A Path to Peace in College Admissions, Part 1

I received positive feedback from my recent post ¿A Spanish Lesson For College Admissions?, so I decided to continue in the same vein and talk about ways to get out ahead of this process so that the dog wags the tail and not al revés.

I am a faculty member at a school where every student is a candidate in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, I teach AP Spanish Language and Culture and I have a certificate as an Independent Educational Consultant, so I see the journey to college from a unique viewpoint. This past admissions season I was able to add to my perspective because I had the pleasure of going through the process as a parent for the first time. And I can validate the fact that the struggle is real. All of this college stuff is great in a hypothetical setting but when you apply it to a specific child, specifically your child, it is much more complicated and emotional. So how can parents take steps to alleviate stress and anxiety?

In the last admissions cycle, classmates of my child came out of the woodwork looking for help. I would receive an email late at night or my child would yell down to me, “Mom, SoAndSo has some questions, can they call you?” or I would get a text out of the blue from an applicant that needed assistance ASAP. And let me just say that I LOVED working with each and every one. I had known most of them since they were in diapers, so it was my great joy to help them as they battled deadlines and needed information. By the time they reached out to me, they were usually under duress and I was able to experience first hand the stress that they were facing as they worked paid jobs, excelled in sports and tried to manage their academics, all while juggling college applications to boot. It is not easy and I am going to write another post soon about the idea of returning senior year with everything done. But I digress. I am trying to create peace in the process so here goes…

One of the late night calls I received was from a kid that I have known since they were a baby. This person needed some essay help and I wanted to get a sense of where they were in the process. I asked them for their rough academic profile, GPA and test scores, as well as the lineup of schools where they were submitting applications. This kid had a solid list with appropriate reaches, targets and high-probability schools. So I asked this applicant if there was a specific school that sparked their interest and they said yes and proceeded to say the name of a school that was a bona fide, high-probability of admission school for them. Not only were they likely to get in, they were a candidate for a significant scholarship because of their impressive academic profile. And this my friends, is where peace starts to seep into the process. When a student finds a school where they have a strong probability of admission, where their profile is in the top quartile, and they are enthusiastic about the college and can imagine themselves on the campus, they are in a new place. I was thrilled for this friend of ours. When you are excited about a school where you are likely to be admitted, stress starts to leave the building or at least not control the process. If you want to increase the level of calm, keep adding high-probability schools that you love to your list.

So how does one do this? Well, for starters, do not drive over to your local Ivy League school (or Stanford or Duke or…you get the picture) and ask your student if they like the campus. There is a reason that these schools are so selective. The campuses are stunning and they have an aura. What a family needs to do is figure out where their student is in the top quartile of applicants, based on their current GPA and test scores, and go see those schools first. As soon as your child finds a school that they love, you are on your way. Now your student has a school that excites them and they have a strong chance of admission. Once you have a couple of “likely” schools, you can go to the next level and try to find schools that are a good target for your student’s academic profile and seek out options that your child loves. And when you have established a list of high-probability schools and target schools, then you can move on to reach schools. The path to peace in college admissions is paved with a LIST of schools that your student loves, not just one specific school.

I recently ran into the college-bound, high school graduate that I mentioned above. They had just returned from orientation at the very school that they originally said they were so excited about. They were admitted Early Action (EA) with a significant scholarship. This kid exuded excitement about the future, had a twinkle in their eye, and was brimming with confidence. And that my friends, is really the endgame.

Below is a picture from our recent graduation. Good luck next year to everyone, especially those of you that allowed me to assist you on the path to college. It was my honor. Enjoy!

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