You are running the wrong way! (and other tips racing through your college prep)

We all start races for different reasons.

Some racers set out to improve themselves.

Some racers set out to feel more of a bond with their friends.

Some racers set out to participate when they see everyone else is already starting.

But many racers set out before even learning the proper course route or knowing where the finish line is, and they do so without understanding the strength of the other racers they are competing against. Yet they still have hopes of winning.

From a college counselor/adviser’s perspective, the racers in that last group merely have delusions of winning.

When starting the college planning race, winning means more than just getting accepted into your favorite school. Instead, winning should mean getting into the right school for your continued growth. Every high school senior’s growth is unique, and there is not a neat, narrow prescription for what that looks like in each individual.

College Admissions committees look for that uniqueness. In fact, they celebrate that uniqueness! Imagine being that weary admissions reader in search of the next great leader…the next great innovator…the next great changemaker…pouring through hundreds of student applicants and essays each admissions cycle. I certainly recall what that was like.

Now, as a college counselor for Prime Academics and other Silicon Valley college counseling firms, I find that many high school students start this college prep race making a huge mistake from the very start. Regardless of how early they begin, high school students and their families don’t take into enough account the training and preparation that other students are also doing -- students who possess similarly stellar GPAs, high standardized test scores, extracurriculars, leadership roles, community service, awards, and more.

Some high school seniors never realize their college application shortcomings until after they have lost the race–and failed to get into their favorite college…much less the right college. Students, don’t assume you just need to be better than your friends at school. Don’t misjudge this race as a sprint during the fall of your senior year; consider it more like a marathon full of obstacles, hurdles, and other unforeseen challenges. Experienced college counselors know this course better than you can even imagine. In fact, this race resembles a giant maze. By October of each year, I hear from lost students who sprinted off with the wrong instructions, only to recognize that they need to ask for the proper directions shortly before their favorite college’s deadline. Get the proper instructions and insights about the entire process before setting off prematurely in the wrong direction!