A Different Kind of College Search
It's easy to get caught up in in the hype of the college admission process. It often sounds something like this, "It's so hard to get in!" "No one gets in there." "I'll never be able to go to college since it's so hard to get in." "What do colleges want from us (my child) anyway??" "I hate this college search."
At Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL), we want to push back some of that stress with real information (not the hyped-up media portrayal) and more importantly, with reminders to students that they have a lot to offer in the college search process and in the world. We believe in a student-centered college search. We want students to see the possibilities, not the obstacles, as they look at colleges.
So how do we try to help? We start by reminding students (and their anxious parents) that there are close to 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in this country. AND the vast majority of those institutions accept most of the students who apply. That's right. Not all schools are very selective. Only about 40 schools in the US admit less than 20% of the students who apply. For years, the average admit rate nationwide has been about 65%—not 6% or 5%. 65%.
Students, if you decide that only a handful of famous schools will do, you're selling yourself short and making this search a lot more stressful. Identify a few criteria that are important to you—maybe it's faculty mentoring, small classes, religious life on campus, community service, research opportunities—then listen to the information from all kinds of schools to see if what they do fits what you're looking for. How do you do that? Before the college fairs, Google searches, counselor meetings, and discussions (arguments?) with your family, think about yourself. It's okay to think about yourself first here. What do you like or dislike about your high school? What do you hope to continue or try for the first time in college? Do you want to be with others whose mindset is just like yours? Or would a mix of people be fun? Or, what about a place where you're an outlier and have a chance to argue your point of view…a lot.
Parents and other family members, accept this fact. You do not know "all the good schools." You may know a lot of schools. But you don't know all the schools that might serve your child well. Medical school admission officers, law school admission officers, graduate school admission officers—they all know a lot more schools than you do, and they will notice students from all types of institutions when they find students who have captured every opportunity at their college—on campus, locally, regionally, and perhaps even when studying abroad. The experience is more important than the name of the school.
Employers typically look for this skill set in young employees—the ability to think critically and creatively; the ability to communicate well with others; the ability to work in teams of people with different backgrounds; the ability to understand and interpret data; the ability to problem solve creatively. Liberal arts education teaches those skills day after day, in classrooms, research opportunities, and internships, and through faculty mentoring, alumni networking, peer networking, and creative educational experiences.
CTCL has almost 50 member schools that fit our philosophy, and they have been working together for almost 25 years, bringing the message of student-centered college admissions and student-centered college counseling to students and families around the country and around the world. These schools welcome students from all backgrounds and experiences. First-generation students like me have a chance to really thrive under the leadership of committed faculty whose first joy is teaching and second joy is doing research in collaboration with undergraduate students. Our member schools include urban, suburban, and rural campuses; public and private schools; and caring and creative communities. They are all institutions that instill a lifelong love of learning and help create tomorrow's leaders. Open your minds to new places. You'll be glad you did. Find out more about our member schools, discover the resources we have to help students and families with the college search, and let us help find a college for you at ctcl.org
Maria Furtado is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Colleges That Change Lives. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years, and she worked at two CTCL schools, Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida. Maria speaks all around the country to students, parents and counselors about college rankings and popular misperceptions about college admission, the strength and worth of a liberal arts education, and the lifelong value of a college education, and offers tips for students and parents on how to manage the college search.