Category Archives: Choosing a College

Cliffs Notes to the Top Performing Arts Colleges

Some college majors have been affected more than others by the measures taken to combat Covid-19. A good example is Performing Arts, which necessitates student-to-student  collaboration within confined spaces. The three performing arts — acting, dance, and music — are simply not amenable to online learning. But with herd immunity now foreseeable in the 2021-22 academic year, applications to the top performing arts programs are expected to rise, making admission to the best programs highly competitive once again.

Anyone who has been on stage and experienced the thrill of performance can understand why students aspire to careers as performing artists. Success in the performing arts entails intensive training focused on the development of essential skills. Colleges that offer an education in the arts usually integrate it within a liberal arts degree program. Although beneficial to a student’s education, this makes a degree in the performing arts more challenging than most other liberal arts majors.

There are institutions that offer programs in only one or two of the three principal performing arts and others that offer all three. Typically, arts curricula require several foundational courses before a student is permitted to concentrate on a specialty. Four-year undergraduate programs lead to a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or a Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) degree.

In this post, we’ll review a number of college programs for acting (drama) and related specialties. Students in these programs take courses in theater literature and history, methods of acting, costume design, playwriting, screenwriting, lighting, stage movement, voice, directing, theater/film technology, set design and related fields to learn different aspects of their art. They’re assigned diverse tasks, not just acting roles. They study all of the disciplines behind the mounting of a production.

After core requirements are met, students are offered a choice to focus primarily on acting or to concentrate on one of the related fields mentioned above. Dance and music majors undergo academic experiences similar to acting majors in order to achieve balance between the theory and practice of their art.

Among the many colleges with undergraduate programs in the performing arts, there are those that have earned exceptional reputations, which are described below. These colleges focus more on acting and dance than music, which has its own list of best colleges.

Brown University, Providence, RI

Brown’s School of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies is noted within the Ivy League for the excellence of its undergraduate BFA program. Brown places a high value on its students achieving a well-rounded understanding of drama as a discipline. Along with acting classes, students study theory and history. They then choose one of the program’s tracks, which include Theatre Arts, Performance Studies, or Writing for Performance. The program offers opportunities for crewing mainstage plays, participating in production workshops, taking part in Shakespeare on the Green performances, and viewing world premieres at the Trinity Repertory Company.

Among the more well-known graduates are John Krasinski, Emma Watson, Laura Linney, JoBeth Williams, Ira Glass, Joseph Bologna, and Bess Armstrong.

California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita, CA

CalArts is considered by many to be the best dance school on the West Coast as well as one of the top drama schools. The School of Dance offers a distinguished faculty and renowned guest artists. It provides numerous dance performance opportunities in its American College Dance Festival. The School of Drama is often chosen by students who wish to pursue a screen-acting career. All seniors must enroll in the Acting Studio for the Camera course, which trains them for auditioning and performing  for cinema and TV. In their final semester, students perform in industry showcases in Los Angeles and New York.

The School of Drama’s successful alumni include Don Cheadle, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Baker, Laraine Newman, Michael Richards, Alison Brie, and director Tim Burton.

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

The oldest acting conservatory in the country, the School of Drama strives to impart to students the ability to embody their characters thorough analysis of the roles in which they’re cast. The School’s faculty consists primarily of established actors. There are 20 shows per year that provide many performance opportunities to students.  The School enables students to perform their original works during a designated week when all classes are cancelled. Seniors have opportunities to perform before audiences of industry professionals in New York, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.

Well-known alumni include Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Albert Brooks, Ethan Hawke, Jack Klugman, George Peppard, Jeff Goldblum, Cherry Jones, Judith Light, Blair Underwood, James Cromwell, Sada Thompson, Joe Manganiello, Leslie Odom Jr., Howard DeSilva, and Rene Auberjonois.

Catholic University of America, Washington DC

CUA’s Department of Drama, offering a BFA in Acting and a BA in Drama, is one of the oldest and most well-established in the country. The curriculum for the BFA in Acting is comprehensive in that it develops actors for all three major media: theatre, film, and television. It’s oriented to conditions in the 2020’s in which actors, in order to succeed, must be prepared for all three media. Actors are trained to be comfortable in all environments so that they’ll have the skills to start working immediately upon graduation. Washington provides plenty of opportunities for CUA students, who have many opportunities to intern at area theatres, experience the dynamic local theatre milieu, and engage in mentorship programs with area professionals.

Notable actors include Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Helen Hayes, Laurence Luckinbill, Jon Voight, Jason Miller, Chris Sarandon, John Lescault, Ed McMahon, Siobhan Hogan, and Phil Bosco.

Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

The CCA Theatre Department offers four BFA concentrations: Acting, Musical Theatre, Physical Theatre, and Design & Production. It also offers a BA in Music with three  concentrations: Commercial & Jazz Music, Music General Studies, and Music Performance. BFA acting students study eight levels of acting centered on the foundational work of Stanislavski. They take courses in on-camera technique, vocal technique, movement studies, script analysis, history, and criticism. The program focuses on self-exploration, characterization, and insight into each student’s best personal working methods. Students develop not only technical and artistic competence but also a broad knowledge of the theatre.

Well-known alumni include Michael Kelly, Bailey Hanks, Elise Testone, and Madelyn Cline.

College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Student-centered learning is the focus of the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre + Dance. Students are partners in an artistic community formed in the classroom, in the studio, and in productions. They study with faculty in classroom settings as small as five students. All students engage in the creation and development of each production. Abundant opportunities to perform enable students to gain experience in all aspects of theatre and dance.

Well-known actors include Robert Downey Jr., Erick Avari, Thomas Gibson, Matt Czuchry, Lea Michele, Jennifer Ferrin, and Alison Munn.

Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Founded in 1973, the FSU School of Theatre enjoys a national reputation due largely to its faculty of nationally recognized artists and educators. The School has been providing outstanding programs in Florida and around the world for nearly half a century. Its London Theatre Studies program offers a chance to work side by side with guest artists and eminent scholars and to participate in showcase opportunities in major cities.

FSU’s actors, directors, and writers include Alan Ball, Montego Glover, Paul Gleason, Davis Gaines, Leslie Flesner, Cheryl Hines, John Papsidera, Darren Bagert, Richard Simmons, Burt Reynolds, Heather Provost, and Amanda Watkins.

