In a perfect world, the 2 million+ high school seniors considering college would be clear-thinking, organized & stress-free 17-year-olds. If a student did have a question about their path after high school, their school’s expert-and-always-available college counselor could help. Their English teachers would provide insightful and timely essay advice and editing...in class. Parents could fund their retirement and their mortgage while also saving the hundreds of thousands needed for Junior’s Bachelor's degree. Alas, the real world intrudes.
Applying to college has always been a pain. Even with 21st technology, the process, though streamlined and online, is challenging. While the vast majority of college-bound seniors apply to a public university or community college, using fairly straight-forward applications, almost a million students navigate other dispiriting if not soul-crushing college application systems. My clients are not unique in submitting their information through five or more different systems. Each application season, I field numerous phone calls and screen shares with anxious students puzzled by the dozens of blanks they must fill in on these ‘straight forward’ apps. Does their Digital Arts class meet the UC a-g requirement? What is their UC GPA? Does babysitting their brother count as a job? Does anyone at Cal Poly SLO care that they just made Eagle Scout? Students don’t understand the point of the essay prompts—of the personal statements—of the short questions—asking about their ‘browser history’ or the ‘favorite meal you’d make for our admissions team’ or why they are asked to ‘create a class for your fellow Freshmen’.
Some applications simply want the basics: personal, family and school information. At quite a few schools, if the grades meet minimum standards and you are willing to pay, they will admit you. Many students, however, have multiple decisions to make. Where to apply. When to apply: Early action or early decision? How to approach their essays and activities. What’s important, what’s not. Where and how to explain ‘special circumstances’. I’ve heard many a parent say that their student should be able to handle apps independently. I know many high school seniors do just that. But, I’ve also heard the sad stories: “I didn’t know I needed to take 3 Subject Test until too late”, “I didn’t know to apply early to get merit aid”, “I didn’t know my high school had a bad rep for grade inflation”, “I don’t know why I applied to that school; they don’t even offer my major”, or this gem from the annual saga of cyber-snafus, “The college sent an email that I was admitted but then another, ‘Oops, sorry, you’re not admitted after all’”.
Yes, this is a shameless-plug-post but, the sad stories of college admissions are why most of us get into this business. Many of us experienced the 'sadness' ourselves. It’s appalling what college costs. Applying to college isn’t rocket science but you can never go back in time—sometimes it’s useful to have an independent, third-party reviewing and/or helping plan what could be a $280,000+ investment.