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?
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.
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