Julliard School, New York, NY

 Often considered the best school in the country for drama and dance, the Juilliard School has a long list of notable alumni who have earned 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts. It’s an exclusive school that selects applicants with proven talent. It selects only a few outstanding students each year, none of whom are recent high school graduates. There are usually 20 students each in the BFA Acting Program, the MFA Acting Program, and the BFA Dance ProgramThe Dance Program conducts 15 public performances each year and the Drama Program produces several plays annually. There are annual showcases in both New York and Los Angeles.

Alumni include Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Adam Driver, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Robin Williams, Viola Davis, Andre Braugher, Val Kilmer, Kevin Spacey, Wendell Pierce, Patti LuPone, Christine Baranski, Marcia Cross, Sid Caesar, and William Hurt.

New York University, New York, NY

On acceptance into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, students are placed in one of eight primary studios where they receive intensive training leading to a strong foundation in their art. Students remain in their studio for two years. The eight studios are the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, Meisner Studio, New Studio on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons School, Production & Design Studio, and Lee Strasberg Institute. Once studio training is complete, students choose a specialty for advanced training.

Notable NYU actors include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Bell, Adam Sandler, Oliver Stone, Andy Samberg, Billy Crystal, Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), James Franco, Bryce Dallas Howard, and its directors include Spike Lee, M. Night Shyamalan, and Martin Scorcese.

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Northwestern is one of the few schools of drama in the country that don’t require an audition for admission. Nevertheless, admission is still highly competitive with an admit rate of 15%. Students have many opportunities to perform in school-sponsored, student-run shows that select from among all undergraduates in casting roles. Seniors are invited to participate in showcases in New York and Chicago before audiences of industry professionals.

The School has educated many notable actors including Warren Beatty, Zach Braff, Stephen Colbert, Charlton Heston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Orbach, Ann-Magret, Claude Akins, Patricia Neal, Richard Benjamin, Robert Conrad, David Schwimmer, William Daniels, Anna Gunn, Jennifer Jones, Cloris Leachman, Mamie Gummer, Zooey Deschanel, Kathryn Hahn, Shelley Long, and Tony Randall.

Smith College, Northampton, MA

Smith is one of the best small colleges in the country for theater majors. Students attending Smith aren’t limited to the resources of their college alone because it’s part of the Five Colleges Consortium. Theater and dance majors at Smith benefit from the combined resources of four other nearby colleges: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This collaborative program affords students at Smith all the advantages of an institution many times its size while maintaining the intimate atmosphere of a small liberal arts college.

Graduates of the Five Colleges Consortium who have earned a reputation in acting, screenwriting, or directing include Donna Kane, Bill Pullman, Richard Gere, Wendy Wasserstein, Ken Burns, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Wallace, Lupita Nyong’o, Ken Howard, Shelley Hack, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The home of the UF School of Theatre and Dance is the new state-of-the-art Nadine McGuire Pavilion. The School’s full-time faculty is complemented by a rotating guest faculty of accomplished professionals. It offers BFA programs in Acting, Musical Theatre, Set/Scene design, Lighting Design, and Costume Design as well as a BA in General Theatre. The School also offers BA and BFA programs in dance that have been designed to develop the talents and creativity of each individual dance artist.

Among well-known alumni are Faye Dunaway, Buddy Ebsen, Darrell Hammond, Bob Vila, Lyndon Smith, and Nick Green.

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

The UGA Department of Theatre & Film and the Department of Dance offer BA and BFA degrees within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The Theater Department began in 1893 when UGA students formed what is now the Thalian-Blackfriars Dramatic Club, one of the oldest in the country. It’s now the official theatrical club of the University of Georgia with its own playhouse — the Seney-Stovall Memorial Theatre. A Film Studies major was added to the Department in 2006.

Notable actors include Kyle Chandler, Kim Basinger, Ryan Seacrest, Tituss Burgess, Josh Holloway, Wayne Knight, Jessica Stroup, and Sonny Shroyer.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance has an outstanding reputation in the performing arts. While pursuing a BFA in acting, students are trained for the physical and mental demands of theater by a faculty of working professionals that includes actors, directors, designers, and technicians. The School’s core curriculum consists of courses in acting, voice, dialect, movement, and stage combat. Students have many opportunities to perform for local, national and international audiences.

Well-known actors from UM include Selma Blair, Christine Lahti, Lucy Liu, James Earl Jones, Madonna, Darren Criss, David Alan Grier, Ann Davis, Margo Martindale, Gilda Radnor, and the playwright Arthur Miller.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

The high quality of UNC’s School of the Arts dance program is affirmed its alumni who have  gone on to perform with the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Martha Graham Ensemble.  Drama and dance students have many performance opportunities including senior showcases for industry professionals in New York and Los Angeles.

Notable actors include Mary-Louise Parker, Andy Griffith, John Forsythe, Louise Fletcher, George Grizzard, Jack Palance, Billy Crudup, and Sharon Lawrence.

 Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

 Wesleyan’s undergraduate theater program is one of the most widely known and highly regarded in the country. The School has an impressive faculty and accomplished visiting artists. Wesleyan’s program also provides an honors track for top performing students as well as two esteemed awards for individuals, the Rachel Henderson Theater Prize and the Outreach and Community Service Prize.

Among its notable alumni are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Bay, Kim Weyans, Beanie Feldstein, Patricia Wettig, Elisabeth Harnois, Dana Delany, Mike White, Bradley Whitford, and Joss Whedon.

Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC

Winthrop has the only comprehensive collegiate arts program in South Carolina that is nationally accredited in all of the visual and performance arts. The Department of Theatre and Dance fosters aesthetic, intellectual, and creative development in the performing arts within the context of a liberal arts education. Through course work, coaching, mentoring, and performing, students explore the social, historical, and technological aspects of theatre or dance. The Department mounts four stage productions (three in theatre, one in dance), two choreography showcases, and six studio productions each year. The Department also regularly hosts arts festivals, and students join faculty in travel to professional conferences.

Notable actors from Winthrop include Andie McDowell, Shanola Hampton, and Leigh Chapman.

Majoring in the Humanities Keeps Your Options Open

“Follow your passion!” has long been the advice given to high school students in choosing a career. It still is, but in many cases this advice is countered by pressure to do otherwise. This pressure comes from the power of the STEM* movement in American higher education. However, this blog post explains why a major in the humanities is a viable solution for high school students who can’t select a career with sufficient confidence that it’s the right choice.

The bias in favor of STEM education can detract from the integrity of your College List, which is comprised of the colleges to which you’ll apply in senior year. The College List, when properly developed, is an important contributor to the success of your college admissions campaign. In building the list, you’ll be advised to set your educational goals beforehand, including your future career, so that you can select a major that will enable you to pursue that career. Then, knowing your major, it’s assumed that you’ll be better able to identify those schools that fit you best — the ones that belong on your College List.

