One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to debunk commonly held, widespread misconceptions about the college admissions process. These misconceptions are often perpetuated not only by students and parents navigating the admissions process but also by school counselors, admissions officers, and, well, folks in line at the grocery store. In an effort to debunk as many misconceptions about the admissions process out there in the universe as possible, one of our morning rituals is to search for articles on college admissions. And just about every morning, we find an article that leaves us scratching our heads. That distinction today belongs to a piece written by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the “Sarasota Herald Tribune” entitled “PARENTING: Five simple steps to college admissions.” It’s a head-scratcher no doubt.
College Admissions Misconceptions Perpetuated in the Press
But let’s analyze the five recommendations of this duo one by one so our readers see a clear picture.
1. “Finding the best schools starts with an Internet search. Just Google ‘Best colleges for [your child’s field of interest].’ Be sure to comb through multiple lists and take note of the colleges that appear on multiple lists.” No! Why should a student select a school based on field of interest? The very best schools in America are liberal arts schools. And students change their minds on what they want to study just about every Tuesday during their first year of college. To select a school based on Googling best colleges for field of interest is shortsighted and, well, absurd.
2. “Go to each school’s website and learn as much as you can. Pay attention to the location. Is your child okay with climate, the culture and the surrounding community? Look on YouTube for virtual tours of the college. Read about some of the well-known alumni in your child’s field of interest. And consider the cost. Does the school offer scholarships? By the time you’re done with this step, you should have a shortlist of maybe two to four schools.” Read about some well-known alumni? Oy vey is right. Some well known folks attended some very poor academic institutions. Does that mean a student should attend one of those schools? And how about actually visiting the schools a student is considering? Last we checked, Google searches don’t trump actually stepping foot on college campuses.
3. “This step is critical. You must call the admissions office of each school on your short list (not email; you need to speak to a human). Ask to speak with an admissions officer. Say that your student wants to attend their school and you want to know what their ideal candidate looks like. You’re looking for the x-factor, not just the admission requirements listed on their website.” If we say oy vey three times for good measure will it drive our point home? Parents should absolutely not be calling admissions officers. That will leave a very bad impression on the very people who will be weighing a student’s case for admission. We don’t even know where to begin with this horrific recommendation. Who are these people?!
4. “The information you gather [during these calls with admissions officers] will help you plan a powerful four years of high school that will prepare your child to become the ideal candidate for his first choice school.” What makes these writers think admissions officers will tell it like it is? What makes them think they will contradict information on the school’s own website? Do these writers not realize that admissions officers so often don’t tell it like it is? We wonder what they have to say about need-blind admissions.
5. “Each year throughout high school, assess your plan and your progress. Touch base with the admissions office again to see if anything has changed. Talk to your student to see if his goals are still the same and then make adjustments as needed.” Parents shouldn’t touch base with admissions officers ever — much less again!
There is an exchange in the Adam Sandler-starrer “Billy Madison” that comes to mind after reading this piece in the “Sarasota Herald Tribune.” It goes like this: “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
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