Each year, there are admission results that seem mind-boggling but THIS year seems to have been one of the most random and unpredictable – so much so, that it is making national headlines.
Not surprisingly, one of the results of such randomness is trying hard to figure out what can be done to “outthink” the colleges and how to start college planning even earlier so that one can craft an admissions profile that will guarantee acceptance into that “dream” college.
At the risk of sounding like a Grinch at Christmas, let me save you a ton of time:
There are no guarantees or magic extracurricular resume formulas that guarantee acceptance
There is no PERFECT essay formula that automatically gets you into an Ivy League college
Transferring to a lower-performing high school so that you rank higher will not insure that you get into your college of choice
Here’s why. Colleges are businesses and it is to THEIR advantage to get as many applications as possible, as early as possible. Think about filling the slots at a college in much the same way you think about filling airlines seats or hotel rooms. It is based on an inventory system called “yield management”. We even used this when I was in the radio business to maximize our commercial sales.
The yield in college admissions is the percentage of students who choose to enroll in a particular college after having been offered admission. It is calculated by dividing the number of students who choose to enroll at a school, by the number of offers of acceptance and multiplying by one hundred. (Source: Wikipedia.org). A higher yield indicates greater interest in enrolling at a particular college or university.
Colleges use this for marketing and recruitment purposes and it has led to the frenzy that has been escalating over the last 5-10 years.
It could very well be one of the reasons that early action and early decision was created. Just like in hotels and airlines and radio commercials, the earlier that they know how many seats are filled or spots are taken, the easier it is for them to plan, right?
And the effect, is that more applications are submitted to way more colleges (some of which are just submitted to “cover all the bases”), which actually decreases the opportunities for other students AND creates higher stress and anxiety for students and their families, as this article describes.
Happily, what often happens when a situation like this reaches a fever pitch is that people start to take notice and look at ways to impact the system, as Frank Bruni, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times and best-selling author, describes in his article in January - interestingly, written even BEFORE this season's random and unpredictable acceptance period over the last several months.
BUT, as this Dean of Admissions points out in her Op-Ed piece in the New York Times – it takes a change in the system AND a change in how we REACT to it.
Imagine if an airline or hotel USED selectivity in marketing and advertising? And U.S. News and World Report and Forbes then wrote articles like “Top 5 hotels in the country that are the most selective to get into”.
A few people would be more motivated to try to stay there, for sure, but the rest of us would probably say “that’s okay, I’ll just stay somewhere else”.
And that is exactly what you can do with the college process. You can not give in to the pressure and the hype. You can guide your children to prepare in a way that helps them say: “Based on what I know I want from a college experience and why - I know that any of these 6 schools are ones that I would be happy at”. Basically, to paraphrase the title of Frank Bruni's book, - knowing that where you go to college is NOT who you are or who you will become!
Which means, the emphasis during the college planning process, can be more fun, less stressful and much more about continuing to figure out who you are, what you want and WHY!
Instead of trying to put together a resume that you think a certain college wants to see, you can continue to build your extracurricular resume based on your strengths, interests and passions - and trying NEW things, so that you can EXPAND on who you are and what you love.
Instead of trying to follow the "perfect formula for the Ivy-League essay", you can put your energy into writing an essay that rounds out your overall application profile by sharing who you are, what is unique and special about you and lets the colleges get to know you and why you'd make an impact there.
And instead of jumping from high school to high school so that you can be at the head of the class, you can spend time cultivating friendships and relationships with peers and teachers that will create a lifetime of memories and support you to stretch yourself.
The more you spend time developing who you are and what you want to be, the easier it will be to find multiple colleges that will help you to grow and build on that and offer many opportunities for you to design your future!!
I'd love to hear from you! What do you think about the current situation in college admissions? What is your family's "go to" strategy for staying out of the admissions frenzy?