You probably have situations thrown at you in your professional life in which your approach is to analyze the problem, review different options, determine the wisest path forward from a budget, personnel, efficiency and/or timing perspective, and then proceed. You may even use a structured process to complete all of these analyses, like this one I just learned about recently.
But for some reason, when parents are faced with their child’s impending college admission process, they throw this methodical decision-making approach out the window entirely. Regardless of their child’s grades, test scores, the rigor of their course selection (how many honors/AP courses they’ve taken) and the strength and/or uniqueness of their extra-curricular activities, parents often consult college rankings in their effort to help their child build a college list. This means that most people have college lists that are unbalanced and way, way to “reachy.”
In other words, they allow emotion to take over, in the face of evidence directing them to take a different approach.
For example – if you had to give your boss/team/co-workers a list of 10ish possible options for a project, what are the chances you’d come up with a list of options that looks like this:
- Top 2 choices have 5-10% chance of success and would far exceed the budget for four straight years
- Five more very desirable choices have 12-20% chance of success
- Next 2 choices have 30-55% chance of success
- Bottom/final/last choice that no one really likes is probable
Zero! The chances are zero that you would come up with an action plan like this.
And with college lists, it’s even worse – sometimes people leave off that last choice because they don’t put in the time and effort to scout out the “safe” or “likely” colleges where they would actually be happy. Don’t put a college onto a list just because you know you’ll get in – you need to LOVE every single one of them!
So how do you avoid being the kid who didn’t get in anywhere? You build balanced college lists. You put time and effort into deciding which colleges have the privilege of receiving your application! As we guide families through this experience, we absolutely strive for the dream school – and we celebrate when our clients are admitted to them – but we don’t hang all of our hopes on an option that has a painfully small chance of happening. We teach our students how to dig deep into researching colleges, which helps them love all of the schools on their lists!
Approach the list-building process – which is a process in itself, and which should precede the applying part of the process – with the same intention and level-headedness you use in other parts of your life.
Here’s some info you may want to consider as you do this:
- Building Your College List
- College Financial Aid – understanding how the process works will reduce your frustration down the road!
Need help with this? That’s what we we do. We’re happy to chat with you if you or your teenager needs help.