What I Hate About College Admissions

Wow! I bet you never thought you'd see this title for an article from a college admissions consultant.


I recently read an article about pushback to adding a Health course for a high school that some of my students attend. As a mom and IEC, I like to think that I get an insider perspective about the pros and cons of different competitive high schools in the area. I thought I had found a "perfect" one for my own kids one day based on the students I worked with from there. My students worked hard, but were genuinely grounded, thoughtful, and well-adjusted happy kids. Teachers were motivational and unique in the way they helped their students to delve further into topics of interest while offering consistent feedback along the way.


Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I read about the influx in suicide interventions both at the high school and middle school level for that district. I was saddened to say the least as parents pushed back that adding a health class to better teach students about the importance of not only physical but emotional and mental health would actually make the problem worse as it took away time that students could use for study hall to spend on homework or other items to catch up on.


So here's what I hate about the college admissions process-when parents and students can't recognize when enough is enough. I once asked a student what he changed to improve his grades from A's and B's to straight A's after his freshman year of high school.


"I just realized that if I give up sleep, then I can get everything done and get straight A's."


As a college admissions consultant, I am put in a difficult position as I try to counsel that while I respect his dedication and work, that sleep is an important component to helping our brains run efficiently.


The truth is, your child doesn't need to do everything their peers are doing to get into college. For some of my students, accelerated classes come easy to them and they can score A's in the class with minimal effort while their peers need to spend 2 to 3 hours a night on that course to get a B. By all means, a B is a great grade, but this behavior comes at a cost.


A student who used to spend their time pondering deep problems of the world and invest time in their intellectual interests is now is forced to operate like a robot to "compete" with their peers. While grades and scores are important, they are just the qualifier - they don't actually get the student accepted into college - especially at competitive elite universities.


So, whenever my student ask me about whether or not they should add something to their plate, we have a discussion to weigh the pros and cons and at what cost. This ranges from class selection to extracurricular activities. Sometimes there are better options out there and sometimes its okay to walk away.


We can stop the madness together. Let's help students make choices that are right for them. For many schools these days, college admissions is a holistic process. Let's help them shine within boundaries they feel comfortable stretching in.

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