Thinking on college admissions...
The educational consulting philosophy of ThinkYes is to guide students to grow as individuals — to excel academically, to demonstrate expertise in an extracurricular area of their choice, to develop character, and shape their sense of possibility.
Start early. The process of college admission starts early. It begins with classes chosen freshman year (even if “freshman grades don’t count”) and it begins with engaging in and discovering areas of interest (or disinterest), a few of which become areas of excellence. A family’s awareness and active thought regarding college, with or without a consultant, reduces the angst many associate with the college application process. More importantly however, it creates multiple opportunities for students to grow as individuals, discover and demonstrate their interests and abilities while in high school as well as college.
You decide. ThinkYes holds the conviction that the student is choosing the college, not the other way around. The student is in control; they are the consumers. If a student / family starts early and is willing to put effort into the process they retain control. The less effort, the more the balance shifts toward colleges deciding for you. “Effort” encompasses being engaged both academically and extracurricularly, studying for standardized tests, researching schools, understanding expectations, and doing some self-reflection.
Applying to colleges is a team effort. It may not “take a village,” but for a student to develop their best application it involves parental support, the guidance of a college counselor, teachers and mentors, and a few willing individuals to read essays and applications and share their thoughts. Though unique to each family, parents play a vital role, this is not a time to step away; that role is most powerful when they are supportive and clear, yet allow their student to assume responsibility.
Consider the admissions officers’ point of view. The application is best communicated when viewed from the admissions officers’ perspective. Realize that their job is to create a class that supports and contributes to their college community. Realize that admissions officers ask two main question when they review applications: Can the applicant succeed academically at our school? And if so, does the applicant fit at our school? Realize that admissions officers accept or deny applications, not applicants. Each of these realizations impacts how a student prepares their application.
You don’t need to know your career to pick a college. What a 17-18 year old wants to do in in their adult life will change and morph and you certainly don’t need to know it now. Jobs are changing – and at such an incredible pace that your job upon graduation from college may very well not even exist today. (Did You Know 3.0) Students are changing — they grow, learn, and experience new ideas each day — do not limit who you think you are by being typed as something you may have once been. And, beware of personality tests. If taken, view them as an additional piece of information rather than a decree of what you can and cannot do. And, why limit yourself to a single career area? Hyphenated careers (bio-informatic) and slashing (consultant/artist) are becoming common place in a world where technology has brought flexibility and portability of work; where there is little job security; where people who live longer can do more; and where work is seen as providing fulfillment in addition to financial security. (Unleashing Your Many Identities) Don’t be afraid to pursue what you love; it might become hyphenated or slashed!
Rankings are a great tool, but not a short cut. Well used, rankings can be a huge asset to the college search process. Look at multiple rankings, understand their methodologies, and notice schools that keep popping up. Dig deep into the sub-rankings you have interest in…chemical engineering, not only engineering; or international business, not only business school. Research interesting schools including selective and less selective colleges; the final list must be balanced, with each school a place you would be happy to call home. Consider rankings a starting point, not the conclusion.
It is all about doing. Selective colleges in particular have the luxury to expect students who have demonstrated passion and excellence in an area of interest or two. This cannot be done without being engaged, taking risks, and thinking outside the box for opportunities to create and experience. Grades and scores alone, perquisite for admission, are not sufficient. Throw out the wrong-headed idea of ticking college admission requirements off of a list. What select colleges want is what parents and students want. An individual who has, by being engaged, learned more about themselves, their interests and abilities, and have thus had the opportunities to build their character.