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Do Your Students Get Into Their First Choice College?

Parents call  me nearly every day to ask about my services.  Understandably, they want to know about my success rate.  Here’s the usual question:

How many of your students get into their first choice college? Choose the right college

Many college consultants tout a “success rate” based on whether students get into their first or second choice college.  But this is a tricky statistic to report and impossible to verify.  For example, if a student enters my office with a GPA of 3.1, no honors courses, and an ACT composite of 27, eagerly reporting that Harvard is his first choice, my reporting statistics are immediately in trouble.  After a process of counseling during which the student redefines his own educational success differently, the student’s first choice may change—in which case I might be able to recover my statistical success rate.

But then there are the students who even after hours and hours of counseling refuse to believe (like the student above) that first-choice Harvard is out of reach.  While I’m confident about the low statistical probability that this client will somehow sneak through the gates of Harvard Yard, it is not for me to deny the student his right to apply.  Perhaps this student needs the rejection letter in black and white to even consider other options.  So I would go ahead and let the student cling to the dream, and even help the student through the process—even as I communicate my doubts and ensure that the student is applying to other excellent colleges that I know he will learn to love—but only after Harvard rejects him.  But how would I report this student statistically?  Harvard is his first choice.  He didn’t get in.  Does that make me a poor counselor?

Just as all college counselors encourage their clients to take statistics published by the colleges and universities with a grain of salt, I encourage you to approach placement statistics published by independent counselors with the same skepticism.  College counseling is about developing an individualized educational plan for each young man and woman who comes in my door.  Virtually none go away unhappy with the outcome.

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant


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