The College List Conundrum

This sequence — “career-to-major-to-colleges” — is a sound, pragmatic protocol — if you can follow it! But it isn’t feasible for many students. As a high school student, identifying with confidence which career is best for you is a daunting task. The lucky few already know what they want to pursue as a career, but most do not. In addition, the pandemic has caused the outlook for many careers to be clouded by economic uncertainty. A career that you might consider attractive now may be much less so in five or six years. And some of the hottest careers that will be open to you in 2025 don’t even exist yet.

Because there are advantages in identifying your career while in high school, you may be pushed to choose one before you’re ready, especially a STEM career, due their perceived practicality. Resist this pressure. There’s an alternative that you should consider if you’re unsure which career may ultimately suit you best.

The Emphasis on STEM Disciplines as Majors

In order to maintain America’s edge in the STEM fields, the focus in academia has shifted toward those disciplines. Due to the needs of America’s high-tech workforce, emphasis has been placed on graduating STEM majors who can satisfy the demand for entry-level professionals in those fields. This objective is worthy in and of itself, but there has been an unfortunate side effect.

The proliferation of STEM-centric curricula has driven some students, often against their desire and best interests, away from majoring in the humanities. Moreover, many colleges have reduced the number of traditional required courses in the humanities to allow for more courses in STEM subjects. College administrators are concerned that requirements in the humanities, to the extent that they displace STEM courses, diminish the future employability of graduates.

What Are the Humanities?

The humanities, as the term implies, is the study of the human condition from a number of
different perspectives. They are a subset of the traditional Liberal Arts, which, since classical times, has included the sciences, arts, and humanities. In the United States, the most common majors in the humanities are:

Table A: Majors in the Humanities:
Anthropology      Classical Languages      History
Geography      Grammar, Linguistics, and Languages      Theology     Literature      Law, Government, and Political Science      Philosophy
Writing – Prose and Poetry        Economics

The Role of the Humanities in American Education

Historically, American colleges were not founded to train students for a specialized career in one field. Rather, their mission was to expose students to a broad intellectual tradition. This was considered essential to create effective leaders for the community, commerce, and public and private institutions. This philosophy may seem impractical in a modern society as complex as ours, but it remains a sound design for a robust education because it benefits students regardless of what profession they enter.

The humanities teach two vital abilities that are missing from a purely STEM curriculum: communication and critical thinking. In the humanities, students learn to fully engage with the material, consider it from all angles, solve problems creatively without bias, express themselves well, adapt to new situations, and work collaboratively.

The Humanities and the U.S. Job Market

In today’s fast-changing environment, large organizations, even those whose primary business is STEM-related, aren’t looking for leadership candidates who know only one subject, however thoroughly they may know it. They’re seeking promising leaders who are innovative, creative, and possess an expansive mind-set, characteristics that are more closely associated with humanities graduates than STEM graduates. A study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of senior executives agreed that, “A demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate major.” The humanities hone the skills that large organizations seek in leaders.

Students and their families are often drawn to STEM fields for financial reasons under the assumption that salaries are higher. However, according to the New York Times, “The top 25 percent of history and English majors earn more than the average major in science and math during their careers, and the bottom 25 percent of business majors make less than the average of those majoring in government and public policy.”

College graduates must compete with their peers to secure their first job in their profession, an undertaking that has become increasingly difficult. A delay in obtaining a starting job is a concern for students who, like you, must anticipate which careers will even be viable several years from now. Fear of underemployment is justified.

As you grapple with this puzzle, bear in mind that the number of jobs that require skills developed in the humanities, especially interpersonal communications and the ability to solve complex, multi-dimensional problems, will be greater than the number of jobs that require highly specialized knowledge. A broad-based exposure to ideas will continue to be valued in new management-track hires.

In the future, the best and most plentiful jobs will go to those who can collaborate widely, think broadly, and challenge conventional wisdom — precisely the capacities that an education in the humanities develops. Don’t let yourself be discouraged from pursuing a major in the humanities if that’s what you truly love.

If you’d like help determining your college and career choices, contact me at [email protected]!

*STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and math.

COVID-19 Makes Difficult College Admissions Even Worse

 

This blog is about college admissions and the concerns of students in the admissions process, primarily rising seniors.  You need to understand how the pandemic affects you as an aspiring member of the college Class of 2025 — the students who will be freshmen in the fall of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened what was a slow-moving crisis. The 10% decline in college enrollment that Nathan Grawe, author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, predicted would happen between 2020 and 2030 is happening right now in 2020 as the pandemic continues to shock higher education in the U.S.

Lately, the media has focused on the plans of colleges for their re-opening in the fall. It appears that college operations will be variations of the following three basic options:

  1. All classes will be conducted online,
  2. Some classes will be conducted on campus and some online, and,
  3. All classes will be conducted on campus.

Option 1 is controversial because of the strong preference of students for campus life as a part of their college experience. Options 2 and 3 are controversial because they call for stringent policies to mitigate the spread of infection among students, faculty, employees, and their families. Criticisms center on the question, “Will even these policies be sufficient to prevent an outbreak?”

There’s wide variation in the policies of colleges concerning tuition, travel, PPE requirements, student access to the Internet, residential and dining hall operations, health facilities, Covid-19 testing protocols, quarantining, social distancing rules, and many other matters. This information is vital to a current student making the decision to re-enroll or not. Thus far, it appears that many will not, as evinced by the sharp rise in requests for gap years.

Let’s be optimistic and assume that a vaccine will be available in early 2021 and that everyone will have been vaccinated by mid-year. Colleges can then safely resume normal operations in the fall of 2021. But by then the admissions process will have undergone radical changes. Some of these changes will be permanent. You’d be wise to anticipate and accommodate them in your admissions strategy.

Major areas where permanent change is expected:

1. College Closings – Colleges occasionally fail, usually for financial reasons. A large number of colleges have been financially unstable since the Great Recession, so they were struggling before Covid-19 struck.

Experts such as Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma,  have predicted that from 25% to 50% of colleges will close in the next decade due to a combination of factors that include the pandemic, changing demographics, state disinvestment, and an increasing expense burden. You should investigate the ongoing viability of the colleges to which you plan to apply. Are they likely to be among the 75% that may survive?

