From High School to College: Charting a Course through Choppy Waters

What I hear most often from the parents of my students is that the college process is so different nowadays. They often say, “I just picked some colleges to apply to, sent in my applications, and went to school. No one helped me and my parents didn’t even know where I was applying.”

Today’s college admissions process is different than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Everything is different: the number of students going to college, the level of competition, the desire for elite education, social networking, marketing, subject tests, the Common Application, financial aid — -and the list goes on.

Students have a lot to be stressed about — frenzy over the admissions process starts early and continues through senior year.

But parents and students have to remember that the process can go smoothly — -and successfully — as long as they are open minded and realistic. There are schools out there that you haven’t heard of that may be a great fit for your child or offer the course of study your child wants or have the type of social life that makes your child comfortable. Parents say to me all the time, “Thank you so much. We wouldn’t have known about College X if it weren’t for you.” It’s my job to remind students all the time: there is no one perfect school. There are many schools that can meet a student’s needs. We just have to find them.

In order to do this, I have to debunk the myths of the college admissions process: that bigger is better than smaller — this is an individual decision and should be based on the student’s maturity level and ability to manage independent course work; that private is better than public — not necessarily, because students can get an excellent education at each; that prestigious colleges provide a better education than lower-tier schools — not true again. They are more prestigious but not necessarily better.

It would be wise for students and parents to remember that college provides so many opportunities that have to do with the “experience” of college, not the college itself. College is where students first learn how to live independently, where they have to advocate for themselves, make decisions on their own, both socially and academically, knowing that the consequences of poor decision-making will be natural and not imposed. These are the things that help to transition our teens into young adults and form the basis of good civic behavior. And these are the qualities that we want colleges to teach our students — in addition to valuable academics.

So what should high school students do to ensure successful college admission? They should do their schoolwork, take their standardized tests seriously, commit themselves to something they enjoy, and follow their dreams. I have great faith in the process working to benefit the vast majority of students.


Originally published at www.planthepathblog.com.

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