College is an Inside Job

“Happiness is an inside job”

~William Arthur Ward

Last week I traveled alone to join my family for Christmas and I had some time to think about the current application cycle. This ED/EA round was a wild ride and I was reflecting on the results that I saw at a range of different schools, large and small, public and private, highly selective and less so. Most of my comprehensive clients had at least one good choice as they headed into the holidays and I saw a common theme in their process that I thought would make a good blog post. The quote “Happiness is an inside job” kept playing in my head but I substituted the word “college” for “happiness”. As I thought about these students and their journey over the last year or more, here is what I saw that led to their success:

  1. Self-Reflection– It is critical to step away from the drumbeat of college admissions and think about what one is looking for in their college experience. Students that took the time to think long and hard about what they want to study, what type of climate or location they want to reside in and what their other priorities are have a deeper sense of what they want in a school. If you are a passionate surfer, how important is ocean access? If you anticipate going to medical school, what kind of support do you need as an undergraduate? Do you value the ability to go home for the weekend? Where does cost come into play for you? These are just a few examples of the way that I have seen students triage their priorities for college. As students solidify their priorities, they can lean into their list of schools with more confidence.

2. Finding Hidden Gems-The other critical step that I see families take is when they step away from seeking prestige and start looking at campuses that are hidden gems, quietly excelling at educating their students in ways that do not garner fanfare. I worked with a family this year that had never heard of a school that I recommended. They did the homework and the more that they researched, the more that they fell in love with the college and thought that it could be an excellent fit. When the student received an Early Action acceptance letter in mid-December with a meaningful merit scholarship, they were over the moon. This never would have happened if they hadn’t done the research to learn more about this hidden gem. Letting go of selective admissions and finding schools that meet your needs is a deeply personal step that can reap huge benefits for a student.

3. The Ultimate Stressbuster– If a high school student wants to have peace on the road to college, the ultimate way to eliminate anxiety is to build a list of schools that they love. The essence of this is to find a couple of schools that you love where you have a high probability of admission. This is when stress really leaves the building. I wrote about this in detail in this post. When a student finds a college that is a good fit for them AND they are a high-probability candidate, they can forge ahead with more confidence and less stress.

At the end of the day (or at the end of the year as I write this post) finding a college with a good fit is an inside job. No one can do it for you. It is like trying on clothing to see if it fits. Only you can put on a garment and look in the mirror and decide if you like how it looks and feels. And when I think about the common traits of my full-package clients, they looked inside to see what they really wanted in a school and then did a deep dive to find those colleges that fulfilled their priorities.

The photo below is an awesome cloud line that we saw over the break. I hope you and your loved ones have a healthy and happy 2022.

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