2. SAT and ACT Exams – The exam organizations have been cancelling test dates since March. They’re having difficulty scheduling and keeping replacement dates due to the persistence of the virus. Both organizations have considered but rejected plans to conduct exams online. As a result, many more colleges have joined the ranks of test-optional schools, at least temporarily. The majority of colleges now don’t require SAT/ACT test scores for admission.

Given the controversy over the potential of the exams to discriminate against socio-economically disadvantaged students, it’s probable that most colleges will remain test-optional after the pandemic. It’s also likely that more colleges will adopt test-free policies, which means they won’t consider your test scores even if you submit them voluntarily. Depending upon your circumstances, this trend may have a great effect on your selection of colleges.

3. Visiting Campuses – It seems likely that on-campus tours for prospective students will not resume until after the deadline for applications has passed next winter. This is significant for those building a list of “best-fit” colleges. A campus visit has always been the best way to determine if a college is right for you. Many colleges have made it easier for you to become familiar with their campuses online. They have invested in innovative methodologies that combine virtual technology with communication tools to provide state-of-the-art virtual tours.

Some colleges who have been unable to re-architect their online tours now offer a simple but effective improvement. It involves a student guide on campus using a smartphone to be visually connected with you. He or she makes the usual tour stops and then shows you whatever you want to see that is of specific interest to you. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it can help you to assess colleges.

4. College Major and Career Choices – The choice of your “best-fit” colleges depends to a great extent on your choice of a major, which is based on what you see as the best career field for you. Since the pandemic has caused mass disruption to entire industries, resulting in job losses in many fields, there are likely to be fewer job opportunities in these fields when you graduate.

However, no one is sure which fields will be most affected long-term. Complicating matters is the fact that the economy appears headed for a recession of unknown duration. In a poor economy, many graduates experience problems in landing a first job in their chosen field.

In short, even if your course selections in high school were oriented toward a particular major, your plans for that major should be re-examined.

5. Fewer Scholarships Available – In the past, many partial scholarships were awarded by colleges after they had accepted an applicant for admission. These “tuition discounts” were offered as a recruiting tool to try to prevent you from enrolling at another school that had accepted you. Now, funding for this type of scholarship is declining as colleges seek to increase revenue to offset the losses suffered thus far due to the pandemic.

Many colleges have taken a huge hit to their endowments funds, the source of many of the needs-based scholarships awarded to students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, members of minority groups, or from rural areas. In addition, many wealthy individuals and foundations that fund private scholarships directly have pulled back from their regular sponsorships.

Summary

Getting into the colleges that fit you best is about to become even more difficult than it has been in the past. If the 10% enrollment decline that’s been forecast holds true and the number of colleges declines by somewhere between 25% to 50%, as forecasted, the competition for the freshman seats that remain can only intensify.

If you would like some help and advice in making your decisions, contact me at [email protected]  I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success!

 

 

Is your target college in danger of going bust?

If you’re a rising senior, you’re probably looking forward to your upcoming college years with great anticipation. You’ve worked hard for the credentials that will qualify you for admission to College just aheadthe schools that fit you best. College is the prize!

But what happens to your aspirations if you enroll at a college that closes its doors when you’re a freshman? You’d be forced to transfer to another college –  one that might not suit you as well. It’s possible that the new one might fail too, forcing a second transfer in pursuit of your Bachelor’s degree. You’d end up spending most of your precious college years gaining and then losing friends, mentors, coaches, jobs, and some credits too. Not to mention the loss to your peace of mind.

Colleges fail

This is not a far-fetched scenario. Colleges fail. In fact, a surprisingly large number of them have failed or been struggling in recent years, even before Covid-19 struck. Experts predict that about 20% of colleges will close in the next few years due to a combination of the pandemic, changing demographics, state disinvestment, and unaffordable tuition. If you’re going to college in 2021, you should find out if your targeted colleges are likely to be among the 80% that will survive.

Top-tier private colleges with multi-billion dollar endowments were given millions in Federal pandemic relief (with many, but not all, returning the money). However, the most at-risk colleges were excluded from the relief legislation. This neglect, added to the problems noted above, will take a heavy toll on the ones most likely to fold, which are small, private colleges with small endowments. Some of them have been operating at break-even or a small deficit for years. Even a slight decline in enrollment can be ruinous because they don’t have large endowments to cushion the blow. The pandemic will be their death knell.

A number of small private colleges have already closed or have announced a closing date in the near future. Here are a few examples:

• MacMurray College, IL
• Urbana University, OH
• Holy Family College, WI
• Pine Manor College, MA
• Nebraska Christian College, NE
• Robert Morris University, IL
• Concordia University, OR
• School of Architecture at Taliesin, WI
• Watkins College, TN
• Marlboro College, MA

Colleges tightening their belts

Many small colleges are adopting severe austerity measures in an effort to avoid closing. Even if they succeed in surviving, you’ll want to assess the likely impact of these measures on you as a student.

Public institutions, even some large ones like Rutgers and Michigan, are also feeling the pinch. States are compelled to cut their education budgets due to the statewide expenses and loss of tax revenue wrought by the pandemic. Public colleges have never fully recovered from heavy cuts to their budgets in the wake of the Great Recession. Add the current budget crisis on top of that and it’s inevitable that some state campuses will be closed.

Even large public and private universities that are expected to survive the pandemic will need to tighten their belts. You should stay informed because your target universities may discontinue the degree programs, majors, and courses in which you’re most interested. There’ll be reductions in faculty that will change the faculty-to-student ratio and impair mentorship programs that may be important to you.

How to research a college’s financial health

You’ll encounter two problems when you search for financial information upon which to base your decisions. First, a private non-profit college is not obligated to make financial statements available to the public. Second, the financial condition of all individual public colleges will be aggregated within the entire state university system, so you won’t be able to discern the financial outlook for a particular campus. Obviously, you won’t find even a hint of the possibility of a college closing on its website. Websites are marketing tools that try to recruit you, not discourage you.

The best way to obtain the information you need to assess a college is to enter the college’s name in a web search engine. If a college is experiencing difficulties, this will be reported in the local press because colleges are important to a community’s well-being.

The Common Data Set (CDS) is another a valuable resource. CDS is an intermediary used by colleges to provide institutional data to interested parties. It’s a collaborative effort between colleges and publishers who report on them, including Peterson’s, the Thomson Corporation, U.S. News & World Report, and the College Board. The purpose of CDS is to improve the accuracy of the information that’s released to interested parties, including you. To find the CDS data set for a particular college, enter “Common Data Set “Name-of-College” into a web search engine.

