Jeffrey J. Selingo is such a keen observer of college life.  We must highlight a recent post of his from The Washington Post.

You may recall, that Selingo is the author of There Is Life After College, about how today’s graduates launch into their careers. He is the former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, a trustee of Ithaca College and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.   He is well positioned to share some insights with parents who are helping their college-bound high school students with the admissions process.  We are excited to read his upcoming book that discusses the college admissions process.

Selingo correctly observes, “Among their parents, a few find the entire process inherently unfair, and as evidence, they point to the daily headlines out of a federal trial in Boston accusing Harvard University of intentionally discriminating against Asian American applicants. It doesn’t matter to them that the Harvard admissions process is distinctive to the Ivy League university. In their minds, the disclosure of whom Harvard admits, and why, is emblematic of everything wrong with admissions.”

It was pleasant for our editors to read the statement from David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which owns the SAT to say “Let us acknowledge the anxiety our words and policies cause,” and also “We need to do more to stop the madness that has arisen around college admissions.” contains many resources on college admissions.  All of the tips and insights often get lost, however, and sometimes it just helps to have a simple list of how families can play an important role in the college admissions process.  Most importantly –  parents and families can be a source of truth and someone that instead of increasing pressure – is a compass for their students that reminds them of true north during the storms of emotions that often overtake the admissions process.

We define True North in the college admissions process as something that enables your student to stay focused.  We suggest three dimensions to consider as you shape your own compass for your family.

True North for College Admissions

  1. Why is more important than Where. 
    • Ask questions of your student to understand why they value a college education.  Help them understand that this value can be found at many colleges and universities.  Help them also understand your purpose and willingness to support their efforts to earn a college degree.  Share the context for why a college degree has value to not only careers but to becoming financially independent.
  2. What you do in college is more important than Where.
    • It is well known that what you make of the college you are admitted to is more important in terms of outcomes than where you attend or even what you may choose to study.  Incomes of college graduates are impacted even more by what a student majors in and when a student graduates.
  3. Focus on the Long Term
    • Help your student to see themselves in 5 years…how will the college they enroll in shape the direction of their life.  As many as 1/3 of students don’t graduate college at the school they started. In addition, many students who start at one college don’t finish at all.   Students who graduate with modest amounts of student loan debt tend to have the greatest flexibility for their careers.

The truth is that the parents need to be careful – as your questions and support can either help or hurt their students in the admissions process.  The key is to be a sensible, wise and loving coach.  At the end of the day, be sure to express to your student that the goal is to help your student along the way to becoming self-reliant.

We really aim for the content at College Parents of America will help to reduce the anxiety in your family and provide comfort to families facing the complex and emotional college admissions process.