What You Think You Know About College Admissions May Actually Hurt You

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: December 30, 2013

The hardest moments in my work as an educational consultant arise when a family comes to me with patently unrealistic expectations for their child applying to a particular college. The difficulty, oddly enough, is a result of doing my job, i.e. laying out the reality of possibilities, while trying to diplomatically withdraw my support from pie-in-the-sky dreams of glory.

My, how times have changed since today’s parents and grandparents tackled their own college applications! The country’s population may have doubled, but the number of freshman year spots at the brand-name schools has hardly kept pace with demographics. So few parents understand today’s college admissions. Their opinions and anecdotes are often compilations of street gossip where misinformation and half-truths are inflated into modern-day myths, or founded on outdated memories of 20, 30, or 40 years ago.

A family asks for my services because they want and need the unvarnished truth about college admissions. That’s exactly what they’ll get: truth…and an easy-to-understand view of the process, along with honest encouragement based upon the fact that there are over 2,000 colleges in this country from which to choose. Think of it: the University of Florida receives well over 35,000 applications for about 6,000 freshman spots. Thinking Ivy League? It’s far more competitive than the Florida schools. Can you stand on someone’s shoulders and juggle five torches? No? Well, then, it may be time to forget the Ivies. Top schools are tops because they take only those who they think are tops, who represent the total package. Unless you have the proverbial set of “hooks” that sink into an admission officer’s mind, you’re not likely to cut it at one of the twenty-five most competitive schools in the country. But what about those other two thousand?

Ultimately students can decide to apply to any schools they please, but my purpose as an educational advisor is to inject maximum realism into the process. That’s why in the application process I categorize schools choices as ‘stretch,’ ‘target,’ and ‘safe/almost safe.’ If Elon University is a stretch, then Emory probably doesn’t belong on the list at all. It’s my job to make sense of admissions requirements in light of a student’s complete curricular and extracurricular record. So, let me do that for you; it’s what my training and decades of experience bring to the table to help you navigate and master the maze of college admissions.

Yes, your child will get fan mail from myriad institutions – their beautiful brochures and enticing letters. That’s because they want your child to apply, boosting application numbers and reducing the actual percentage of admitted students from the pool of applicants that the school has inflated through their ad campaigns. That small admit rate looks enticing in US News and World Report (“Wow! That’s a tough school to get into – must be good, no? I’d like to go there!), but does it reflect the whole picture? Even half the picture? Likely not.

Stories exist, of course, about the seemingly average student who hits the jackpot with an entry ticket to a prestigious university. But not very often. I can tell you a few stories myself, but my consultations are more closely aligned with finding the right place for your child – and guiding him or her along the path to success. So listen carefully – I’ll have a lot to say about that!

Topics: College Admission Educational Consulting


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