COVID-19 has come and it will go, but the uncertainty plaguing students at certain colleges across the country will remain. Try not to share their predicament. Use available resources to assess the financial stability of colleges before you apply.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

The admissions results for the Class of 2024 may be the final snapshot of a passing era. The deadline for applications was the end of January. Decisions were announced in late March. By April 1, most colleges had ceased operation due to the pandemic. Therefore, admissions to the Class of 2024 were not affected by the pandemic, but next year’s certainly will be.

Since decisions were released, the pandemic has frustrated those admittees who must choose from multiple acceptance offers. For those who have made their choice, the pandemic is interfering with all that normally precedes the fall semester.

Exactly what the fall semester will entail is unclear. Most college administrations are undecided, Columbia Universibut some have announced that students will be on campus in the fall with social distancing rules in place. Others have determined that they’ll only offer online classes in the fall. Many students will need to weigh the health risk of the full campus experience against the safety of virtual classrooms. Understandably, a higher than usual percentage of students are considering taking a gap year.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

They will be severely tested by the decline in revenue that the pandemic is causing. Many will be forced to reduce their budgets, which may mean cuts to faculty, curricula, majors, residential and campus amenities, sports, recreational and cultural programs, and other features of a college’s value to students. This portends significant changes to the historical patterns of college admissions.

One positive result of this unpredictability is that waitlisted students are much more likely to be admitted. Concern over potentially low yield rates has motivated even the most elite colleges to go deeper into their waitlists than in the past. If you’re waitlisted, don’t hesitate to call an admissions office for an update on your status.

Although there were a few anomalies in the 2020 results, most colleges, especially the most highly selective ones, continued their pre-pandemic trend towards more applications and lower admissions rates. Table A shows the rates for a sampling of highly selective and popular regional institutions compared to their rates in 2019. Following Table A are comments about a few of the colleges.

 Table A: Admission Rates for the Class of 2024 (Fall 2020)

 

Institution

Class of 2024

Admission Rate (%)

    Class of 2023

Admission Rate (%)

American University 38              35
Amherst College 12              11
Barnard College 11              11
Boston College 24              27
Boston University 19              18
Bowdoin College 8                9
Brown University 7                7
CalTech 6                6
Carleton College 20             19
Clemson University 47             47
Colby College 9             10
Columbia Int’l University 34             33
Columbia University 6               5
Cornell University 11             11
Dartmouth College 9               8
Duke University 8               7
Emory University 20            27
Emory (Oxford) 23            20
Fordham 46            44
Furman College 61            61
Georgia Tech 20            19
Georgetown University 15            14
George Washington 39            41
Harvard University 5              5
Johns Hopkins University 9              9
Lander University 43           43
Limestone College 14           14
Macalester College 37           31
Middlebury College 24           16
MIT 7             7
New York University 15          16
Northeastern 19          18
Northwestern University 9            9
Princeton University 6            6
Rice University 10            9
Swarthmore College 9            9
Tufts University 15         15
University of Chicago 6           6
University of Georgia 46         45
University of Florida 29         34
University of Notre Dame 17         16
University of Pennsylvania 8           7
Univ. Southern California 16         11
Univ. of South Carolina 63         63
University of Virginia 21         24
Vanderbilt University 9           8
Washington University 13          14
Wellesley College 19          20
Wesleyan University 20          16
Wofford College 64          66
Yale University 6.5            5

Middlebury College: The admissions rate at Middlebury retreated sharply from 16% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. No explanation has been provided by the school’s press office.

Emory University: Emory’s admissions rate tightened from 27% in 2019 to 21% this year.

Brown University: Brown’s results for the Early Decision cycle saw applications up to an all-time high of 4,562. Its ED admissions rate was the lowest in the school’s history at 18%. However, the Regular Decision rate rose from 2019, bringing the overall admissions rate more in line with past results at 7%.

University of Southern California: USC’s acceptance rate increased to 16% for the Class of 2024, up from 11% in 2019. The University received 6,000 fewer applications in 2020 than in 2019. This is the first year that prospective students applied to the University after the Varsity Blues scandal, and the results are considered a reflection of that fact.

Wesleyan University: Wesleyan accepted 2,351 students to the Class of 2024 out of 12,752 applicants. While the University has experienced an upward trend in applications in the past, the applicant pool was smaller than usual this year. As a result, the admissions rate eased from 16% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Williams College: Williams admitted more students than usual this year in anticipation of a less predictable yield. Over the last five years, the College has accepted an average of 1,197 students for a target class size of 550. This year, Williams admitted 1,250, making it one of the few colleges that anticipated the potential ramifications of the pandemic in its early stages.

I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success, let me be your guide as well! Email me at [email protected]

Why you should stick to an early decision agreement

If you’ve been accepted by a college through its Early Decision (ED) plan you may consider yourself fortunate, as you should.  You’ve applied to a school that’s at or near the top of your target list because the likelihood of acceptance for ED applicants is higher than the overall rate Early decisionfor the college. You’ve been admitted before most of your fellow students have even submitted applications. You can rest easier than your classmates and enjoy the rest of your senior year without the stress of admissions hanging over your head!

And yet, some students who have been accepted through an ED plan want to renege on their agreement later because events have transpired that cause them to regret their commitment. At that point they want to know if their ED agreement is binding and if they can disregard it without consequences.

Consider the Early Decision agreement you’ve signed

The answer isn’t simple. You, your guidance counselor, and your parents signed an agreement that stipulates that you understand that you’re committing to attend the institution if admitted. So, yes, it’s binding. But an ED agreement isn’t a contract that, if breached, can subject you to civil liability.

Consider the agreement that you’re asked to sign. A majority of the colleges that offer ED options do so under the Statement of Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), which guides the institutional treatment of students. Section II of the NACAC document, titled “The Responsible Practice of College Admission”, includes this definition:

Restrictive early application plansEarly Decision (ED): Students commit to a first choice college and, if admitted, agree to enroll and withdraw their other college applications. This is the only application plan where students are required to accept a college’s offer of admission and submit a deposit prior to May 1.”

When you submit an ED application, what you’re agreeing to do is clear. While pursuing admission under an ED plan, students may apply to other institutions under an Early Action (EA) plan, but they may submit only one ED application. If an ED applicant is not admitted but is deferred to the Regular Decisions (RD) cycle, they’re immediately released from the ED agreement and are free to accept any other colleges’ offer of admission.

There are changes in a student’s circumstances that will induce a college to release him or her from their ED commitment. Before we review these circumstances, you should understand what may happen if you  simply ignore an ED agreement after having been admitted.

