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Denver Post Article on College Admission

A front page article in last Sunday’s Denver Post is headlined,

College admission gets dose of sanity:
Counselors say most kids get into their first-choice school despite anxiety

True enough. The whole admissions process is pretty insane, which is why so many students and their families in the Denver area are turning to independent counselors for assistance in alleviating the pressure.

But there were some snippets from this article that I thought I would share.

In the past decade, the ranks of some private counseling services have doubled, college marketing budgets are up 50 percent and the number of students applying to 12 or more colleges has more than doubled.

While the number of slots at colleges remains relatively stagnant, the echo-baby-boom surge of seniors peaks next year at 3.3 million. The percentage of those kids going to college returned to an all-time high of 67 percent in 2004, up from 62 percent in 2001.

And yet a growing sanity movement among counselors, higher-education analysts and college admissions officers now rails against application anxiety that reaches levels of academic hypochondria.

“Collectively, we have robbed students of their senior year,” says Lloyd Thacker, an education writer who has campaigned to get 65 universities to stop ranking their peers in the oft-purchased, much-maligned U.S. News & World Report survey. “There’s a diversity of interests beginning to realize something is wrong.”

(If you’d like to read more that I’ve written about the US News ratings and other data reporting systems, go here and here).

“What if all health care coverage focused on the Mayo Clinic and the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center?” asked Scott Jaschik, editor of the magazine Inside Higher Ed. “It’s not as if they don’t matter, but very few people will get cured at the Mayo or Sloan-Kettering.”

The article also has a neat graph that shows the factors students use in choosing a college:

These are, indeed, the primary reasons for choosing a college, and it does my heart good to know that most kids are like my clients–they are looking for a school, not a country club or a way to pad their list of accomplishments. It is, really, all about finding the right fit.

The article goes on:

More than 80 percent of the nation’s 2,500 four-year colleges accept more than half the students who apply. The average acceptance rate among all schools, even when the formidable H-Y-P axis is included, is 69 percent.

More than two-thirds of college freshmen still report they are attending their first-choice school. Of those at their second choice, half report they were accepted at their first- choice school but did not attend because of financial-aid or other reasons.

The portion of students applying at a dozen schools or more remains tiny at 2.2 percent; the median number of applications per student in 2006 was four.

High-quality teachers and students as measured by test scores and degrees have trickled down to a far broader group of schools than the Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Duke, MIT, and the liberal Ivys such as Amherst and Wesleyan. For example, U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Washington 42nd on its list of top 50 national universities; 84 percent of freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. And yet Washington accepts 68 percent of applicants.

The message here is that parents and students need to relax more and worry less. There is a good college that fits there interests, abilities, and aspirations. We just need to look beyond the elite or “brand name” colleges and consider what are the attributes of a college that will make a student happy and successful.

This is what independent college counselors do. We alleviate stress and worry, and help families enjoy the process of selecting and applying to colleges.

Mark Montgomery
Independent College Consultant

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