Tag Archives: College Board

We Want You. Maybe.

10 Feb

“You’ve been selected!”

“You’ve impressed us.”

“We’re interested in you.”

“You’ve caught our attention.”

Flattery will get you everywhere.  Apparently that’s what the colleges are hoping for when they send marketing emails with these kinds of gushing statements in the subject line.  I had forgotten that my daughter had put down my email address on the PSAT form in October and now that the PSAT results had been released in mid-December, the colleges are sending information to her.  They’re flooding my in-box, several a day, even on weekends.  As they stream in, I’ve been madly forwarding them to her.  Just to keep organized, she created a separate folder for all these emails.

“Have you looked at any of the colleges yet?  Do any of them interest you?” I asked her eagerly.  Ok, perhaps I’m a little more excited than she is.  Some of the colleges looked intriguing to me.

Because she has been busy with schoolwork and tests, she hadn’t looked at any of the emails yet.  At my slightly disappointed look, she said, “Mom, just because they send you an email doesn’t mean you’ll get into the school.”

She’s right.  She and her friends know that colleges send out these recruiting materials but it doesn’t mean they will admit you when you apply.  The New York Times in conjunction with the Chronicle of Higher Education addressed this issue in an article by Mr. Eric Hoover published on November 5, 2010 called “Application Inflation: When is Enough Enough?” The article mentions that colleges buy names of students whose standardized test scores and grade point averages fall within certain ranges.  Nowadays, the College Board sells 80 million names to 1,200 colleges at 32 cents a name.  You do the math.  (I had to open an Excel spreadsheet since my handy-dandy solar-powered calculator couldn’t handle all the zeros).  Ka-ching!

They’ve been doing this since my generation applied to college except back then they used snail mail.  My husband recalls that Harvard sent him a letter encouraging him to apply to the college, which he did.  He was rejected.  He remembers feeling miffed, thinking, “Well, why did you ask me to apply?”  Some things have not changed in thirty years and Mr. Hoover interviews recent students in his article who have similarly felt the sting of rejection after being targeted by a college’s marketing department.

Still, it’s hard not to fall for the marketing come-ons, especially since they so cleverly play to the teenager’s ego (and by extension, said teenager’s mother’s ego).  My daughter admitted that it made her feel good to read the colleges’ adulatory acclamations about her academic accomplishments, (“You’re a successful student!”).  She felt encouraged, and it feels nice to be desired and pursued.  Who knows?  When she finally gets around to reading some of the emails, she may want to visit some of the schools.  Meanwhile, it’s best not to read too much into anything.  They want you…maybe.

 

The search begins…sort of

1 Jul

When we set out to explore colleges this spring, we didn’t know where to begin looking.  There are, after all, over 3,800 colleges in this country, according to the College Board website.  How does one begin this daunting task?  When I asked my daughter what kind of college she wanted to attend, she just shrugged.  Fair enough, she was only a sophomore.  My hope is that she will gradually take charge of this journey to find the right college and we as parents will simply guide her and serve as her sounding board.

We’ll let you know how that works out.

I know that we have plenty of time before she has to decide where to apply and in part we can’t begin to look at schools until we know how her sophomore year and first semester junior year grades will look.  Those grades, more than anything, will help to determine choices.

Times have changed a lot since my husband and I applied to colleges.  Back then, fewer parents took such an active role in helping their children apply to colleges.  We had only just arrived in this country a few years earlier and so my parents didn’t know too much about all the available choices.  But everyone knew about the Ivies, Stanford and MIT.  So the understanding was, if I could get into an Ivy League school, preferably one that was close to home, I would go.  There was never any discussion about what schools would suit me, my personality, my interests.  Questions like, would I thrive in a bigger school or a smaller one, in a city versus a rural campus, never even occurred to us.

Of course the competition to get into the top name schools has increased manifold in the last three decades.  Just this year Harvard College received over 30,000 applications and its admission rate dropped to less than 7%.  So now more than ever, we need to focus on finding the right fit for our daughter and less on chasing after the big names.

We’ll let you know how that works out too.

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