For counselors: anchor with agreement

Our Collegewise counselors like to be conservative with college lists.  It’s fine for students to apply to 2-3 schools out of their reach.  But we prefer our students to have balanced college lists where 2/3 of their schools fall in the “target” or “safety” categories—schools where we feel they have a good or nearly certain chance of being accepted.  Balanced college lists lead to more acceptances, more financial aid, and more options.  And they also tend to lessen college admissions anxieties.

But it’s not usual for our Collegewise counselors to find students or parents resisting our suggestions to add less selective schools to a college list.  They love Dartmouth or Cornell or Georgetown, and any discussions about potentially falling in love with other less selective schools can quickly begin to feel like debates.  When this happens, we’ll anchor with agreement. 

Anchoring with agreement sounds like this:

“You love Georgetown and you’re definitely going to apply there.  I’m going to help you make sure you take your best possible admissions shot to be a Hoya—I promise.  But I also want to spend some time looking for a few other less selective schools to make sure you have options.” 

It’s a subtle communication tool, but anchoring in agreement reminds a family that you’ve heard them and that you want the same thing they want.  Once you anchor in agreement, the discussions that don’t involve that goal often get much easier.