A Perspective on College Admissions

By Jean Bonnyman, The Davidson Center

All parents want what is best for their children, but the best colleges in the country are
not always the best choices for all students. Colleges vary greatly, which is why
professional college counselors put in tremendous time and effort to help students find
an affordable college where they can succeed. *(Please make sure the counselor is a
member of at least one of the professional associations listed below.)
It is unfortunate that recent media has led many people to some incorrect
generalizations about independent college counselors and college admissions. Yes,
there are unethical situations, and hopefully, the recent publicity will help with this, but I
see a much bigger problem out there. The majority of parents and high school students
don’t have the time and resources to be able to make the best college choice; college
options and the admission process have become very complex. North Carolina has a
good state system, but there are many kinds of private colleges who make themselves
financially possible to good students. Unfortunately, many students are unprepared and
totally lost in a big state college. They fall apart, drop out and get the wrong idea about
their abilities. They are just not ready for the big leap to independence—yet. A smaller
private college may be just what a student needs after high school. There are many
college options out there for all different kinds of students.
The traditional student, as defined by graduating from high school, going straight to
college and graduating in four years, is not our country’s norm today. This is where we
get back to what is best for each particular child. What is their maturity level? What is
their motivation to go to college? Are they enthusiastic about an area of interest to
explore in college? How pressured by their peers do they feel in making a decision for
their post high school plan? The pendulum swings from the anxious overachiever to the
discouraged non-informed teen without hope.
I frequently tell parents and students there is no time limit and no race to college. One
reason the gap year is becoming popular is so students can take the time to research
their possibilities, build their skills, explore their interests, earn some money but above
all, not feel pressured to make an uninformed decision. It takes more time to make the
wrong decision, fail and go through the painful process of regrouping over time to
hopefully get back on track.
Yes, there are students who have the best opportunities toward their future success.
The elite colleges are extremely competitive, and it is a very work-intensive process to
apply. These students often have an advantage in admissions because knowledgeable
people help them in the process of making their best decision with the fewest mistakes.
But it is possible for everyone to make a better decision by realizing there is no set
timeline and specific route to college and career. The important takeaway is to know
students learn and develop differently, but they can all become happy, educated,
independent adults given the chance.

*National Association for College Admissions Counseling
Independent Educational Consultants Association
Higher Education Consultants Association
American Institute of Certified Educational Planners