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Choose The Right College – A Student’s Story

A photo of Kevin

How does a student choose the right college? It can be hard to find the right fit. This is the story of Kevin’s college journey.

The student and his family

Kevin was in the 10th grade when his family approached Mark for advice. He attended a second-tier international school in Hong Kong that focuses on the arts, including music, drama, and film.  Kevin played the saxophone and had been taking lessons for years, and he was an avid fan of jazz.  However, he planned to major in something other than music—probably the social sciences, though he was completely undecided as he began to work with Mark.  

Kevin’s grades in the International Baccalaureate program were good, but not stellar (mostly 5s and 6s).  His SAT score was 1250 after two attempts; his math score was 710, and his verbal score was 540.  He had spent only limited time in the US as a tourist on a family trip to the West Coast when he was younger, so he had limited familiarity with American culture and geography.  His family owned their own businesses:  they were both quite busy and quite unfamiliar with the US educational system but were eager for their only son to study in the US.  But how could they choose the right college?

The pain point

Kevin’s family wants to choose the right college for their son. However, with their limited knowledge of the US educational system, Kevin and his family needed help finding the right fit. They were eager to attend the highest-ranking school in the country, yet they understood that Kevin might not be competitive for the upper echelons.  They also wanted to be sure the school would launch him toward a successful future and gainful employment.

Kevin talks about his experience with Great College Advice in this video.

Great College Advice

Kevin and his mother originally hired two consultants when he was in the 10th grade.  One consultant was based in Hong Kong, and Mark is based in the US.  While Kevin’s mom felt that working with a US-based consultant would give them better information, she also worried that communication across time zones might be difficult.  Kevin and his mother elected a comprehensive Premium Package of Great College Advice.  Within 4 months, they let the Hong Kong consultant go; they were surprised at how easy it was to work with Mark via videoconferencing technology.

The recommendations

college admissions counselor in Hong Kong

Based on his love of jazz and his proficiency with the saxophone, and at Mark’s recommendation, Kevin auditioned for and was accepted to jazz program at Interlochen Arts Camp in the summer before his 11th grade.  After that trip, his family toured three universities on the east coast:  University of Maryland at College Park, American University in Washington, DC, and Goucher College in Baltimore.  The aim was for Kevin and his parents to get a strong understanding of the range of educational possibilities:  a large public university, a medium-sized private university, and a small, liberal arts college.  Despite their initial skepticism, the entire family was surprised by the intensity, personal attention, and range of opportunities offered by Goucher.  So Kevin resolved to pursue a liberal arts college. 

Kevin was able to choose the right college

Kevin chose to apply to liberal arts colleges with strong music programs.  He soon became enamored with St. Olaf College, but he applied to several others, as well.  St. Olaf is a strong liberal arts college in Minnesota with an outstanding music conservatory.  Thus, Kevin would have the possibility of joining the saxophone studio and participating in the jazz band—as long as he made musical progress.  And he could major in any number of other areas in the social sciences, including economics and political science.  Accepted to St. Olaf and most of the others, he decided to attend St. Olaf—even though he had never visited prior to making this huge commitment.  As he explained, he knew what he wanted educationally, he was confident that St. Olaf could deliver on those desires, and since he knew little about most places in the US, he didn’t really fear going someplace completely new. 

Kevin thoroughly enjoyed his experience as an “Ole,” and played saxophone all four years.  He majored in economics, and also challenged himself by taking the “Great Conversations” program that steeped him in the intellectual history of the Western tradition (he called Mark half-way through expressing his skepticism that he would survive the heavy reading load, but today talks about Great Conversations as seminal in his personal and intellectual development).  Kevin now has a great job in an international company based in Hong Kong, continues to play the saxophone, and he and Mark meet for lunch whenever Mark is in town.  Mark also worked with Kevin’s two cousins, both of whom attended another outstanding liberal arts college in Ohio. 

Choose the right college for you

If you need help to choose the right college for you, our team at Great College Advice can help. Give us a call anytime, or sign up for a free consultation.


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