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Making Sense of Admission Mania

For the past weeks, the conversations of students and their families have primarily focused on college admission news. Rejections … acceptances … waitlists… students are concerned about how best to approach their situation. This year many of the top colleges boasted acceptance rates in the single digits, while students can no longer rely on many of the colleges who several years may have been a “safer” choice.

These past few weeks, I have had to ask myself repeatedly how do we, as counselors, help families make sense of all this? More importantly, how do we alleviate many of the fears, stress and anxiety these students are feeling to help them move forward?

There are many factors that may contribute to the current panorama. First, if you consider how easy it is for families to apply to college compared to many years ago, the answer is simple: more students are applying to more schools, resulting in lower acceptance rates. Additionally, many colleges continue to worry about their yield rate and consider how many of the students they are accepting will actually enroll at their institution. Consequently, colleges prefer to place these students on wait list, because if they accept too many there may not be enough housing to accommodate them, or risk that if many of these students decide to enroll elsewhere, these same colleges many find themselves facing a financial crisis. Over these past few weeks on several talk lists, counselors have been urging colleges to be more transparent and consider the difficult situations they are forcing many of these students to face.

Based on the latest admission trends, these are some tips I offer my students: If you consider there are over 4,000 colleges in the United States, why are many families fixed on those schools with the lowest acceptance rates? Why not consider lesser known colleges that are still a right-fit, and boast excellent academic programs, social clubs and organizations, as well as a solid alumni network that works closely with the career center?

Students should find ways to distinguish themselves from other applicants. At Jumpstart, we continually ask my students: what makes you different and how can we best present these characteristics on the application? We then spend some time analyzing the student’s application to see where those characteristic shine through.

Students should consider how they can present themselves in the best possible way. Similarly, they have to trust that colleges will do their best to choose those students they feel will thrive at their campuses. In other words, students have control over the rigor of their courses they choose, the range of activities they would like to participate, the essay topics and the teachers they know will write the most effective recommendations. However, once the application is submitted, they can only wait until April 1st. Start early. I recommend students start college application process early to learn about what colleges are looking for in applicants, how to prepare and what to expect throughout the process.

Be optimistic! Having a positive attitude is essential.

Remember that college application is just one of many challenges students will face over the course of their lives and there are skills they can start building now that will build their resilience and the ability to bounce back from any situation.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more how Jumpstart can help you, please schedule an initial consultation today! No matter where you are in the process, it’s never too late to receive the support you need.

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