Page 8 - KnightTime News Winter 2018
P. 8

KNIGHTtime News
 By John Schafer
One of the small themes I picked up reading the parent survey responses last summer was a concern
that part of our college counseling approach seems to be to “lower students’ expectations” as they
work through college search and application process. I thought I would offer a comment on this sentiment.
Most of our students start the college search process with an extremely
top heavy list—full of schools with admit rates below 15%. There are 4,500 colleges and universities out there; Menlo students typically apply to about 2% of the available schools, with a special affinity for the most selective colleges. From an early age, everyone has heard the names of those highly selective universities (although our students are much
less familiar with the names of and opportunities at the strong liberal arts colleges), so it is not surprising that they figure some prominently in our students’ aspirations.
The challenge for our college counseling team is to fully support students as they pursue their dream school while coaching them to research and discover other schools that will round out a balanced list of reach, target, and likely schools. This
is a delicate act and requires a deft touch to be both encouraging and also realistic. Our counselors have a great deal of knowledge, experience, and expertise, and they owe it to our students, who are ultimately the ones who decide where they will apply, to provide perspective and honest advice.
In our process, seniors submit their preliminary list to our team in early October, and the four counselors handicap that list and send it home. Our counselors are pretty accurate. Last year:
➤ 92% of the time we predicted far- reach, a student was not admitted
➤ 77% of the time we predicted reach, a student was not admitted
➤ 61% of the time we predicted target, the student was admitted
➤ 86% of the time we predicted likely, the student was admitted
Menlo students are talented and ambitious, and we support their ambitions, believe in them, and know each one would make a meaningful contribution to the life of the college they most want to attend. At the
same time, we know the dynamics of admissions at selective schools, and we see it as our obligation to help students undertake a broad search when they are looking for a good fit college.
The pressure and stress around college admissions at selective schools really takes a toll on students. And yet few in our student body even know that 88% of college and universities have an admission rate over 50%. John Brentar at Morrissey- Compton published a sobering newsletter last winter on student stress, sense of overload, and anxiety that includes plenty of statistics
but also this powerful observation: “Unrealistic expectations and rigid ideas of what defines success trigger students’ anxiety.”
While there is no easy route to avoid stress around selective college admissions, Challenge Success has just published an excellent and helpful white paper (also mentioned by Matt Mettille in the opening of
this newsletter) on the process that seeks to move the needle from a focus on selectivity to one on true engagement and fit. In the meantime, our counselors will remain accessible, compassionate, supportive, and realistic as they work with their counselees to create college lists that will leave them with hopefully plenty of exciting options for the next phase of their education and growth.

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