I still have a file box filled with college admissions letters. Considering that journey ended almost twenty years ago, it might seem strange that all of my acceptance and rejection letters are still filed away neatly into their respective slots; but, for me, those notes are symbols of where I have been and reminders of what I hope to achieve. I can still remember the uneasy walk to the end of my driveway that I repeated so many times during the early spring of my senior year. With each step I took, the same thought remained fixed in my mind: “please let it be the fat envelope!”
Looking back now, I wish I could go back to tell that stressed-out teenager that everything was going to be alright; but, at least I can take solace in sharing that heartening message with the students I help today. I have been in education for almost twelve years and the only thing that has really changed is that lonely walk to the mailbox. Today students discover their college fate with the touch of a button; however, that does little to assuage the disappointment too many students feel when college dreams fail to become reality. My application saga had plenty of drama but it ended with a full scholarship to one of my top choices. Unfortunately, the story does not end in quite so positive a way for many students today.
As college prices continue to soar and admissions numbers at many colleges continue to decline, high school students these days are often forced to choose between a “path less traveled” and the path of least resistance that is usually dictated by cost and acceptance. Even as SAT scores rise along with GPA’s, the opportunities available for many students seem to be shrinking. The simple truth is that students are still playing the same college admissions game I played over 20 years ago, but the rules have changed. No longer is it enough just to be good. Students today must learn to market that ability in a package that differentiates them from the masses of students who appear just as good on paper. Unfortunately, guidance counselors, who in many cases have 300 plus students to attend to, don’t always have the time to shepherd kids through the increasingly rough waters of college admissions, so students are left to find their own bearings.
The good news is that students do not have to struggle alone against the collegiate machine. The problem is that many students today don’t understand what their options are. While the last ten years have seen the advent of Independent Educational Consulting as a viable option to the traditional counseling approach, many high schools refuse to promote this alternative. Independent Consultants recognize that colleges are not benevolent institutions eager to reward students for all of their hard work. Once students accept these bastions of higher learning for what they are- businesses – it is much easier for them to devise an effective marketing approach.
Admissions Officers have become modern-day bouncers, controlling the flow of students into the most exclusive “clubs” in the country; and, many students are left standing in line waiting for their chance to gain admissions. Now more than ever, it is necessary for kids to stand out from the crowd if they want to be noticed and duly rewarded. This distinguishing process is a four-year job that students have to be committed to from the start of high school. Unfortunately, many students discover this truth much too late and are turned away at the door when it comes their time to make their case to Admissions Officers.
Don’t be left standing in line when your name gets called! I can speak from experience when I say that missed opportunities are the ones that truly haunt you in retrospect. I wish that there had been someone there to tell me that when I was a freshman in high school. Maybe then the file box I keep in the corner of the attic would only contain acceptance letters.