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Fit. Over Rankings. Please.

Okay, for starters. This isn't just my "opinion"--this is a very well-researched topic.

This year is being touted as the most competitive in history for college admissions. (But just so you know....they say that every year). And we shouldn't be surprised. While it's true that the economy is wreaking havoc on colleges across the country, this isn't the sole reason behind the dramatic decrease in acceptance rates.

Here's the deal, my friends.

We have ourselves to blame for much of this. The discourse on college admissions is too focused on rankings and name-dropping. Too many kids are vying for precious spots, and there's a skewed understanding of which schools are really “good”.

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By far, the most common question from parents of college-bound students is “What can you do to get my child into a 'good' school?”

I simply ask, “How do you define a 'good' school?”

The responses vary, but many parents equate a “good” school to one with prestige and a solid reputation. Some parents think certain colleges just look better on bumper stickers.

They also see a good school as one that will guarantee post-graduate employment. They believe that more-prestigious schools increase their student's chance of admission to medical school, law school and other post-baccalaureate degrees. Challenge Success debunked this myth big time. Check out their research.

On the contrary, it is common knowledge in academia that where a student earns his undergraduate degree has much to do with the immediate job he will earn post-college but very little to do with the eventual career path in which a student travels.

Case in point: Do you know where your doctor, lawyer, accountant, or principal when to college?

Rarely do parents respond that a good college is one that is an excellent social, emotional and academic fit for their child, especially if that student is a high achiever.

It is not often that parents ask, “what schools are a good fit for my child?” But when they do, the pearly gates open.

Regardless of the statistics and trends in college admissions, there is a sure way to ensure that your child will have incredible options at the end of their senior year: Help your children engage in serious self-reflection to decipher what's really important to them in college.

  • Spend more time building a well-rounded college list and visiting colleges, and less time demanding better grades and higher test scores.

  • Tone down their desire (and yours) to apply to as many schools as possible.

  • Hone in on the colleges that really match your child's academic profile. You want your child to dream big but also be realistic about his or her chances of admission.

For parents of high school seniors, it's time to consider the following:

  • The final toll of college tuition. Consider how long it will take for your child to get out of a particular college. Explore the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates at the colleges to which your child has been accepted.

  • The happiness factor. Find the retention rate of freshman students who return for their sophomore year.

Whether a college is “good” is very subjective.

As the admissions cycle for 2018-19 wraps up, I would argue that the students whose parents encouraged the good fit colleges opposed to solely the ones with the highest prestige are left with far more choices that others. These parents will reap the benefits of their child being academically challenged, emotionally supported and socially accepted in college.

In turn, this will create not just a “good” college experience, but a great one.

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