Debbie Downer - Because Honesty is the Best Policy
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
Last week after my colleagues and I were commiserating, my friend Aly Beaumont wrote a blog entitled “Dream Crusher”. As college consultants trying to help our clients finalize the lists of schools they’ll apply to, the last few weeks have been rough on everyone. It is truly difficult for students and their parents to understand the state of college admissions and how we got here.
Since the Covid pandemic the college admissions landscape has changed dramatically, most notably due to new Test Optional policies at many institutions. This has caused a huge increase in the number of applications many of our nation’s most renowned colleges receive as students and families who don’t quite understand the implications of not sending scores think they’ll “take a shot” at “dream” schools. However, as this graph from Compass shows, students are far more likely to be admitted to highly selective schools when they apply with test scores. Despite that, the number of applications has allowed colleges to cherry pick the class they want to seat quite specifically.
While Aly and many of my colleagues have felt like “Dream Crushers” I, too, have been self- deprecatingly assessing lists as “Debbie Downer.” But my goal isn’t to upset the amazing families I work with. For years, I have been their greatest cheerleader. We have been building pictures of who they are and who they hope to become. I want all of their dreams to come true. The goal is to have choices, options and open doors. I want to know my students can choose a place they will thrive at and be proud of. Yet times have changed and expectations must change with them. I need to ensure that my clients develop well-balanced lists and that they get all of the wonderful acceptances they deserve. That requires honesty.
To this end, another of my esteemed colleagues, Bari Norman, recently shared this enlightening “Then and Now” graph. This chart compares admit rates from 1992 (when many parents going through the process now attended college) to 2022 admit rates. This depiction will help many parents understand how to guide their children without the pressure and preconceived notions of what the “best” schools are. It is actually quite eye-opening!
Today, college admission is often about yield. Schools want to give a yes and get a yes. They need to address and fill institutional priorities including socioeconomic, academic, geographic and racial diversity. They use enrollment management tools like Early Decision policies to keep admit rates low and rankings high.
But let’s be clear – there are thousands of incredible colleges out there and the one that’s “best” for you is the one where you will shine! Where you will do all of the incredible things you want to do. Please don’t only look at schools that are infamously ranked in the top 20, 50 or 100. Even Ivy League Columbia was recently in the news when their rankings methodology was questioned and they’ve been removed from next year’s US News and World Report rankings.
Think about FIT! Academic, social, financial. Think about what you really want. Think about opportunities because that’s what makes an amazing education. Learning and doing. It’s not all about the bumper sticker or the sweatshirt. If you aren’t happy, you won’t be successful no matter what name is emblazoned there. And vice versa if you are!! Dig deep. Research schools you haven’t heard of. See different types of colleges, big, small, rural, city, near, far, liberal arts and universities. There are so many hidden gems. Speak to students, learn about the campus culture, the accessibility of professors, the strength of the alumni network and career services. Check out my Instagram @collegemarni_ where I started College Marni’s Campus Crew to share what a day in the life of students is like at schools where my clients go across the country. You can find them in the Highlights and feel free to reach out to us with questions at https://www.collegemarni.com/ . We will be doing more throughout the fall!
And when students do get those incredible yeses - the acceptances they’ve worked so hard for, when they do find the perfect place to call home for the next four years, then give me a call because “Debbie Downer” will be doing cartwheels and “Merry College Marni” will know that the process works after all!