College Access Counseling

My firm, College Access Counseling, Ltd., works with adults and organizations who counsel and support first-generation and minority students on the way to college. I teach the ins and outs of the college process, helping them build social and cultural capital for their students. Click here for more information. I also write for NACAC's blog, Admitted. You can read my entries as well as some of my colleagues', here. Click here to read one of my entries in the New York Times's blog, The Choice.

June 29, 2007

The more things change...

During this application cycle, we heard how colleges' application numbers were going up as much as 20%, some, like Swarthmore's, were up 28% and RPI's were up 50%. As usual, the big players in the admission sweepstakes were rejecting as much as 92% of their applications, and as usual headlines blared the "fact" that as so-called "first tier" schools were getting harder and harder to get into, the so-called "second tier" schools were experiencing their own increases in rejection rates, making life tough all around. Stories about students who once might have gotten into, say, Tufts, or Dickinson and were rejected instead made the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. And so the coming generation of applicants and their parents is trembling in its boots contemplating the chances for hitting the college admission lottery.

The funny thing about all that is it's been the same story for nearly ten years. As I was cleaning out my desk in preparation for some office moves right before the end of school, I found two articles I'd saved, one from the WSJ in 2001 and one from the Times in 1999 with nearly identical stories: Formerly accessible schools are becoming inaccessible!!! Schools that used to be "safeties" are so no longer!!! For their readers, the world seemed to be coming to an end. No longer were the pearly gates of the "first tier" open wide and no longer were the faux-pearly gates of the "second tier" schools as welcoming. Where shall we go? What shall we do?

And yet the apocalypse hasn't come, at least not in the way we might have thought. Students do get into colleges and they more often than not go on to do well and lead interesting and useful lives. The real story is that the push to get into a certain small slice of school has become more fraught with anxiety because of the ridiculously hard to kill and clearly false assumption among certain classes that ONLY the "top" schools will provide the kind of life and status to which they'd like their offspring to become accustomed. In my experience, students who plan well get into college and usually into good ones. They may not be the "top tier," (although because I work with a very specialized population they often are), but they are appropriate to the student and his or her interests.

Often, my parents will say that they want their children to go to "top tier" schools as much for the "contacts" or to be with other "smart" students as for the supposed education they may get (that doesn't always come up...) I've begun to suggest that, since these schools reject over 90% of their applicants, and since they say they could fill their freshman classes several times over with smart students, these students must be going somewhere else, in which case, the student in question will likely bump into them at one point or another. It's a fact that the schools over which the papers panic for their readers make up less than a fraction of one percent of the colleges and universities in this country and turn out a similar small number of students. They just happen to take up 85% of the media real estate.

So we can take a breather over the summer and contemplate in relative ease the amazing variety of educational experiences out there for the taking. Over 90% of colleges in the United States still take over 50% of their applicants, and many non-"top tier" schools provide exceptional experiences for their students. All is not lost, although the panic goes on. It doesn't have to be that way, but perhaps for some it's needed to make the prize worth the candle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another book by Wissner-Gross made it to the bookstore. This time it is secrets for highschoolers that want to be molded to another "Frankenstein"

Blog Archive

Books About College, Teens, and American Culture

  • A History of American Higher Education
  • A Hope in the Unseen
  • Admission
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • African Americans and College Choice
  • Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
  • Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers
  • Campus Life
  • Class
  • College Access & Opportunity Guide
  • College Admissions and the Public Interest
  • College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family
  • College Gold: The Step by Step Guide for Paying for College
  • College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready
  • College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy
  • Colleges that Change Lives
  • Consumed
  • Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing
  • Doing School: How We are Creating a Generation of Stressed-out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • First in the Family
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • Going to College: How Social, Economic, and Educational Factors Influence the Decisions Students Make
  • Harvard, Schmarvard
  • Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private & Social Benefits of Higher Education
  • Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood
  • I Am Charlotte Simmons
  • Increasing Access to College:
  • Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admission and Beyond
  • Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and College Admissions
  • Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered America
  • Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League
  • Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions
  • Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
  • Race and Class Matters at an Elite College
  • Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression
  • Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
  • Sophomore Guide to College & Career: Preparing for life After High School
  • Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
  • Status Anxiety
  • Taking Time Off
  • Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education
  • The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
  • The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive & Reconnect with Their Fathers
  • The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
  • The Culture of Narcissism
  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in American Life
  • The Little College Handbook: A First Generation's Guide to Getting in and Staying In
  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
  • The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfull a Dream
  • The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life
  • The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
  • The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager
  • The Secret Lives of Overachievers
  • The Unintended Consequences of High Stakes Testing
  • Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens