Last January, I was working with the Colgate University admission team to launch a new student checklist for onboarding the Class of 2018. Today I'm viewing the application process through the lenses of a college counselor at Manchester Essex Regional High School. Pleased with myself for surviving a busy first season of recommendation letters, The Common Application, and countless electronic document submissions, I remain just a little worried. My guess is that it comes with the job.
I worry that some students may have hit the "send" button on a particular college application before they were ready to commit and/or consider all options. I worry about a few students who seemed to be swept into the swift current of early action because, "everyone else is doing it." I worry when I hear a parent say, "WE are going to Stanford," rather than "our daughter was accepted to Stanford." Yes, it's a huge leap for a family - especially if it's the first child to leave home. But in order to support the growth of our kids into fully-functioning, independent, and resilient adults, we need to give them some space. Our student will move into a residence hall, make her bed (or not), stay out late, get herself up for classes, write papers, drink coffee, take exams, order pizza, and choose her friends and activities in her own way. She'll make mistakes. She'll learn. Which is great. It's part of the plan.
I worry that standardized testing is becoming more complicated and competitive, and I am relieved that many colleges and universities have moved toward test optional processes for admission. I worry that some of the students who would benefit most from an ACT or SAT prep course cannot afford to take one. I worry that perseverance, work ethic, and an ability to overcome obstacles are overlooked as accurate predictors of an individual's readiness for college. Learning to handle disappointment and/or discomfort, curiosity, self-awareness, and an understanding of one's responsibility to others may be the most important qualities for colleges and universities to actively seek when reviewing applications.
I worry that I will insult a student or his parents when I suggest a college or university that they feel is sub-par. Or frighten them with a school they perceive to be out of reach. I worry that it's becoming increasingly difficult to be honest and/or realistic with some students (and families) about their college search lists. I worry that the general public puts way too much stock in the U.S. News college rankings and outdated guidebooks. There is no substitute for a campus visit when it comes to creating a list of potential colleges. But I worry that many students cannot afford the travel expenses associated with a campus visit.
I worry that some high school seniors think their work is done once they're accepted to college. In fact, the work is really just beginning. I think that I will always worry about whether or not my student advisees are truly prepared for the academic, social, and personal transition into the college environment. Will they be able to balance their new freedom and independence with academic and civic responsibility? Are they ready to confront their own values, background, and culture? Will they choose to speak up or follow the crowd? Will they know when to step in and help a friend in need? Should I be worried? I hope not. I want each of them to be happy and have meaningful and transformative experiences. Without a second thought.