What can happen if you ignore an Early Decision agreement

You may wonder why a college administration even cares if you break your ED agreement, given that many of them admit only a small percentage of applicants. They can readily fill your slot with another well-qualified applicant. Administrators care because they use ED as a tool to improve the quality of their freshmen classes and raise their yield rate. Yield rate is the percentage of applicants who are offered admission, accept it, and go on to attend the college. It is an important variable in a college’s planning, and colleges strive to keep it high. If applicants admitted under an ED plan can renege with impunity, the purpose of an ED plan is defeated and its value to the institution is nullified.

At the same time, colleges are reluctant to compel students to attend their school if they don’t want to be there. So the college whose ED acceptance you turn down isn’t going to come after you with bloodhounds and a posse. “In some ways, early decision is a gentleman’s agreement”, according to Dave Tobias, vice president of enrollment for Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.

Backing out of an Early Decision raises questions about the student’s ethics

Most importantly, when a student backs out of ED agreement without cause, it raises questions about the student’s ethics that could impact decisions elsewhere. Some guidance counselors and colleges take steps to discourage reneging on ED agreements. For example:

  • If an admissions office finds out that a student has applied to their institution and another via ED, they’ll contact the other school. The student risks being denied consideration by both schools.
  • A cooperative ED plan is operated by five Ivy League schools: Brown, Penn, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth. If an ED applicant is admitted to one of them, they must honor Early decisions at Ivy league schoolstheir agreement or be ineligible for admission to any of the others. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton share a similar plan.
  • Many guidance counselors place a hold on sending transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other admissions materials on behalf of students who have applied via ED until the decision is known. This step is taken because a guidance counselor’s credibility with admissions officials is at stake.
  • A group of 30 liberal arts colleges share lists of students admitted to each of them via ED so that the others don’t unwittingly admit them. They also share the names of students who were admitted via ED but were released from their commitments.
  • Admissions officials sometimes discover from a guidance counselor that a student has submitted two or more ED applications. Counselors will warn students ahead of time of the impropriety of submitting multiple ED applications and, if the student persists, will contact the affected colleges, both of which will terminate consideration of the applicant.

Legitimate reasons for backing out of an Early Decision

As noted above, there are a number of legitimate reasons why a college will release an applicant from an ED commitment without any negative repercussions. Below are a few common examples:

  • Necessary financial aid from the college didn’t develop as originally planned,
  • A parent or other family member has died or fallen ill and enrollment at a college is no longer feasible or desirable,
  • A family business or a parent’s career has suffered a setback, and,
  • The student has suffered a serious health issue.

An ED agreement is a serious undertaking, often among the first formal commitments you’ll make in your lifetime. You should make a good faith effort to stick to it.  Klaar College Consulting can help you understand the commitment you’re making. More importantly, i your decision will be part of a sound admissions strategy that we co-develop with you to help ensure  the success of your college admissions campaign.

 

Waitlisted? Here’s how to handle that

COVID-19 Update alert

This post was written in February, before COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, and schools and businesses across the country were shuttered.  Please read to the end of this post for updated advice regarding waitlists.

Waiting for something that you intensely want and then being disappointed, is an experience that people would prefer to avoid. So why would a student set himself or herself up for disappointment by accepting a college’s offer to be waitlisted knowing that the odds of being admitted are often slim? The reason is that they’ll recover faster from disappointment than from regret. You’ll never know if you would have been admitted at your dream school unless you wait.

The Rationale for Waitlists

Colleges wouldn’t maintain waitlists if they never had the occasion to use them. They use them because well-qualified students apply to multiple schools and are often admitted to several of them. If fewer students accept a college’s offer of admission than have in prior years, the college will need to rely on their waitlist. Since waitlisted students nearly made the initial cut for admission, a college can confidently admit a sufficient number of them to bring their freshman class up to the desired size.

Application Outcomes

Students aspiring to attend top colleges are advised to submit about 10 applications. This spreads the risk of rejection by one or more schools, especially those in the “reach” category. There are three possible outcomes for an application submitted in the Regular Admission cycle: rejection, acceptance, or an invitation to join the waitlist. The first outcome may hurt, but, in terms of follow-up action, it’s simple… do nothing. You’ll be aware of the second outcome when a thick envelope arrives in the mail, bringing cheer and jubilation with it.

The third outcome is the one that can cause anxiety… you’ve been offered a position on the waitlist. If this outcome is from one of several desirable colleges and one or more of the others have accepted you, it’s no big deal. But if this college was your first choice and you would still prefer to attend it above all others, you should follow your heart and join the waitlist even though getting admitted may be a long shot.

Odds of Admission

Last year, more than 600 institutions used a waitlist, including many selective and highly selective institutions. Nationally, about 150,000 students accepted a spot on one of the lists. Over a recent four-year period, colleges admitted about 33 percent of waitlisted students, according to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors.

They noted, however, that among those institutions with admission rates of less than 50 percent, the waitlist admission rate was only 17 percent. The 30 most highly selective institutions admitted an even lower percentage — an average of less than 10 percent of waitlisted students. Every year, a few colleges admit none of their waitlisted students, depending upon how strong their yield was that year (yield is the percentage of applicants who accept offers of admission and go on to attend that college).

Below is a list of well-known institutions that admit a low average percentage of students from their waitlists:

  • Michigan – 2%
  • Baylor – 3%
  • UC Davis – 1%
  • Vanderbilt – 5%
  • University of Virginia – 1%
  • UMass-Amherst – 2%college waitlists
  • Rensselaer – 3%
  • Carnegie-Mellon – 5%
  • UC San Diego – 2%
  • Cornell – 4%
  • Georgetown – 12%
  • MIT – 9%
  • Northwestern – 3%
  • Princeton – 5%

Among the institutions with the highest rates of waitlisted students admitted are:

  • Ohio State – 100%
  • Clemson – 99%
  • Penn State – 93%
  • Arkansas – 85%
  • UC Davis – 74%
  • UC Riverside – 74%
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County – 69%
  • Saint Louis University – 65%
  • University of San Diego – 64%

Waitlist Action Plan

If you elect to join a college’s waitlist, we advise you to be proactive. Below are steps that we recommend you take to boost your chances of admission from a waitlist.

1. Probability: Get a sense of your chances of admission. Contact the admissions office to find out if the college ranks waitlisted students. If so, most of them will let you know your rank. Next, research the yield rate for the college over the past few years. If they have been experiencing a lower than average yield rate this year and you have a high rank on the waitlist, your chances of admission improve. You can research the yearly waitlist outcomes of a college on the College Board website and the Common Data Set.

