For many years, books of this nature were merely concerned with "getting in." As a college counselor, it’s my hope that my counselees not just get in, but stay in, be happy, and graduate in considerably less than a decade. My wish for the family is that parents can afford to pay the price for educating their kids, and that these kids might consider returning the favor by footing the bills for their parents' extended and peaceful old age.
Where Do I Go?
How Do I Get There?
Going to the wrong school can be very costly— educationally, emotionally, and financially.
Transferring can be a nightmare; you can lose credits, friends, and sleep. How do
you avoid this predicament? You should begin by not letting anyone else determine
what it is you're looking for in a college. Look inside yourself and understand who
you are first. This, of course, isn't easy because most high school students are
The Road to College proposes to help you look at who you are and what you might want in a college. It's a workbook, so do the work. It will give you insight, and you'll begin to be a prudent buyer of your own education. You should also find out what your parents might want you to do and what they can afford. Most parents are flexible when it comes to your future; they ultimately want your happiness. You, however, need to know what will make you happy so you can make a strong case for it when you get to that important conversation. Remember this phrase:
"It's not about just getting in. I want to stay in, be happy, and graduate."
What are your educational hopes, dreams, fantasies? How realistic are your goals?
What are your interests, and do your skills and/or talents match them? What does
drive your ambitions? Is it money, power, prestige, learning for learning's sake,
doing good? Be truthful. If you see yourself driving a Porsche, wheeling and dealing
and delegating, don't major in Minor British Poets. What are your politics? Colleges
can and should be a forum for ideas. What are yours? If you are vocal and very liberal,
you certainly wouldn't be comfortable at a conservative college. What's your learning
style? If you learn by doing, you'll be miserable at Mega-
Look, too, at your own high school experience. What kind of school do you attend? Have you been happy there? What would you change about it to make it a better place for you to thrive? Take that information with you when you look at colleges. Visualize the "Perfect U. for You," even though that place may not actually exist.
Lastly, what is your parents' economic situation? After all, they'll pay for some or all of your college and should have some say in the matter. How committed would you be to an expensive, private college if financial aid were not a possibility and you had to work your way through? Both the process and politics of financial aid and economic necessity have made the this century a much different educational climate than last.
Talk to recent grads and listen to what they have to say about their college choices.
If they could do it again, what would they do differently and why? Most of all, ask
questions, first of yourself, and then of others. This book wants to help you own
the process of college selection, admissions, and financial aid. The idea is to find
a set of schools that are appropriate to your very special and individual needs.
Spend as much time researching your "safety school" as you do that “reach”. You’ll
be amazed how stress-
Viable is the key word here. It's a buyer's market. Pick schools that are viable for you, and you'll get into these with ease. The rule is: "Choose; don't be chosen."
This book also presents a whole bunch of schools that might meet your needs given
who you are. Remember, except for a few highly-
Okay—The "Getting In" Part
While there are no magic potions around to woo the Deans of Undergraduate Admissions at Stanford or Swarthmore, here are some insider tips on how the system works and how to work the system. Listen up!
► Let your application reflect how important it is for you to get in to that particular school. Let them know you believe you’re an appropriate admissions candidate by using your essays to reveal your special strengths, talents, or commitments; know enough about the school to tell them specifically why you would be an asset, why you are a good fit.
► Visit campuses. Admissions officers love to know you've taken the time to visit the campus, sit in on classes, and spend the night in a dorm. Campus visits—including class visits and overnight stays, in particular—are best made before writing applications, rather than after acceptance. If you don't like the place, don't apply! If you love it, tell them why with details; they will believe you.
► Don't just write a "creative" essay. The essay is a potent way of revealing your best self, use it to influence and evoke. Admissions officers read thousands of them; make yours authentic. Read it aloud. If it sounds like nonsense, it is. Start again and refocus or reframe, prune and proofread, but most of all let them know, in a positive and humble way, what the numbers cannot possibly tell them—just how special you really are. If you're a fine artist, accompany your application with a portfolio of your work, or if you are a performing artist, make a videotape. Admissions for the learning disabled and athletic admissions have their own special rules and guidelines. With these, and other special needs groups, the earlier you get going the better. Visiting with the coach or head of the specific department is crucial. Listen hard and follow the advice given; observe the rules and deadlines.
► Think about demographics and economics. Often you can be a more attractive candidate
if you travel outside of your home turf for an education. For example, if you live
on the West Coast, be aware that there are some dynamite and cosmopolitan private
schools in the South, such as Tulane and Emory, that have large endowments and are
eager to attract top-
I always caution my counselees that it's never wise to read the last page first, so I encourage you to begin the process of college selection now. Turn the page. The Road to College will help you travel toward a successful college life.
Marcy Hamilton has a private practice in college admissions counseling called Op/Ed—Opportunities through Education in Greenbrae CA.
Counseling Conundrums Solved:
Kim sat in my office holding back the tears. The local JC was full of middle-
John loved to draw but recognized that he had no discernible talent. Art school wasn't for him. Taking art courses as electives or even majoring in art history or arts management would be just the thing.
The Long Run
Bob, another of my counselees, is a very bright business major. He picked Notre Dame,
even though he knew he'd never start on the football team. An excellent high school
linebacker, Bob recognized that his athletic skills did not quite measure up to
his passion for the sport, so he based his decision on where to attend college on
Finding the Perfect Fit
Peter was a prodigy. Destined for the Ivy League, he and his family came to me to help
research and distill all that information coming in the mail. Gifted kids don't always have an easy time of it, and Peter's parents wanted him to be happy above all else. The top schools all share the luster of prestige, but they are very different one from the other. A talented musician and singer, Peter was planning to major in astrophysics. We spent several hours talking, identifying the intangibles as well as the knowns. He wanted a school where he could temper his scientific side with some artistic pursuits, especially a place where he could sing a cappella. Princeton seemed to be the perfect fit for him. and they said "yes." Peter will be very happy there indeed.
Theresa wanted to study pre-