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Monday, March 19, 2018
Setting Reasonable Expectations for College Admission
Figuring out "what colleges really want" is really the Holy Grail of the research and application process. Usually, students set their sights on a university, then take to trimming and tailoring their appearance to impress their suitor. The experience can be exhaustive, and students end up spending months, hoping beyond all hope, that they're a match.
Consultants and counselors have been reminding students for years that the most effective college search is one that focuses on the best fit. The top universities in the country get a lot of air time for their single-digit acceptance rates. Let's stop bemoaning the exclusivity and move on. There's another home for the 95% of the students in the country who won't get into an Ivy.
Some consultants call the essay a deal-breaker for borderline students; others say it's all in the grades and test scores. Some suggest that successful students will have a better grasp on big-picture ambitions. The last one is tough for a seventeen-year-old. Not many of us had it all figured out before setting foot on a college campus.
Which is why the best approach is to let go of the notion that there's an easy answer. Colleges are looking for all sorts of different things in a candidate. Their decisions aren't always going to be fair and admissions isn't a scientific process.
Students that don't get in where they want are going to want to find scapegoats, and this is a wasted effort. I'm not discouraging students from reaching for the stars; merely reminding them that ambition and disappointment often go hand-in-hand.
Setting reasonable expectations at the outset can have the long-term effect of taking anxiety out of the process. College is important, but pedigree isn't determinative-that's what hard work is for.
So broaden your college outlook and take a step back. You won't regret it.
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