High School Counselor Training

When my high school counselor informed me that I might not be cut out for a four-year college or university, I was not only crushed but also confused. I grew up in a household with two college educated parents, and in what I look back now on as a very “college-going” culture, so why didn’t my counselor at school believe in me the same way my parents did?

The truth is, it was probably because of my not-so-stellar (but not horrible, geez!) grades, and my less than perfect disciplinary record (I was a free spirit, what can I say…). But what I know now, and what I sensed then, was imperfections and all, there was a four-year college for me!

Interestingly, I was accepted to a few different four-year schools, all of which were considered selective institutions. I ended up attending the University of Vermont, graduated in three years, and then headed to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study. I earned my master’s degree and then my doctoral degree in higher education, and focused my dissertation on exploring how high schools create college-going cultures. During the same time, I spent approximately seven years working in admissions and student services before transitioning to my current role as an independent educational consultant. Today, I help students—those with good grades, bad grades, arrests and angelic records—determine their academic interests and goals, and the postsecondary path that is the best fit.

What I also know now is that many American high school guidance counselors are not provided in-depth training on the college search and application process in graduate school. A 2012 Harvard report stated, “Although graduate course work varies by state…specific course work in higher education or college counseling is rarely required if even offered.” My guess is this was most likely the case with my high school counselor.

Once in the role, training does not become more readily available if offered at all. High school counselors are often left to their own devices, with few opportunities for professional development, to master what is a very broad base of knowledge. A qualitative study by Savitz-Romer in 2012, found that school-based in-service focuses almost exclusively on instructional topics, providing little relevance to school counselors, and as a result, most school counselors rely on outside professional development opportunities—or worse—they do not attend at all. When you begin to factor in the nuances of standardized testing, financial aid, school choice, application plans, and how Ivy League and other selective school’s admissions really work, it is clear it’s a whole other area of expertise that needs to be developed to guide students through what has become an increasingly confusing and competitive process.

I see IEC’s and high school guidance counselors as partners in the process, and feel strongly we are all on the same team and have the same goals in mind: to best serve our students and support them on their pathway to postsecondary education, whether its technical school, community college, the Ivy League or somewhere in between. Today, I am motivated to help school counselors better understand the college admissions landscape, and best support their students. I’ve developed training modules on selective college admissions, the Common Application, testing timelines, resume/activity sheet creation, and a general crash course for new counselors on all things applying to college. I’m confident IEC’s can benefit from learning about what goes on inside high school counseling offices, and by increasing knowledge sharing, we all seek to improve our ability to serve students.

I’d love to connect with high school counselors who want to learn more about college counseling, and in return, are eager to share their insights with IEC’s.


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Class of 2021 Waitlist Admit Rates & Notification Dates

More on the waitlist, this time admit rates and notification dates, from the best college admissions data source out there, College Kickstart. The landscape doesn’t look that much different than last year. How the waitlist plays out always depends a lot on yield, so how many students a school said yes to actually put down a deposit and say they are going to show up in the fall. Some schools do a much better job of this than others. These schools have a high yield, and will not go very deep if onto the waitlist at all. The schools that have not done a good job at predicting yield will head to the waitlist to fill seats as needed. Unfortunately, students can hang out on the waitlist well into the summer, which drags out a process that for most should be finished on or around May 1. For all the waitlisted students out there, we feel your pain, but there are some things you can do to keep yourself busy. Check out our post on what to do if you are waitlisted.

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Ivy League Admit Rates Are Insane. Look Elsewhere

Early applications increase across Ivy League

Class of 2021 Shattering Ivy League admissions records….

Headlines like these are frequent as of late following what have been increasingly low admit rates the past few years.

This year was tough, and sadly, I do not see the admit rates for the top 10-15, even 20 or so colleges and universities in the US getting any higher. The Common App has made it too easy to apply to 20 schools (I love you Common App, but…it’s true), and too many students make misinformed decisions when developing their application strategy (this is where I come in and try to help). There are lots of other problems with the system, too; it is definitely broken.

I do not have a catch-all solution. Less legacy and other preferential admissions policies, and more transparency by colleges and universities could be a start, but this seems unlikely short-term. One thing I do feel strongly about that I think students and parents have control over is their laser focus on the Ivy League and other uber selective schools (schools with admit rates under 20%). It is time to start looking at the many other colleges and universities that offer similar experiences. It is time to get over whatever it is that makes these select few schools so appealing (brand, prestige, etc.) and see them for what they really are: schools that are like many others.

This process ends up being demoralizing for many students—but it doesn’t have to be.

Students and families can start by being realistic about this process early on. Look at the admit rates and internalize what these numbers mean. Be honest about your odds of admission to these schools if they are on your initial list. Even with perfect grades and a tight narrative, any school with an admit rate under 20% is very hard to get into. Any school with an admit rate under 10% is nearly impossible to get into.

Think deeply about why you want to go to college and what you want from your college experience. Is what you want only available at the top 10, 20, or even 50 schools in the country according to US News? I highly doubt it. If you are stuck on brand, image, and prestige, call yourself out and move on! It matters far more what you do in college and the type of person you become than where you go.


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Let’s give non-Ivy Leaguers a chance to rule the world

Just read a great piece by Dustin McKissen, the founder and CEO of McKissen + Company, a strategy, marketing, and public relations firm based in St. Charles, Missouri.

Most of us know you don’t need to go to the right schools and come from the right family to change the world for the better. But, apparently, you do need to go to the right school if you want to change the world from Washington D.C.

By the time Donald Trump’s term ends in 2020, the country will have been led by an Ivy League graduate from 1988—2020. That’s 32 years of unbroken White House rule by graduates of schools that educate a statistically insignificant number of all college students. (It’s also 32 years of rising income inequality.)

A First Family preference for the Ivy League is nothing new: during 20 of those 32 years (the administrations of George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) the presidency was held by someone whose father also graduated from an Ivy League school.

Favorite takeaway: “Knowing your way to the Ivy League is not synonymous with knowing what you’re doing.”

Give it a read here!

There Has to a Better and More Sane Way

bryan B image
“You can get a top-notch education anywhere. It simply depends on how much effort you are willing to put in.”

A somewhat true statement, albeit sometimes hard to implement. However, this I have come to learn is very true: “Basically, if you work hard and people like being around you, you can go far in almost any field, regardless of where your diploma is from.”

I have seen Behar’s example play out many times:

Right now, I work with a super bright man who went to a small bible college in Oklahoma. And we have ended up on the same show at the same time at the same position. And I don’t think he’s perseverating about the fact that he didn’t go to Brown. In fact, since I split a salary with my writing partner, he probably makes twice what I make. So I’m sure he’s not perseverating about it. Or feeling the need to ever say “perseverating.”

Can everyone please read this article and then chill out? Like he said, he’s no psychologist or educational consultant, but there is a lot of truth in his in words that we all need to hear.