Another academic year is coming to an
end, and with it comes closure on the tempest of college applications.
The angst of selecting a college for the next step in education is done,
and the transitioning into that promised Nirvana is at hand. Some will be
heading to the school of their dreams; others will be discovering that
there is more than one school that will fulfill their dreams.
And now it is time for me to breathe
a sigh of relief that each of my counselees has made a good choice with
the promise of a valuable college education. For despite the hoopla that
dictates choices - the location, the physical plant, the campus beauty,
the athletics, the college "scene" - it is the education
offered that interests me first and foremost.
But that sigh cannot last long. The
rising seniors are at the door; and they have come armed with ideas, and
their parents' firm ideas, as to what college they will select. Now it is
time for a new deep breath and my personally fabled speech.
"I understand your desire to
attend college X; I know you are an excellent candidate for college X.
Your academic credentials to date make you a good match for College X.
You have a distinctive résumé. You might even have a deep legacy or key
source of recommendation. However, you have mirror images who also want
to attend college X. You may or may not be accepted.
"My job is to protect you. I want to open your eyes to other
excellent possibilities you may not have thought about - or even be aware
of. When the year is done, I want to know that you have made a good
match, even if it is not the one you initially considered. If it is that
Each year seems to bring new
challenges. The cost of college continues its spiral upward, making some
colleges out of reach for many. Numbers of spaces are being filled by
international students who can afford to pay, leaving fewer places for
American students. Admission is less often need-blind, as very few
colleges have the financial strength to meet that commitment. Families
who cannot qualify for "need" have to stretch, seek loans and
hope for the merit aid that some colleges offer. Loans can result in many
years of painful payments following college.
Selective colleges are receiving
increasing numbers of applications each year, thanks to their enrollment
management/marketing practices, and thanks to students who apply to many
more colleges to increase possibilities of acceptance. While there may be
a top choice, when it comes time to apply, there can be as many as
fifteen to twenty colleges on one student's list. So the competition is
fierce; the anxiety is huge. The results are skewed, offering little
explanation to deserving students who may have to face disappointment for
the first time in their lives.
Still I go on believing in my students and believing there
is a special place for each in the best of education the United States
has to offer, its higher education system. That is what brings me back to
the table, after my deep breath, each year. I meet so many special young
people who have so much promise, who are discovering who they are, what
they want to become, and how they will contribute to the world. Knowing
them is my reward and brings my renewed belief in the future of our