A misguided approach to appying to college


In 2009 I applied to college, going through the same passes as every one of my classmates – in a small, private school of some forty seniors. We went to our school’s college admissions counsellor. We reviewed the stack of leaflets that – mostly – our parents had gathered for us. And we made our decisions – and even structured our applications – based on all the wrong factors.

The mistake that we made – and I say “we”, because I don’t believe that I’m the only one in my high school to have made this error – was that we relied far too heavily on our own whims, and the advice of our parents. Now, don’t get me wrong – parents can be a great resource. But just because they loved or went to a school, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best school for you.

You – and your situation – are unique, and the best-fit school for you might be one that neither you nor your parents have ever heard of. For that, you need someone who knows the langscape of colleges and universities. In other words, an admissions expert – a professional (and not just your high school’s) college admissions counsellor.

Stanford university image1

These people exist. And a college admissions consultant would have made my life so much easier. But neither my parents nor I knew about these genies. To us, “admissions consulting” was as foreign a topic as nuclear physics!

What ended up happening was that I applied to several local (California) schools, some – Pomona College and the other Claremont Colleges – because I’d physically been able to visit, and one – Occidental – because I had a friend who really wanted to go there. I applied to all the Ivy League schools – Princeton, Harvard, and Yale – because I’d heard they were good. And I applied to my parents’ alma mater – Stanford University.

What I didn’t do was what any good education consultant would have made me do: create lists, weigh pros and cons, and consider factors like campus life, and where I’d fit in. I didn’t know the first thing about these schools. (And any school admissions counselling service would have made sure I did!) In short, my outlook was limited. I only aplied to schools that were local, or whose names I knew.

Stanford university

I didn’t apply to any schools outside the USA. An admissions consultant for studying abroad in the UK – for example – could have really broadened my horizons. But my horizons were narrow. And I’d lacked an educational cuonsellor to counsel me on how to craft my applications for each of the schools I’d applied to.

The rejections started rolling in. I didn’t get into any of the Claremont colleges, or any East Coast schools. I only got into two: Occidental and Stanford, the latter, I suspect, only because of the family connection. When I chose Stanford, it was because my parents had gone and it was a better-ranked university. NOT because any admissions experts had suggested it!

Was Stanford the best fit for me? Not at all! It was big; I’d have preferred a small school. It was cut-throat competitive; I preferred to be around people who got together to sing kumbaiyah. Yes, I graduated. But when I think back on college, all I think now is how much better it could have been if I’d used the proper channels – the excellent student consulting that’s out there – to find a school that really fit my personality.

If you’re applying to college, don’t make the same mistake that I did. Get help. Get an admissions expert: a college applications consultant!