Bye bye, US News? We dream of the day you go away for good!
There’s a college for everyone, and most admit more than half of the applicants. You don’t need a ranking to locate them or to develop a set of requirements for your best-fit college. That said, building your own college ranking is an excellent place to start if you feel overwhelmed. Like ChatGPT, please don’t rely on it entirely. You need to make your list your own, which means putting time and energy into independent research. Scouring websites, speaking with reps, students, and alumni, reading blogs, talking with career services or financial aid, there are just so many ways to learn about colleges—even YouTube and other social channels can be learning tools.
Everyone should read the Georgia Tech admissions blog.
Read rick Clark’s recent post here. For juniors, this section for seniors is important. Read it now, and read it again this summer when you finalize your college list.
Be reminded that your chances of being admitted to a school with an admit rate below 20% do not go up 20% by applying to 20% more of those schools. Trade out “dream school” for IRL colleges. Apply to a group of schools (you figure out the number but generally more than 2 and less than 10) where you know you will be thrilled to get in and excited to go.*
*and we might add: where you can actually get in! Thanks always, Georgia Tech, for keeping it real!
College counseling is not a program that you simply sign up for and “work”—it’s a relationship and a process that takes place over an extended period of time.
The majority of our work with students—which includes academic planning, narrative and extracurricular development (your academic and EC “story” for college), a strategic college list, and completing essays, app data, and an extended resume—starts in 10th or early in 11th grade.
Juniors (and some soph’s) can:
Start to prep for standardized exams. Don’t wait until spring of your junior year or later to begin prep. We have a small list of tutors who we can highly recommend; don’t leave who you work with up to chance.
Meet with your school guidance counselor. They will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other.
Build your story! Have you been heavily involved with any of your extracurricular activities (other than sports, which can’t major in!!!)? Look for impact and leadership opportunities. More importantly, does your resume point toward a major or intellectual interest? What is your story, and how is it told on your resume?
Plan your summer wisely. You’ll want to use this summer to build your resume and make sure it’s pointed toward your intended major.
Visit the websites of schools you are interested in. Explore the admission and academic pages, start to attend virtual offerings and track your contact with schools. It should be exciting to kick your college research into higher gear. Don’t forget to connect with your reps, too.
Fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process.
Most college rankings are totally useless garbage, but no matter what we think, they are widely used by students/parents in their college search. If you do let them guide you it is important to understand the recent changes. Read more here!
Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education, recently announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ students in the United States.
“More than ever colleges today want to be viewed as LGBTQ-friendly and a welcoming place for all students. LGBTQ students and their safety impacts the recruitment efforts of the entire campus,” said Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride Executive Director. “Upper-level administrators are now understanding how LGBTQ-friendliness is key to academic success of students and the future institutional success of the campus.”
The announcement features 30 four-year campuses from across the country that have shown themselves to be deeply committed to LGBTQ students, earning a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index, the definitive national benchmarking tool tracking LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices.
This year, Campus Pride is putting a spotlight on two-year colleges and religious schools with two separate lists focused on community colleges that are leading the way on LGBTQ inclusivity, and religious schools living up to LGBTQ-inclusive values. These campuses were selected by the Campus Pride Index team showcasing campuses with inclusive policy, program and practice and who scored 3.5 or higher stars in their respective categories.
“Seeing the representation of schools from every corner of the country, and highlighting the efforts of community colleges and even religious institutions really underlines the successes Campus Pride has had over our 20 years,” said Tom Elliott, Campus Pride Board Chair. “The work we’ve done with student leaders, and the resources Campus Pride continues to provide them, is making the higher education experience safer and more welcoming to LGBTQ students nationwide.”
What we like about this list is the range. It’s not all Ivy-bound or nowhere, which makes sense given our counseling philosophy and approach. Congrats to all of this year’s graduating seniors!!!
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Chicago
George Washington University
Indiana University, Kelley School of Business
University of Miami
University of Michigan
New York University
Ohio State University
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia
Wake Forest University
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Given campus visit restrictions, students are finding it more challenging than ever before to get a sense of what a college is really like. Prospective applicants want (and need!) information they can’t always get online, and that they would often get by sitting in on classes, going on overnight visits, or even meeting with current students on campus through sports teams, affinity groups, or clubs they hope to join if admitted.
