The New York Times recently published an opinion piece titled, Why Applying To College Is So Confusing, which can be found by clicking the picture below. As College Counselors, who have helped thousands of students navigate the college application process, we have some thoughts on the article.
The main point the article makes is that there is so much stress and anxiety around the college process because the entire process is confusing and not understood by the general public. When something is unknown, it can easily cause fear and anxiety. But why is the process so confusing, and what can be done about it?
The essential problem is that nearly every single college has different criteria upon which they decide if a college applicant is worthy of acceptance to their school. Parents and students don’t have the time or wherewithal to research each college and determine if they are an ideal candidate, or how to make themselves appear to be.
The simple answer, as stated in the article, is that colleges should work with applicants to make the process more understandable. This would certainly help them diversify their applicant pool, but can also cut down the stress and anxiety families feel considerably. But, until colleges do that, there are two things families can do to help themselves out.
- Seek help.
There are many sources of help out there that families may not know about, many of which are free!
- The School Counselor at your high school can be a first line of defense. And, if they are unable to help, they should be able to point you in the right direction.
- Be weary of help via the internet, but any official websites can offer considerable and reliable information. Many families don’t realize that colleges are required to publish their admission data each year because of the Common Data Set Initiative, and families can find this information by doing a simple google search for “name of college Common Data Set”. NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counselors) is also a great resource for accurate information. Check out their website at nacacnet.org.
- Pay for help when needed. There is a reason why many families these days hire professional college counselors, and it’s the same reason why people hire lawyers, accountants, tutors, etc. When something is complicated, and there are people who specialize in that area, it often times makes sense to seek out their help. Campus Bound counselors spend time visiting colleges, meeting with admission representatives, and staying up to date on the latest data and trends in the world of college admissions. Many families feel a huge relief knowing that a college counselor, who specializes in this area, is there to help.
2. Keep things in perspective.
- While many families get caught up in the frenzy of college admissions, and admittedly, it can be stressful to enter a world that seems foreign and complicated, remember that millions of people before you were able to navigate the college admissions process, and you likely will be able to too. I find myself constantly having to remind families that where your child goes to college will NOT determine the rest of their lives. It’s only 4 years, and the student is there to learn, not to have the best time of their lives and determine its future path. These days, students and parents get caught up in the frenzy of finding the perfect college, and the big point that everyone seems to be missing is that there is no such thing. Be a good person, learn your trade or major, have fun… these are what are important during the college years, not the name on your t-shirt.
It would certainly be nice if the college process was easier and less difficult to navigate, and we fully support any efforts to make the process fair and reasonable. But for now, families can seek out help, and keep the whole thing in perspective in order to manage the process successfully.