2.  Email: Write a brief email to the admission office soon after accepting waitlist status. The email shouldn’t reiterate the main points that you made in your application. You should briefly update the admissions office on recent significant academic and nonacademic achievements that occurred too late to be included on your application. Emphasize your continued strong desire to attend the college and make the case for why you’re a good fit. Tell them that you’ll enroll if they admit you.

3.  Grades: Don’t slack off academically. If you’re waitlisted, you may be re-assessed based on your third and fourth quarter senior year grades.

4.  Letter of Recommendation: Check to see if the college will accept another letter of recommendation. If so, consider asking a senior year teacher who can provide new positive information about you.

5.  Contact: Stay in touch with the admissions office. Don’t overdo it! They want to see that you’re genuinely interested in their institution, but they don’t want to be pestered. Occasional, well-chosen contacts are acceptable.

After you’ve accepted a spot on a waitlist, the best thing you can do is to carefully consider the colleges that have admitted you. If you would be happy attending one of them, send in your deposit by the deadline and plan to attend that college in the fall. If you’re later admitted to your dream college from their waitlist, confer with your guidance counselor or independent educational consultant to consider your options.

UPDATE ALERT

Waitlists in the time of Covid-19:

In these uncertain times, it’s vital to make decisions based on what is in hand rather than hoping for what may never happen. Therefore, if you have been accepted to some of the colleges to whom you applied and would be happy at any of them, decline the waitlist and go with one of these colleges.

Pick the one that is most attractive to you socially, emotionally, and financially.  Send in your deposit and then tell the other colleges who have accepted you that you decline their invitation. This will release these spots for students who may not have been as fortunate as you to have received an acceptance from anyone.

Make Your College Visits Count!

There’s no substitute for being there.  Well-planned college visits will reveal more useful information than its website, course catalog, statistical profile, and magazine rankings all put together.

College Visits Before and After 

There are two stages in your college admissions campaign when you should do your college visits. The first  is when you create  your college list — the schools to which you’ll apply in senior year. Ideally, your visits should begin in your junior year and continue until fall of your senior year,College just ahead when you need to prepare your applications. It’s this Before stage that we’ll focus on in this post.

The After stage comes late in senior year. It’s brief but important, if you’ve been accepted to more than one school and are unsure which school to choose. Try to re-visit the contending colleges before May 1 to make a final comparison and decision. Stay overnight if possible.

Planning for Before Visits

Successful college visits require careful planning, so we recommend that you use the same criteria in comparing colleges.

First,  do your homework and research each college that interests you. Review the school’s website, especially the course catalogue and, within it, the requirements for the majors that you’re considering. Second, although magazine rankings can’t assess the qualitative factors that matter most to you in selecting a college, they compare peer institutions in quantifiable terms. That may come in handy as a quick reference source for such metrics. In addition, search the

web for recent articles in the news media about colleges of interest.

In addition to enabling you to add or delete schools from your College List, the knowledge that you gain in this process will make a positive impression on admissions officers in college interviews.  They’ll know that you’re genuinely interested in their school.

What to do During Your Visits

Make the time that you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. Take notes and photos because you’ll usually be touring several colleges in one trip and they’ll tend to blur together. You’ll need to make arrangements for the activities below in advance.

1. Schedule an Interview: Your first task is to schedule an interview with the admissions office. This requires the most lead-time, so make the interview appointment well in advance.

2. Go on the Guided Tour: A student-led tour of the campus is a great way to begin a college visit. Schedule it with the admissions office and let them know if others will be accompanying you. Campus tours usually involve an Information session led by an administrator or faculty member after the tour.

3. Assess the Classroom Environment: During the school year, sit in on a class (with permission of the admissions office) that you would be taking as a freshman. Even in summer, there’s likely to be classes that you can attend to get a feel for the classroom environment.

4. Experience Campus Life: Nothing you do will tell you more about a college than staying in a dormitory and eating in a dining hall. If you have a choice, stay with sophomores. They know more than the current freshmen do about the school and they’re not yet as jaded as upperclassmen. If the admissions office won’t arrange a stay for you, try to make arrangements yourself if you know students at the school.

5. Learn More About Your Major: If you can do so through the admissions office, schedule meetings with a faculty member and a student in your probable major. You can use the meetings to ask questions about the curriculum and any special programs within the major.

6. View College Activities: For those students with sufficient time on campus, try to attend a campus event such as a student concert, stage performance, or sporting event to get a sense of the community.

7. Follow Your Interests: Seek permission to take your own tour of facilities that are of particular interest to you, such as concert halls, athletic facilities, science labs, art studios, and rehearsal spaces.

Also keep in mind if you visit a campus in summer when the weather is pleasant, it may be much different in winter. Consider whether the campus will appeal to you under winter conditions.

At Klaar College Consulting, we get to know you very well so that we can integrate your interests, talents, experiences, skills, preferences, and goals into your profile. This affects the advice we give you throughout your college admissions campaign, including your college road trips.

The College List is an indispensable tool for success in college admissions. This is the set of target colleges that are exceptionally well suited to you as an individual and to which you’ll apply in senior year.

A key consideration in developing your College List is the number of schools that should be on the final version. While there is no “right” number, we advise that the majority of students should apply to nine colleges. Less than nine doesn’t spread your risk sufficiently and more than nine risks dissipating your effort. If application fees are an issue, many colleges allow you to apply without paying a fee.

Set the Requirements for Your List

The first step in building your College List is to establish the criteria against which you’ll compare colleges. You choose and prioritize your own criteria to suit yourself. They may include such factors as the size of the student body, faculty-to-student ratio, affordability, core curriculum, academic reputation, majors, degrees granted, geographic location, local community, campus setting, campus amenities, social life, work-study programs, ROTC options, college abroad opportunities, and mentorship programs.

Most students weigh affordability and academic reputation most heavily.

Next, assess how well colleges match your criteria. Start with a list of all of the colleges that interest you. Assuming this is a long list, you’ll need to reduce it to a more manageable size through research. With a list of about 15 schools, you can discuss their pros and cons with guidance counselors, admissions consultants, family, friends, and students and alumni of the colleges.

Among the resources available for your research are college websites and course catalogs, shared databases like the Common Data Set (CDS), magazine rankings and the databases that support them, college guidebooks such as the Fiske Guide and Peterson’s, governmental resources like the College Scoreboard, high school guidance resources like Naviance Scatter Diagrams, and certified independent educational consultants like Klaar College Consulting.