Whether students get to campus or not, we know from experience that they can craft smaller, more targeted college lists that reflect a deep knowledge of schools beyond rankings when they talk to current students and young alumni. Talking to peers is also the single best way to learn more about the social aspects of college and what it is like (realistically!) to follow a certain major path.
With that, we are soft-launching a new program in October: Peer Guides!
We have a small pool of college students who are available to meet with high school students and help guide them on all things their school, major, and college life in general. Here’s how it works:
–Reach out letting us know the specific school or major you want peer guidance on, and we will let you know if guides are available and share their bio(s). *Please note, as we are piloting this program, we might not have a guide available for your college or major of interest; if one becomes available later, we will let you know
-You choose a guide(s) and let us know how much time you want with them (one hour is typically sufficient). Time with the guide is purchased in one-hour blocks, and we ask that you use the time with your guide within three months
-We intro the student and guide, and they take it from there! This is not a formal mentorship program, and students and guides will schedule their time together directly. *Please note, this is a near-peer, student-to-student program. Guides do not meet with or communicate with parents
University of Michigan psychologist Clyde Coombs developed an innovative theory of risk. If you are going to make a risky investment, you protect yourself by playing it safe in other investments. Successful people do the same thing in their daily lives balancing out risks in their portfolio. When we embrace danger in one domain, we offset our overall level of risk by exercising caution in another domain.
This is a good way to think about building your college list.
Some students like to take a big risk with their top choice school. Not always a good idea, but here’s where making good use of different application plans might be beneficial in balancing that risk. If you know Cornell is an “aspirational” school for you—beyond a reach—I would advise to not apply there ED. However, if a student decided they wanted to go for it (and I could not change their mind!), I would strongly advise they balance that decision by applying EA to a range of schools with different levels of selectivity that they liked. For example, UNC, U-M, Penn State, Ohio State, Richmond, and Clemson. I would also advise applying to all of these EA schools if the ED school choice was a bit more reasonable, say, Wake Forest. It is just a good strategy to apply EA along with ED!
Managing expectations while developing a college list is not easy. High school students today deal with a lot of “noise” from peers, parents, teachers, counselors, and if they are really unlucky, random people who have no business talking to them about college (I am looking at you Jay the Lyft driver). It is a hot topic and social media chatter does not help. Where they will go, what they will major in; there seems to be nothing sacred about the journey and no one feels compelled to keep their mouth shut.
And then there’s the critical issue that comes up with many of the students I work with: getting into the most selective American colleges is more fiercely competitive than ever before, with many schools reporting a record number of applicants (again), and corresponding record low admit rates (again). To many, this news is fear-inducing. How will I (or my child, parents have a lot of college-related fear, too!) possibly get admitted to a “top” college or university?
Answering how is hard. There are no silver bullets in this process, and the reality is with college admit rates under 10, 20, 30 percent at the most selective colleges and universities, most applicants won’t get admitted to these schools.
But here’s the thing: there are hundreds of other amazing schools that, in a heartbeat, most students would be happy attending. There is a nasty misconception that the most selective colleges and universities offer some magical golden ticket to greatness and a happy, fulfilling, and successful life. This is a myth. A name is just a name. Yes, brand means something to many people, and over time having a certain college on your resume might help your salary tick up, but it won’t help everyone and in the ways that many people think it will.
Instead of trying to become the applicant you think one of these uber selective schools will admit, I suggest a path of far less resistance and more authenticty—a path that includes looking at colleges where you have a realistic chance of being admitted, colleges that, perhaps, spark real joy.
But again, how?! Try taking a page out of Marie Kondo’s book. The KonMari Method is Marie Kondo’s minimalism-inspired approach to tackling your stuff category-by-category rather than room-by-room. Here’s how I have applied it to creating a college list. There are six basic rules to get started:
Commit yourself to tidying up your list
Imagine your ideal college
Remove colleges from the list first (the ones you know you will not attend); before getting rid of colleges from the list, sincerely thank each of them for serving a purpose
Evaluate your list by category.
Follow the right order
Ask yourself if each college sparks joy
The categories to consider, in order:
Financial considerations, cost
Extracurricular offerings, social life, and happiness of students
Eligibility and competitiveness for admission
Miscellaneous Items (admit rates, legacy, special programs, study abroad etc.)
