The recent “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal is stark testimony that proves just how far parents will go to get their offspring into elite colleges.
Getting accepted to the “right” college has become a goal for parents and not necessarily their children.
Ivies don’t always prove to be the best fit
The Ivy League is considered the gold standard by many. Most do not know that the eight prestigious colleges (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale) and now considered Ivies originally began as a sports conference in the northeast.
Even If you are among the "chosen" few to make it into the Ivy League or the elite West Coast colleges, consider the fact that there are plenty of opportunities to study elsewhere that might, indeed, be a better fit.
Time magazine published an article a few years ago entitled, “Who Needs Harvard.” The story chronicled several students who turned down schools in the Ivy League for lesser-known colleges and universities. The reasons for turning them down varied and ranged from higher offers of financial aid to better access to professors. Some students even hoped the pressure to perform would be less severe at a “second-tier” school. In my experience, I would guess that many students were simply burned out and wanted to go to a college where they could enjoy learning.
The Ivies do not have a monopoly on beautiful campuses, top professors and academic programs. The Time article also pointed out that studies have shown that students accepted at top colleges, who choose instead to attend a “less prestigious" school were no worse off when it came to future earnings. The incomes remained the same, regardless of where they attended.
I have had clients turn down Harvard for Indiana University, Purdue University and Washington University in St. Louis. Scholarship money was the top reason for their decisions, followed by not wanting the pressure of competing all over again for four more years.
Parents should remember that for many years their kids have studied late, joined clubs, played sports and participated in extracurricular activities. Every minute of spare time was accounted for and they know what it is like to feel the weight of "expectation" on their shoulders. It is sometimes hard for parents to appreciate the pressure that can build up in children over these activity-packed years.
In the end, it is a good bet that your child will attribute most of their future success to real-life experience and top-notch coaching and mentorship.
My advice to students is to begin a college search early by compiling a list of a mix of safety, target and reach schools. I suggest that the applicant start his or her search online. As the deadline for applications looms, it is a good idea to visit the schools of choice to get a sense of campus life.
It is helpful if a student has career aspirations so that they can select schools with academic programs that will enhance their knowledge and skills. A campus visit for those who are relatively sure about their major should include visits with professors and/or graduate students in that area to get an inside look about that area of study. Some colleges and universities will even allow you to sit in on a class.
As I have said before, preparing for college is a long journey. There are few shortcuts. Top grades and test scores make you competitive, but they do not guarantee you will be admitted. That is why most students hedge their bets by applying to several colleges. My best advice is to apply widely if you want to have the best chance of having a choice of schools.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Tags: College Search Test Preparation
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