US News and World Report

Misty Whelan, Conestoga High School

Misty Whelan has lived the college admission process from both sides of the desk, so to speak. True, she worked early in her career at Bryn Mawr College. But that's not what we're talking about. Now a counselor at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsyvania, Whelan has also navigated the college application process as a parent. Her 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, is taking her first steps in the process and her 19-year-old son is now attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The view from the parental side of the process has been invaluable for Whelan.

"It has really, really helped me immensely as a professional in terms of sympathizing and empathizing with families as they go through this process," says Whelan. "And the other thing it validated for me was letting my son do the work and not to do it for him. He did the bulk of the work. I learned a lot about how to center him and not have him panic or get too stressed out. Luckily, he knew what he wanted and did not have too many schools on his list.  I also learned a lot about financial aid and the scholarship process. That was the biggest eye opener for me -- how colleges fund students."

Rankings: What does "Best" really mean?

 

Yesterday the US News and World Report (USNWR) rankings were released -- dubbed by some “the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition” of college lists. Distracting and sometimes deceptive, we think rankings can nevertheless be useful for students and parents if approached correctly. But we strongly urge students and parents not to fall prey to the “best-ism” that is part of the larger cultural phenomenon of status competition and celebrity.

You may want to take a look at this new site from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Timed to coincide with the USNWR’s Best Colleges edition, this site parts the curtain on rankings for students and parents, examining the methodologies and discussing the meaning of “best.” While you’re there, you might want to also take the opportunity to submit questions about the rankings to another new feature, the Counselor’s Corner

Community Service: How is it really valued?

Yet another article is making the rounds aimed at amping up the pressure on students and their families. Headlined "Community Service Work Increasingly Important for College Applicants," it appeared in the US News and World Report Money section. Promoting the results of a "scientific report," it states that "admission officers place a high value on a student's long-term commitment to a cause or organization." Of course, that's true at face value. But the article goes on to imply that that "cause or organization" must be community service.

As these articles usually are, it's confusing and provocative, offering advice such as this: "Applicants need to take care in how they position their volunteer activities." The implicit message: You had better have community service on your list of extracurricular activities or you will suffer consequences.