As you tidy your list ask yourself: why do I want these colleges on my list? Do they spark joy, meaning, does what they have to offer academically, extracurricularly, socially, and financially get me excited to attend? Am I more drawn to the name of the school, the brand, the prestige? What will school A (that I probably won’t get into) offer me that school B (that I probably can get into) cannot and vice versa? Am I evaluating colleges in a way that emphasizes my college priorities (and not my parents or my peers)?
Kondo believes that if you tidy your space, you can transform your life. I believe that if you tidy your college list, you can transform your college application journey. Shoot me an email to schedule a free 30-minute to learn more about how BMC supports students on their college applications and more.
I am once again reposting this blog from Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Georgia Tech, Katie Mattli. If you think GT might be on your list, or even if it is not, this is a fun blog to read, and more important than it being fun (and often funny), they keep it very real. Real is something many college applicants—and their parents—lose sight of during this process. If you ever feel yourself veering off the path of real, head the Georgia Tech admissions blog.
I like quirky historical novelties and the Livermore Light Bulb, or known to its friends as the Centennial Bulb, is one of my favorites. Never heard of it? Let me explain. Yes, there is indeed a light bulb in Livermore, California so famous it has a name and actual caretakers. Why? Because the Livermore Light Bulb has been softly glowing in the Pleasanton Fire Department for 117 years! In fact, it just had a birthday in June. The Centennial Bulb has a website, a festival, a children’s book, and –this is my favorite part – its own Bulb Cam. You can literally watch a light bulb glow in real-time, which I find humorously whimsical.
What does a light bulb have to do with college admission? A few things actually.
Don’t second guess your interests.
I mean it. Live them loud and proud. I’m writing about a light bulb I like and you are still here, so that proves authenticity is interesting. The applicants who get my attention in the admission process are those who, for lack of a better phrase, really like stuff. All kinds of stuff. They hear about a cause, read about a historical event, or learn about a theory and they dive in for the pure pleasure of learning more about it. You can sense joy in their application—joy in sharing something that really engages them. Students always ask, “How can I make my application stand out?” Follow your true-North passions and your application will naturally have a strong voice in the crowd.
The Centennial has been glowing for so long because no one remembered to turn it off – for a long time. It turns out that switching lights on and off all the time actually reduces their shelf life. It makes me wonder how often we, students and adults alike, take stock of what is healthy for us. We don’t have care instructions attached to our lives, but if asked we could probably name the basics. We are the opposite of lightbulbs. We can, and should, turn off to recharge. You should sleep. You should eat. You should spend time with friends. Do you live by your calendar? Then put your self-care appointments on the docket with reminders such as “lunch,” “snack,” “aspirational bedtime,” and “breathing room/free time.” A healthy student will thrive in high school and in college. I haven’t made any clichéd references to lightbulbs and burn out here, but you get the picture. Don’t get so caught up in the everyday noise that you forget to be healthy.
Who is on your maintenance team?
The Centennial Lightbulb has three different organizations devoted to keeping that little four-watt light bulb softly glowing. Before you start the college admission process, take stock of who is in your corner. Who are the folks in your inner circle? Choose carefully. Do they see your value? Do they give you honest feedback? Do they encourage you? Do they keep you anchored? The vast majority of students headed to college had help along the way. Family members are not the only people who hopefully have your back. Don’t forget you can create a supportive network staring with a favorite teacher, a retired neighbor, a high school guidance counselor, your coach, a friend who graduated last year. Reach out, ask for some time, make an appointment, start a conversation. It takes a village.
Keep your eye on the long game.
Physicists have studied the Centennial and have discovered its filament is thicker than today’s commercial lightbulbs. It is made of sterner stuff. The college admission process can rattle highschool students. I think students believe they are focusing on their future (hence the anxiety), but I think they have lost sight of the long game. After years of watching students and their families navigate applying to college, here are my thoughts on the admission long game and students who are made of “sterner stuff”:
Finding a good fit is the ultimate goal. Your best-fit school may not be your best friend’s best-fit school. Get comfortable with that. Put institutions on your list where you will thrive. That is the long game.
Ignore the myth of “the one.”A college will not be the making of you but your decisions in college will. That is the long game.
Be happy for others. Time will prove to you that what feels like a competition now dissipates with age. If your buddy gets that coveted acceptance or the Val or Sal spot, cheer for them. It shows character and you will be happier for it. That is the long game.
Enjoy senior year. This is your last homecoming, last high school debate competition, last playoff, senior night… Enjoy them! That is the long game.