College Planning

Although college counseling does not formally begin until the spring semester of junior year, we are spending a lot of time getting to know our students during 1:1 meeting and guidance activities in advisories.

During meetings in the spring of junior year and the fall of senior year, students are advised and supported throughout the college search and application process.

Below are many articles, resources and websites to support our students and parents in the college planning process. 

Selecting the right college takes time.  Before embarking on your search you need to be introspective.

FIRST:

Know who you are and what is important to you.  As you develop your college list, ask yourself what do you want from college?

  • Why am I going?
  • Do I know what I want?
  • Does this college offer what I want?
  • Do I meet or exceed the requirements of the average freshman at this school?

SECOND:

Quality versus selectivity.  There is a big difference between “quality” and ‘selectivity.”  Selectivity is the ratio of applications to students admitted.  There are two issues to consider here.

  • some lesser known colleges have selectivity ratios as high as the better know colleges, but they may be the better choice for a particular student.
  • High selectivity does not mean that it is the best college for you.  Selectivity is not the most important indicator of quality.  Many highly rated colleges have large classes and use teaching assistants (usually students in their first year of graduate school).  To do break out sessions of large lecture classes or lab classes.  Is that the best learning environment for you?
  • Average class size of freshman classes are better indicators than student-to-faculty ratios.

THIRD: 

Do your best work in school.  Your transcript is one of the most important parts of your application.  It is a statement about your academic character.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves and succeeded.  College admissions rewards performance not promise.  If you are “late bloomer” show the blossom through an improvement in grades.

FOURTH:

 Understand what you bring to the college.  Why would they want it?  We are all special.  Each one of the million students who apply to college next year are special to.

FIFTH:

Present yourself properly.

  • Demonstrate interest
  • Visit the campus if possible
  • Have your application reflect who you are, completed with care and effort.
  • Make sure your essay reveals something about you that is not available anywhere else in the application.
  • Follow the application guidelines and instructions.

SIXTH:

Have a life.  Don’t worry about trying to prove your superiority by doing everything.  Colleges want students who are:

  • Interested in something
  • Good at something
  • Have a passion and follow it
  • Interesting people.

In general all admission officers recognize seven categories whether they are stated or not.

  • The Academic Star –  No matter what else an admission officer is looking for a really great student always has an edge.  Faculty like academic stars, especially if the student has a passion for a particular subject.
  • Special Talent –  Special talents come in a lot of forms.  Athletic talent may come to mind first, but equally important are other talents such as excellence in music or drama, or visual arts.  This category also might include students with particular commitments to community-building and community service.
  • Legacies – It is still true that being a son or daughter of an alumnus or alumna is important, especially if the college is a private school.  As significant family involvement with the schools fundraising activities will probably be noticed and appreciated also.
  • Special Backgrounds – Most colleges pay attention to under-represented minorities and students from different cultural, ethnic, economic, religious backgrounds.  They also pay attention to applications from students who come from other areas of the world.  However, just being a member of an ethnic minority by itself is not enough.  Does your list of activities show you take an interest in your “different” background?
  • Regional Diversity –  Selective and larger colleges are interested in enrolling students who are not from their own back yards.  Thus, being from Rhode Island can be a plus at a college in California or Texas.
  • Academic Interests –  In the final analysis college admission officers need to fill classrooms.  Depending on the size and relative strength of the applicant pool in engineering, chemistry, or anthropology, a students academic interest may provide a boost in any given year.
  • The Rest of Us –   There is a seventh category which, although sometimes forgotten, is the largest category of most students on campus: good students who bring an interest in life an engagement in activities to campus.  Since most of us fall into that category it may be the most competitive.

Dear Parents/Guardians:

The process of applying to college is an exciting, yet stressful time for both parents and their children. As you are getting ready for the college admissions process, please use the materials in this section to familiarize yourself with our department’s available resources that will assist you through this process.

Also, we have included some tips from Edward B. Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times and noted author of some of the best selling college guides. We hope you find these suggestions helpful!

Communicate

One of the most important things that parents can do is encourage their sons and daughters to think through the basic questions. Why do you go to college? What are your most important needs and goals? What kind of college will best serve you? Communicating with an adolescent is not always easy, but look for the moments that present themselves. Being available to talk when your child has a question or wants to express an idea or feeling is one of the most important things you can do.

Set Financial Parameters

Paying for college is the area where parents have veto power. Try to reach an understanding early in the process as to how much each party is expected to pay (before hopes get pinned on a college that may be financially out of reach).

Be Realistic

Don’t set your child up for failure by encouraging unrealistic applications. Look honestly at your child’s academic record. Then study the admissions profiles of the colleges that show up on your lists. If he or she is not Stanford material, don’t swing by Palo Alto on your college tour. Make it your task to be sure that your son or daughter applies to at least two colleges where he or she will definitely be accepted (and be happy to attend). Then, even the worst-case scenario will still result in a productive college career.

Think Broadly

The United States has the best and most diverse system of higher education anywhere in the world. As we’ve said many times, there are scores of colleges that would be a good match for every student. You are probably in a better position that your son or daughter to understand this and help discourage fixation on a single “dream” school (that may be highly selective). Some of the best colleges for your child may be ones that neither of you has ever heard of.

Let the Student Take Center Stage

In the college search, nothing is worse than a parent who steals the spotlight. Many parents, especially successful ones, are accustomed to manipulating the system to make it work for them. Resist the temptation. The admissions process is the time for teenagers to stand on their own. Parental attempts at “marketing” or influence peddling often do more harm than good.

Don’t Live Through Your Child

Many parents subconsciously relive their own hopes and dreams through their children. Some want children to follow in their footsteps; others want them to achieve things that they themselves never could. Still other parents see college admissions as their shot at an A+ in parenting. Having hopes for your children is natural, but try to spare them the burden of expectations. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the freedom to follow his or her dreams.

Be Supportive

As the process unfolds, remind your children that they will be accepted at a good school – one where they will make friends, have fun, be challenged, and get the education that they deserve. When the decisions come in, redouble your efforts on this score, and if necessary, remind them of the fickle nature of the whole selection process.

In closing, we thank you for your cooperation, and please remember that we are here to guide you every step of the way.