Now that we know the importance of fit and realistic expectations when it comes to college choice, let’s put this into practice. Choose ONE of the following three options:
1. Create a two page student questionnaire that asks students to respond to the questions you want to know before developing a college list. For example, you may ask, �Would you like to live in or near a large city or in a rural area,� �What are your career goals?,� or �Three words that come to mind when my friends describe me are________________.�
2. A student comes to you convinced he should apply to Yale with a 2.3 GPA and 1400 (CR, M, W) SAT score because he volunteered at a pet rescue facility all summer and his uncle graduated from Brown in the mid-70�s. How will you counsel the student?
3. Parents come to you with a list of the top schools in the nation as listed by US News and World Report. They have engaged your services so that their son can attend anyone of the top 25 listed. What will you tell them and how will you counsel the student?
The lecture is below:
We are going to tackle this week�s topic of recruitment, ranking, and �best fit,� as three distinctly different topics. They are all hot topics of discussion and debate that you can find spread out in recent articles and literature across the media. For those of you who have taken my College Admissions Process class, this will be familiar territory as we spent a good amount of time talking about fit and rankings. However, I think these are very important topics and definitely worth spending time on here as well.
How do colleges recruit students?
Speak with admissions representatives from almost any college and they will all say roughly the same thing about their efforts to recruit students. They will click off:
college visits to high schools
large, small, regional, and national college fairs
priority applications and application fee waivers
flyers, announcements, letters to students, letters to counselors
luncheons for counselors, fly-ins for counselors, seminars
events for interested students
events for admitted students
regional rep associations
email, internet, etc.
tickets to games, overnight events, on campus events
campus tours and other outreach efforts to schools
This is only a partial list and of course, the extent to which a school is able to engage in these activities is highly dependent on the resources of the school. Many public colleges and smaller, regional private schools will not be able to compete against the larger private schools with large endowments in this regard. The landscape in this area changes frequently though and the newest recruitment efforts quickly become old hat. Financial aid offices are now involved in outreach as well, trying to entice students and families with the best financial aid packages possible. Part of a counselor�s job is to sort through the important information that is of real interest versus the marketing efforts. Parents are often very confused when a college writes a letter addressed to their son or daughter inviting them to visit campus or set up an interview. �This means the college wants my son, right?,� �This means my daughter is on their radar and will likely be admitted, right?� No and no. All it means is that the college is trying to market their name, what they have to offer, and what the college can do for students. It�s advertising. It�s increasing awareness of the college.
Recruitment efforts are a mainstay of college admissions. The college admissions representative is just that, someone who represents the college and usually covers a certain territory. Regional rep networks are growing in popularity and when a college is seeking certain student populations or a particular demographic, the college will place a rep in the state where they are recruiting students in hopes of being hands on and recognizable. This is mainly for students from that state looking to study out-of-state. For example, California�s regional rep network is called the Regional Area Admission Counselors or the RAAC (Links to an external site.). The RAAC holds mini fairs, visits high schools, and stays in touch with prospective students.
Mention rankings in one breath and it is quickly followed by US News and World Report in the next. You will find people despise rankings, love rankings, use rankings, disregard rankings completely, and argue about valid ranking criteria, all at the same time. In general the colleges that are ranked competitively like the rankings and the colleges that are not ranked highly find ways to disparage their validity. Some colleges ignore the findings and others rush to publicize their ranking in every way imaginable.
What�s so great about rankings? People like lists. We�re drawn to lists like David Letterman�s Top Ten List of anything he happens to list. They can be funny, fun, and interesting. The top ten places to live in retirement. The top ten college towns. We don�t take them too seriously because we know a list of top ten anything may only be partially correct and ultimately, is subjective. Ranking colleges is fine if people understand that there are an infinite number of ways to rank them and that there can never be one definitive list. There is so much more to understanding a college that cannot be distributed in a list printed in a magazine. College choice can�t be wrapped up in a neat list and a list of what every student needs cannot be found on someone else�s list. The perfect number one college for one student will not be number one for every student. Colleges must be chosen to reflect student interests, academic ability, degrees offered, programs, resources, costs, location, size, and so much more. We cannot hand a list to students and tell them to apply, keep their fingers crossed, and if they don�t gain entrance, their lives are worthless. And yet, that�s what lists, in the hands of unsuspecting people do.
Please take the time to read the article from Counselor�s Corner. It is a great explanation about how rankings should not be the sole measure used to determine the right school for a student.
Finding the Right Fit
�Best fit� is a term used a lot these days to describe not safety or reach schools but schools that fit well with what the student wants and needs for many reasons that hopefully start with academics and ends with career and lifelong learning goals. In between we can examine student life, resources and resource accessibility, extracurricular activities, sports, school spirit, and so much more.
How do we determine right fit? A lot of students begin their college search with the idea that there is only one college that is exactly right for them and they somehow have to figure out which school that is of the 4500 plus school in the country. I say this in my other class; there are likely dozens of schools that would all be a great fit for students. If a student puts in the time to research colleges, they will find a lot of great college matches.
Is it time researching then that prescribes right fit? No. It means the student will have to spend time, concentrating on who they are, how they learn, what environment is best for them to learn in, what are their goals, who do they want to become, what areas of intellectual, emotional, and career growth are important to them? College counseling is communication with students that hopefully results in building a better understanding of who they are and what their needs are. It is deciding on schools where the student will flourish. There is an old adage, �bloom where you are planted,� and it is never so true as with students in college.
Determining right fit can be tricky. There are steps counselors can take to lessen the risk of �bad fit.� Encourage students to visit the college campus. There is so much to learn in a visit but caution students that a college tour by one college student-ambassador having a bad day is not a good determination if the school is a bad fit.
Develop a college list that makes sense academically, financially, realistically, and allow students to try a dream school if they absolutely must. Explore options. Find statistics about average GPA and entrance exams and match that to your counselee�s data. Some schools, mostly public, use GPA and SAT/ACT scores and only GPA and SAT/ACT scores in an eligibility index. Learn the indices and use them to determine admission eligibility.
Finally, ask questions. Develop an intake questionnaire for students to complete that define their interests, their high school history, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, career goals if they have been developed, and other criteria that is important to every student you counsel. Question parents about their experience, their culture, their family career history, about their child as a youngster in school and out, about how they see their child in school, and about reasonable costs.
The end result of all this should be a student who is confident about what they want and what will work best for them in a college environment and the self-satisfaction of knowing that they�ve made well-informed choices regarding their college applications.