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It’s Not Like When We Applied to College

For high school students and their families, applying to college now is very different than when we did it. An article in The Wall Street Journal on April 6 states that “The Education Department projects 3.2 million Americans will graduate from high school this spring, up from 2.6 million a decade earlier.” That is a 23% increase.

The raw number of high school graduates is only part of the reason that there are more students applying to and attending college. The percentage of high school graduates that now go on to college has also increased. (Some factors are that more women are going to college than when we attended, recognition of the importance of a college degree as a prerequisite for employment or as a minimum educational requirement in the way that a high school degree used to be and greater participation by students from underrepresented and underserved groups whose participation in college was previously low.)

At the same time that the number of interested students has increased, students are being subjected to aggressive marketing campaigns via email and other means by colleges. Colleges conduct sophisticated enrollment management campaigns to spread word of their programs, to appeal to large and diverse pools of applicants and to attract the most academically qualified, talented and broad range of applicants from which to then select their first year class. In fact, a four year private college now spends more than $2000 on average to recruit each student it enrolls.

Unfortunately the student is often at the receiving end of these “attract and reject” strategies that only serve to enhance a college’s rankings. No wonder kids and their parents and guidance counselors (and college admission officers) are feeling stressed!

My best advice? With the help of knowledgeable adults, including parents, guidance counselors and college admissions advisors, the student needs to reflect, assess and focus on who he or she is as a learner; identify school environments that support those values and attributes and whose philosophy and programs will further his or her goals and growth; try to assess which schools are reasonable admissions matches; and develop targeted application materials to those schools.

And, know that the rankings are based on input measures rather than reflecting what occurs while at college and that much of the growth and education that occurs at college is a function of how much the student avails him or herself of the available opportunities.

April 10, 2007.

Posted by UberMusings / Posted on 10 Apr