Everyone knows students have to compete for admission to selective colleges today. More high school seniors are applying to more schools, more international students want U.S. educations, yet the number of seats available at top colleges and universities has barely budged. But where college websites tend to make the process appear straightforward (fill out the application, submit a transcript, supply one recommendation), the reality is a little more complicated. Selective c
The internet is filled with college searchers, finders, matchers and comparers. Just type in a few pieces of statistical data, and your perfect college list emerges!
But does it? While websites can provide valuable information, let's remember that statistics alone can't fully represent either the college or the applicant. Just to take three examples: Class Size: This can be one of the most misleading statistics, because many people don't really understand statistics!
The world of college admissions has become increasingly complex in the last 25 years. Students used to attend whatever college was within a couple hours' drive from their home. Now, the US News rankings have increased awareness of institutions across the country, encouraging colleges to compete for applicants both nationally and internationally. At the same time, the advent of the Common Application has made it that much easier for students to apply to these far-flung inst
Yield management (a/k/a marketing) officers at colleges have gotten the memo: students like social media! It is no wonder, then, that colleges have taken to new networks to promote their schools far and wide, without breaking the advertising budget. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it possible to send their messages right into their targets' phones. The institutions' websites are replete with photos, virtual tours, academic calendars and course catalogs. Look m
It's human nature: If we have a list, we want to rank it. US News and World Report took full advantage of that tendency when it first published its college rankings in the 1980s. While its goal might have been somewhat laudable at the time (to encourage students to consider colleges beyond their local area), the publication wasn't content with an alphabetical list. It had to rate one college against another. And that is where the trouble started. Below are three of the gr
When starting to research colleges, some students immediately turn to the internet. And there's no question that college websites and social media can provide up-to-date information and real-time student views of an institution. But today I want to plead for three books (physical books!) that deserve a look. 1. The Fiske Guide. This directory of selective colleges was revolutionary when Edward Fiske, a New York Times education editor, first put it out in 1982. It still
Americans seem to approach everything with optimism. Just look at some of our more widespread clichés: “Reach for the stars.” “Anything is possible.” “Follow your dreams.” Many colleges – including the most highly selective – are quick to encourage this kind of thinking. Even with (in some cases) more than 30,000 applications, they continually market to increase that number. They tout “holistic review,” brag that they have no cut-offs for test scores or GPAs, and assure st
By its nature a circle has no beginning or end, and so it is with college applications. Just as the seniors are stepping off the merry-go-round, juniors are stepping on. It's important to get both those endings and beginnings right. April 1st used to be a general notification date, but many schools now jump the gun, hoping to get your attention before more selective schools notify their applicants. Ivy decisions came out yesterday, and students found, once again, that thos
Virtual tours can be a significant way to gather information about a college a student would like to consider, particularly if it is one that would be costly to travel to in person. Here are some tips regarding what you can and can’t expect to get from a virtual tour: Use the virtual tour as a preview before you arrive on campus for a personal visit. If you know ahead of time what the guide is likely to say, you can turn your attention to the unscripted information you can
Many seniors have finally sent off the last of their applications, but for underclassmen the flurry of mail is just starting. They receive fistfuls of glossy brochures showing the same happy and diverse group of clean-cut students on the grass under an autumn sky, extolling the virtues of this or that college in strikingly similar terms. Sometimes the brochure is even accompanied by a letter, “personally” addressed to the student, “congratulating” him on his “accomplishment