For the Admissions Officers…

College_fair_2 As Arun and I gear up for our annual trip to NACAC, I remembered a conversation I was lucky enough to have with Llloyd Thacker of the Education Conservancy at last year’s conference.  The subject was college fairs, and how so many admissions officers are under enormous pressure to generate student interest in their schools.  Given that the vast majority of admissions officers we’ve met are smart, likeable people with a genuine interest in education and students, how could these reps use a college fair to really help kids make even better decisions about their educations and their futures (if these reps were allowed and encouraged to do so)? 

Here were some of the ideas we discussed, (though I’m sure the best ones are probably all courtesy of Lloyd). 

1.  Don’t focus only on the features of your college–share the real benefits of the process of education (this one was definitely Lloyd’s).

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Easing the Stress

Stress_2 Boy, do we like Jay Mathews, Education Columnist for the Washington Post and author of one of our favorite admissions books, Harvard Schmarvard.   And his most recent column, "Ten Ways to Reduce College Application Stress" reminds us why.

Some of the tips actually suggest ways the colleges could do more to ease the stress on kids, like tip #3,  "Make the super selective colleges tell all potential applicants that their admissions processes are often irrational and that getting accepted is akin to winning a lottery."

I like tip #9 the best–"Repeat this phrase every day: In America, people succeed because of the quality of their character, not the notoriety of their college." 

And as usual, he's got great data to back it up.

Thanks Jay!

Decisions, Decisions

Like many seniors across the country, the members of our Collegewise class of 2007 are making their final college selections before the May 1 deadline.  And more than any class we can remember, they seem to be wrestling with their choices, seeking our advice about which college will really be the right  choice for them.  That’s something we love to see because it means…

1.  In spite of all the bad news, seniors are still getting accepted to colleges.  They have choices. 
2.   Our seniors giving this decision the time and attention that it deserves.

If you’re in a wrestling match with your college choices and are struggling to make the right decision, we’ve got a few tips that might help a little. 

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Telling It Like It Is

We’ve always been impressed by colleges who aren’t afraid to come right out and say, "We aren’t for everybody."  We think kids deserve honest answers about what their life at each college would actually be like, but it’s often hard to get those answers from the slick brochures and flashy websites.  Student blogs, however, are a different story.  They’ll tell it like it is.  And according to this article, one quarter of college admissions offices now offer blogs written by students or admissions personnel, and the vast majority of those blogs are largely uncensored.   What a great way to give prospective students a sense of what it’s actually like to be there.   

Unannounced Visitors

A lot of families tell us how hard it is for them to make time to travel and see colleges.  And we bet a lot of our blog readers read the entries about our own college visits and think to themselves, "Well, of course these Collegewise guys visits schools all the time.  It’s their job!”

And those readers would be right.

We make the time to visit schools because it’s our job—well, that and the fact that we are huge college nerds who desperately need more productive social lives.

But one thing you might not notice from our posts is that a lot of our visits weren’t planned for the sake of visiting the colleges.  Christina toured Vanderbilt after her brother’s graduation, checked out UOP during a visit to see her best friend in Stockton, and traversed the natural campus of UC Santa Cruz while visiting her cousin.  When we visit family or friends, we make at least one college visit part of the itinerary.  It’s not just part of our job—it’s part of our (nerdy) nature.

Where is your family planning to travel this year?  Where will you be going to visit friends or family?  And what colleges could you see while you’re there?

Make the most of the college opportunities when you visit friends or family.  Take a tour of a nearby college.  Buy a sweatshirt and a mug while you are there.  Take pictures and send them to us at We might even post them on our blog! 

You’ll learn more about that college and what kind of environment will eventually be right (or wrong) for you.  And you’ll have done so without having to spend additional time or expense.

It’s not just a good idea to get out there and learn more about colleges; if you’re a high school junior who wants to eventually find the right college for you (or if you’re that junior’s parent), it’s your job, too.

That’s Wha’TIME Bloggin’ About…

What has long been somewhat of an underground college admissions sentiment is about to get a Time_image_2 front page voice this week when Time Magazine hits the shelves with the cover story, Who Needs Harvard?  Forget the Ivy League—The new rules of the game say the best fit is what matters.

Time didn’t exactly break this story.  Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives (which they mention in the article) touted the potential benefits of schools that lack the Ivy League label, as did Jay Mathews’ Harvard Schmarvard and Lloyd Thacker’s College Unranked.  In fact (darn it), Collegewise has been doing our part—it’s a little part, but it’s our part—telling every student and parent who will listen that the most selective schools aren’t necessarily the best

But this week, newsstands will carry a mainstream media publication whose cover story will inspire something other than the usual college admissions anxiety and confusion.  High school students and parents have been waiting a long time for this, and so have we.

It’s about Time.