• Encouraging High School Juniors to Keep Focused

    by Charlene Liebau

    For high school seniors the college planning/application/decision making process should now be complete. For them, the next step is to plan ahead – make travel plans, register for orientation activities, and complete the housing forms.

    For current high school juniors the process is just beginning and becomes a more serious pursuit.  And, from reports on the outcomes of the current year, confusion will continue to baffle everyone involved.

    In what appears to be a continuing trend, colleges report receiving more applications than ever, admitting a fewer percent, and thus becoming “more selective.”  Examples abound: this year UCLA received a record-breaking 80,494 freshman applications, Harvard accepted 5.79 percent of its applicants and Stanford 5.69 percent. At the same time, the number of students placed on the wait-list of any number of colleges also grew.

    Now, to compound all of this frenzy a report from the National Association of College Admission Counselors, NACAC, presents its 2013 Space Availability Survey. The survey is a list of 210 colleges still accepting applications for the Fall 2013 term!

    How can it be that colleges are admitting fewer students and yet still accepting applications at this late date in the admission cycle?

    Reflecting on the above reports, it is no wonder students, parents – and teachers, too, are dismayed by the attention and energy paid to the college planning process. And, being caught up in it.

    A quick assessment of the increased competition surrounding college admission takes away from the true purpose of the process: for each student to discover his or her interests, strengths, likes, and dislikes, as well as begin to articulate future goals. The question then becomes: what kind of learning environment will serve me best? In what kind of environment will I be challenged to think, to explore, and to develop as a person?

    To develop one’s list of possible colleges requires one to look beyond the very, very few “highly selective” colleges – very few admit below 15 or 20% of their applicants. An “admit rate” does not define the kind or quality of education one will receive.  It is up to each student to take advantage of resources, faculty office hours, research opportunities, and extra-curricular activities that will define the kind and quality of their undergraduate education wherever they enroll.

    While reports and statistics on this year’s senior class and college admission will undoubtedly occupy the news for the next few weeks, other factors will also contribute to keeping higher education in the spotlight: the level of student indebtedness, tuition increases, online courses, MOOCs, and future job prospects for college graduates.

    This is the time to congratulate our seniors and wish them well as they look to the next few years.

    This is also the time for high school juniors to look beyond the headlines and reports. As a new class begins the college application process the challenge will be to define and keep one’s own goals and objectives in focus and not be unduly influenced or even frightened by the reports swirling around them. There are more than three thousand accredited colleges and universities in the United States!

    Ms. Liebau, the Tribune’s College Prep and Admissions Editor, is a former Director of Admissions at Caltech and former Dean of Admission at Occidental College. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Stanford University, she is an Educational Consultant and can be reached by email at ccliebau@earthlink.net

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