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Voices: Navigating the college admissions process

Opinion / Letters by: Guest writer Tony Moschella, December 4, 2022

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are presently over 3,000 four-year colleges in the United States. How can prospective college students begin to absorb the vast amount of information related to these choices?

It is a different landscape for today’s students than what their parents may have experienced in their own college search. How many parents can recall their own parents fully immersing themselves in the college search process with them? How many had the luxury of parents chauffeuring them around from one college to the next trying to catch that “a-ha” moment? Even if they visited a college, it was probably on their own. And the number of schools that were applied to was often a handful, partly due to handwritten applications and writer’s cramp!

This past year we had one of the highest percentages of high school seniors apply to college and this fall we had 69% of the prior year’s seniors begin their college education! On the surface, today’s college admissions efforts can be daunting for both parents and students.

It is important to recognize that the college admissions gauntlet is not do or die. Certainly, the goal is not to hoodwink the admission’s gatekeeper into offering an entry ticket that leads to a mismatch. Quality college guidance today includes similar objectives as in the past. A positive college investigation strategy involves a sensible formula:

  1. Know what the admissions officers value

  2. Build a solid college-ready resume

  3. Select schools that provide a setting that will allow a student to flourish

  4. Create a narrowly tailored college list that makes the final decision rewarding once the acceptances roll in

Focusing on the features that actual admissions officers value aids in the process. These include high school grades in academic courses, strength of curriculum, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essay and extracurricular activities. Utilize personal preferences as a guiding influence to initiate a list of potential colleges to consider. Gather hard data and employ a strategy that increases the likelihood of a successful application effort.
Creating a “Ballpark College List” includes starting with approximately a dozen potential candidates, narrowing it down to six to eight colleges for the final application list. This will enhance the decision-making process once the acceptances come in since each college applied to represents a desirable, preferred choice. There is no fault in having a completely successful tally card at the end of the day.

What parents can do to assist with admissions

  • Help restore perspective that college admissions is not a life or death experience

  • Give their student space to explore on their own

  • Don’t confuse indifference or procrastination for the reality that the college entry process is daunting to most high schoolers. Temper your own sense of urgency. Help your student get unstuck through a steady stream of encouragement.

  • Seek ways to move the process forward, foster a dynamic dialogue geared toward defining your student’s college preference profile, set financial/cost parameters, let your student take center stage, analyze realistic success-driven options.

  • Realize your student may avoid any thought of attending the same college that you went to!

Northport resident and educational consultant Tony Moschella spent 32 years as a school psychologist, and started University College Advisors to polish student profiles through college interest and major assessment, essay and interview prep, college list building, financial aid review and college admissions guidance. You can contact him at 516-443-5192.