Thursday, January 29, 2015

Finding the Right College Fit

As our seniors complete and send out their final college applications, some of which are not due until the end of the month, my wife and I continue to experience the “joy” of going through this process for the first time as parents.  The roller coaster ride of a certain college being at the top of the list one day, only to sink to the bottom and be replaced by a different university the following day, can be baffling.  Is it about size, program, tuition, or location? Which of these priorities seems to be the most important one today?  Which one will it be tomorrow? In retrospect, applying to middle and high school was a breeze!

While I experience this journey as a parent, I continue to read articles, from a head of school’s perspective, relating them to the college counseling process at Bosque.  For example, a recent article on the PBS NewsHour website entitled, “Why colleges aggressively recruit applicants just to turn them down,” discusses the way in which some colleges encourage seniors to apply just so they can then deny them admission and possibly increase their poll rankings. Reporter Laura Colarusso describes the college search process for Tel Kelley, a high school senior from Alamosa, CO, whose journey could just as easily be that of one of our Bosque Bobcats. Colarusso says, “As college-admissions season kicks into high gear, Kelley is a target of a little-known practice among colleges and universities called ‘recruit to deny,’ in which they try to make their admissions process look more selective by boosting their number of applicants—then turning many of them down—through hard-sell marketing techniques.” Many years ago, my wife and I, who both hold master’s degrees from Washington University-St. Louis, read with dismay a New York Times article in which that school was profiled for pioneering the “apply-to-reject” model. 

At Bosque, Director of College Counseling Constance Lumumba-Perez, Assistant Director of College Counseling Tamisha Williams, and Registrar Tina Flynn work tirelessly to help our students look past the marketing hype and find the schools that may be right for them.  The initial list of colleges, which is different for every senior, is determined after both Constance and Tamisha conduct an interview with the student, so the list is specifically tied to his/her hopes and dreams.  As the list is whittled down, there are many conversations with students and parents to ensure that the student is looking for the right fit rather than succumbing to glossy brochures or the perceived reputations of certain schools over others. There is also a meeting where the college counselors, students, and parents look at “scattergrams” to understand how other Bosque students have fared in applying to certain schools. This provides a realistic look at a senior’s chances for being accepted to those universities/colleges.

In addition, every day I watch our students go into the college counseling offices for guidance, advice, conversations, and sometimes just to hang out. As a result, the counselors know their students well and can help them figure out which universities are the best matches for each person.   Hopefully, the young men and women of Bosque can escape the pervasive and overwhelming marketing blitz of colleges, so they will apply and be accepted at institutions of higher learning where they can be successful and happy.  We can also hope that the roller coaster for all of us parents will come to a smooth stop, and we won’t be too much worse for the ride.