed to seeking only prestigious names and highly ranked schools, will yield a better result for your teen.

One of the more stressful parts of the college admissions journey is the fear of not getting in “somewhere good.”  Our challenge to you is to redefine “good” (for example, here’s why you shouldn’t build your list based on college rankings) and consider more what would work well for your child – focus on finding the environment where they will be happy and successful.  Sometimes, that means including colleges whose names are not in the national media spotlight on your college list.  The earlier you start, the more time and effort your teenager can put into really doing the research and finding those colleges that fit them best.

Our team of 14 counselors thinks about college admissions all day, every day.  We’re here to help you walk through this process if you feel you need some extra help and hand-holding.  Our team, all well-trained and each with a Certificate in College Counseling, has visited over 400 colleges in the last ten years, many of them hidden gems that families don’t usually consider.

If you’d like a little guidance on your college admissions journey, we’re happy to be your trusted experts.  You can reach out to us here!


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