Can My Teen Get Into a Highly Selective College Without a College Counselor?

At Grown and Flown College Admissions, we are often asked questions like this one:

Can my teen get into a highly selective college if we do not hire a consultant?

Question from group

We asked Stephanie Meade, a highly sought-after admissions expert and college consultant who has worked with hundreds of families, to give us her answer to this question.

I am so glad you asked this question, not only because I suspect others wonder about this, but also because it gives me a chance to address some common misconceptions about what educational consultants (of which I am one) actually do!

Stephanie Meade

Do you need to hire a college counselor to get your child into an elite college?

1. Most students get into college without a college counselor

First, to answer your question, most students get into all kinds of colleges, including highly selective ones, without a consultant or significant support. This is because selective colleges are looking for students who are very academically accomplished and who have interesting activities.

While a student who meets with a consultant may be encouraged to take more difficult classes and get more deeply involved in activities, at the end of the day, it is what the student does, not what the consultant does, that determines the likelihood of admissions to very competitive campuses.

2. Consultants and students should focus on college fit

Most consultants (especially the good ones) focus on and encourage their students to focus on FIT, not selectivity. We encourage them to think deeply about who they are, how they learn, who they want to be around, what an appropriate budget is for college, etc, and then support them in identifying colleges that fit those parameters.

I call it “going from the kid to the schools,” rather than working backward from some highly visible college and trying to force the kid to be whatever “the college wants,” which, of course, is unlikely to work since what the college wants is an authentic kid, not someone who has just checked the boxes of what the student thinks “they want.”

If you would like some tools to support your student on the journey of finding fit, we have dozens of videos in the Grown and Flown Admissions course library that teach many aspects. It is totally doable!

3. Encourage your students to focus on the best environment for your student

You would probably be surprised to learn that most of us spend much more time than we would like, discouraging families from focusing on what some of us call the “highly rejectives” and instead, we encourage them to think about the best environment for the individual student. We can add much more value to a family by supporting them in this approach.

4. NO data shows that attending highly selective colleges confers any lasting benefit

Finally (and this is a big topic) that has been studied, NO data shows that attending highly selective colleges confers any lasting benefit to students, except those from the very, very lowest socioeconomic levels.

It turns out that, whether they are researching salaries or general happiness and life satisfaction and connecting those outcomes to the college experience, the main thing that correlates is how much the student engaged, found mentors, and got involved in projects on campus.

And the good news is that if you focus on fit, the student ends up on a campus where all of those things are much more likely to happen for them.

More Great Reading:

Demonstrated Interest: 22 Ways Teens Can Boost Their Chance of Admission

About Stephanie Meade

Stephanie Meade has been working with teenagers and their families and the college process for 30 years. In addition to providing college guidance to hundreds of teens, she and her company, The Collegiate Edge, offered standardized test prep for 25 years, as well as academic support and mentoring to a range of students, including those with ADHD and mild learning and emotional challenges.

Stephanie is one of only 34 consultants in California who holds the designation of Certified Educational Planner, the highest level of competency awarded in the profession. She has served on a number of professional boards and committees, and on the faculty for the Independent Educational Consultants Association’s Summer Training Institute for the  newer members of the profession. She presents regularly at national conferences and community events on topics related to college planning and parenting teens, and is proud to be one of the contributing experts in College Admissions: Grown & Flown. 

Read more posts by Stephanie

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