For years I thought the secret to making good post-high school plans was to get the student focused early. Slowly but surely helping them hone skills, become more responsible and exposing them to good learning experiences seemed to be the key. Though this system has been very successful in helping students make career choices and build impressive resumes and applications, it has failed to inspire most to examine their college choices with a critical eye.
No matter the mindset of a new client about the attractiveness of one college or another, they complete a questionnaire for me. From this questionnaire I generate a list of colleges for them to consider. Many times, a few of the same colleges will be on their list and mine but sometimes the two lists could not be more different. Unless the new client is already a senior, I begin to patiently explain over a period of time why there should be as many colleges from the list I produced as there are from their original list. Before the pandemic made campus visits dangerous, clients quickly realized that the campuses from my list were typically what they envisioned when thinking about college life. Even though I usually succeed in getting the student to apply to a few of the colleges I suggest; typically, there will remain some far-flung school or an institution that has no business being on the student’s list.
Every year I have clients accepted to colleges that were a priority during the application process. Those favorite schools suddenly turn threatening when the thought of moving onto campus becomes a reality. For many of these high-performing students beginning the application process, UT Austin or Texas A&M are backup schools. Once the acceptance letters begin to pour in the script is flipped and many of them choose one of the in-state schools. There is no obvious reason for this phenomenon. It is much the same for a student determined to apply to 15 or 20 colleges. You can only attend one. If one of your top five college says yes, will you really consider the other 15 schools? Probably not. Maybe I will be able to puzzle out the reason for this behavior someday but until then, I will keep helping bright students get admitted to their favorite colleges and scratch my head after finding out where they decided to attend.