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It is an article of faith in my family that not getting into any of the Seven Sisters led to my sister's nervous breakdown. The five of those ivy league women's colleges to which she applied rejected her, which, if it didn't cause her lifelong struggle with mental illness, at least catalyzed it. Or so my mother claimed, even after all my sister’s psychiatrists said it had nothing to do with it.  

  Back then you didn't hire a private counselor to help navigate the process of [Link Removed] especially if your GPA was a solid 4.00 and your awards, honors, trophies and extra-curricular activities required two extra pages on your application. You didn't know your exact score on the College Boards, only your percentiles, but your high school guidance counselor did, and she told you which colleges were most likely to accept you. Then you pored over their catalogs, went for interviews at the ones where you felt you might most successfully reinvent yourself, tucked in a check for fifty dollars and mailed off your application. And then you waited until the first or second week of April when the college letters arrived.

  These days very few public high schools have counselors whose sole job is advising the college-bound; they're too busy dealing with truancy, drugs, violence, pregnancy and the other ills of modern adolescent life. Instead many parents hire education consultants to help them and their teenagers navigate the process of applying to college, at fees that start at two to three thousand dollars, which will buy you a moonlighting high school counselor, former teacher or admissions officer, or parent whose advice is often based on launching her own child into college. At the high end, "name" counselors  charge up to $40,000.  The $2.3 billion test prep industry includes on-line review courses, group classes of all sizes, and individual tutors who cost from $80 to $500 an hour.

  Perhaps the interviewers in the Sisters' admissions office sensed my sister's chaotic mental state before anyone else did, although bipolar disease, her ultimate diagnosis, which tends to strike in late adolescence, wasn't as well known then as it is now.  Between the highs and the lows and the hospitalizations, my sister took classes at four different colleges and universities before she finally earned a degree a decade later. With early and rolling admissions, the ides of April aren't as portentous as they once were. But it's still worth remembering that no matter how much money, tears and time parents and students expend on the admissions arms race, research shows that where a person goes to college doesn't matter as much as whether or not they finish...even if it takes ten years.


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Member Comments

    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Kimfabulous wrote Mar 26, 2010
    • I would agree given the two outcomes presented to consider re: to finish or not...however with more things being equal (ie candidates that do finish) at varying times in our history I believe it could matter.  Today in this economic crisis perhaps not so much unless we are comparing MBA’s from Harvard and Yale versus a 2nd or 3rd tier colleges.  Depending on the field of study again where you go to school could influence recruitment.  Transitions in philosophy within a profession about entry level education requirements again could matter. Example Nursing: Diploma? Associate Degree? or Bachelor?  Overall a Diploma for entry level into nursing as an RN is not well supported today.  Thus all those nurses from Diploma Schools may be viewed an unqualified?



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Mar 26, 2010
    • I applaud your sister for finishing despite the hurdles she had in front of her. That a very large and honorable accomplishment.

      My husband is an educator and we see kids with their hearts set on a particular school and then they‘re crushed when they don’t get in. We have a counselor on staff who helps kids not only choose a school that fits them, their needs, their goals and their capabilities but she helps them with the paperwork. There are also a couple of people in our area who hire out for independent counseling - one woman is a retired college counselor. I’ve heard good things about her.

      I think what is needed is a service, low or no cost, for kids who truly aspire to go on to college from public school. I think it’s a shame that the public system has dropped the ball on something like this.

      I think also we need more mentors for our young people.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Marlene McCray wrote Mar 27, 2010
    • I agree with Cynthia on  mentoring for our children because it is so important for children to see why college is important and a place that is nurturing as well as educational. For that reason, Compass CEO MS Kim Fulcher has started a personal coaching and mentoring network for teen girls, so they can succeed in any major after school through encouragement and support.

      Thanks for such an inspiring and educational piece!

      Marlene McCray, MS
      Personal Development Trainer & Compass Representative
      [Link Removed]


      Mmccray, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      LuAnn Venden wrote Mar 27, 2010
    • It’s also true that where you go to college can sometimes influence where you‘re able to go to grad school, if that’s in your plans.  But I think that going to one of the tier 1 or tier 2 or tier 3 schools isn’t as important as it used to be, as more and more lower-tiered schools bump up their specialties in one undergrad concentration or another (having a nationally-recognized nursing program would be one example).

      And yes, there are several official ranking systems that determine what “tier” a school actually is, and grad school admissions programs are very familiar with those rankings as they consider students.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cristina Corral wrote Mar 27, 2010
    • I think it’s essential that the children, our children go to any type of college after their high school years.  Some obviously will not be able to get into ivy league while others can.  I say parents, send your children to ANY college and encourage them while they are still little!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Laurie Giles wrote Mar 30, 2010
    • Great Point, I applaud your sister for completing despite her challenges, tribute should be given to the end result  not just to the road taken to get to the finish line

      Laurie Giles
      www.lauriegiles.com
      follow me on twitter:lauriegwhatnow



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