The best way to assess the colleges still on the list is to visit them. Take campus tours, set up college visitsadmissions interviews, and meet with students and faculty in your major. Staying overnight in a dorm and interacting informally with students will yield more useful information than any other research. The positive or negative vibes you get may be strong enough for you to reexamine your entire list.

Create Three Tiers of Target Schools

 A common approach to developing a College List is to divide it into these three tiers: 1.) Colleges to which you will almost certainly be admitted, 2.) Colleges to which you will probably be admitted, and 3.) Colleges that you aspire to attend but where you have a slim chance of admission.

At Klaar College Consulting, we refer to the three tiers as Likely, Target, and Reach. They’re distinguished by their academic requirements for admission. You’ll measure your GPA, test scores, and other variables such as class rank against the comparative data for colleges; the academic records of applicants who were accepted last year.

This data is available from a range of sources, but most readily from the Common Data Set, CDS, for each college. The CDS provides substantial detail and breaks down all admissions-related data elements such as freshmen GPA and test scores into percentiles so you can see where your record would place you among previously successful applicants.

Here’s an overview of the tiers:

Likely

A Likely school is one where your academic record falls comfortably above the average GPA and test scores of the last class admitted. You should feel confident that you’ll be admitted to your three Likely schools. You should select Likely schools that you’d be happy to attend if your Target and Reach schools don’t admit you, or you decide not to attend any that do.

Target

 A Target school is one where your academic record falls at about the average level of last year’s freshmen. It’s reasonable to anticipate admission to your three Target schools. However, there’s an immeasurable risk inherent in the variability of the volume and quality of applications from year to year.

Reach

Your three Reach schools are ones that you aspire to attend and where you have at least a students thinking about collegepossibility of admission. Your academic record places you at the lower end of the average of last year’s successful applicants, but not so low as to eliminate you from consideration.

As is true in all three tiers, but especially with Reach schools, your chances of acceptance are much improved if you possess a strong non-academic hook, that is, a highly developed talent or skill that enables you to satisfy an existing need that has been identified by a college. In addition, the degree to which you demonstrate interest in attending the college is also important. Essays, extracurricular activities, and interviews are three additional non-academic ways to distinguish yourself.

Early Application Programs:  Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action and Single-Choice Early Action

The process of identifying the colleges that best fit you, and narrowing them down to three in each tier, is difficult and time-consuming. Adding to the complexity is the need to consider Early Admission programs.

Early Application programs vary widely in their terms and options. Your chance of acceptance by certain colleges is improved significantly if you participate in their Early program. If you choose to apply early to colleges, you’ll know if you were accepted before the deadline for submitting applications for the Regular Decision cycle. Obviously, you won’t need to submit any more applications if you choose to accept a binding Early Decision offer. In case your dream doesn’t come true, you should have all the other applications ready to submit when the bad news comes.

Summary

The arduous College List process is well worth the effort if it helps you to achieve the desired outcome — acceptance at one or more of your best-fit colleges. Klaar College Consulting has years of experience in assisting students in building effective College Lists. We stay well informed by following college news, attending professional association events, and interacting with fellow experts. We also attend college fairs, visit campuses, and speak with college administrators. Klaar College Consulting is your top choice for guidance in building a College List that suits your personal set of qualifications, needs, and preferences.

Choose Your Career Before You Choose Your College?

College is a way to prepare for the rest of your life. As a high school student beginning to consider colleges, you’ll be asked, “What do you want to major in? What career are you interested in?” These questions put the cart before the horse. It’s best to know what career you wish to pursue before you start applying to colleges. So, a better question is the one you were asked in kindergarten; “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

There’s one problem — choosing a career is a daunting exercise when you’re in high school. It’s difficult for you to know what type of work would satisfy you and suit your talents. Your knowledge of careers is limited. So we don’t advise that you march off on a career path unless you’re reasonably sure you’re headed in the right direction. However, since your education and career will benefit from it, we advise that you take certain steps now to help determine which career is right for you.

Personality and Aptitude Assessments

One way to begin to answer this question is through career assessments. Introduced in 1944, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the original personality test with career guidance ramifications. The MBTI is a subjective, introspective self-assessment that’s based on differences in the cognitive responses of individuals to the world. As a respondent, you’re classed into  one of 16 personality types. Your results indicate which career fields generate the most satisfaction for your type. The MBTI’s main problem is that it doesn’t consider your aptitude for a given career.

Using an aptitudes assessment tool will supplement the findings of the MBTI. There are valid, reliable assessments for teens online that focus on your skills and talents rather than your personality. They’re useful in your search and take no more than 30 minutes to complete. The results indicate which careers best suit your aptitudes. There are two caveats; the assessments are self-reporting and therefore subjective, and many questions relate to preferences in the work environment for which you have a limited frame of reference.

We advise that you avoid taking a list of careers generated by an assessment too literally. Consider it a starting point for insight and self-reflection. Remember, a career assessment isn’t a shortcut; it’s a tool. It’s up to you to use it wisely.

Steps in Your Process of Self-Discovery

To build on what you learned through assessments, we recommend that you work through the questions below to help clarify the careers for which you’re best suited.

1. What interests me?

The activities that you enjoy can give you insight into the careers that would be most satisfying and fulfilling to you. Take the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) to assist in identifying and prioritizing your interests.

2.  What are my aptitudes and talents?

You possess skills that may be undeveloped as yet but that can lead to success in a particular career. Identify them through self-assessment exercises and conversations with the people who know you best.

3. What type of personality do I have?

Your personality is the way you think, feel, and act. Take the MBTI and other assessments to clarify your understanding of your personality.

4. What do I value most?

You have values that are important to you. Listing your high-priority values can help you to decide what type of career fits you best.

5. What education or training will I need?

Certain careers require advanced degrees and higher investments. For example, you need 12 years of education and training to be a doctor, but you could earn a degree and enter the accounting field after two or four years. Weigh the time and expense required to pursue a career.

6. Will there be plenty of jobs in this career when I graduate?

There are websites that predict demand for jobs. You should review them. However, don’t expect them to hold up too well over time. By the time you graduate, the job market will be considerably different than it is now. Some of the hottest jobs today didn’t exist ten years ago. Ten years from now demand for even these jobs may be waning.

7.  What level of compensation am I seeking?

Different careers provide different monetary rewards. Even though compensation shouldn’t be your primary concern, a high pay scale offers more options to a person than a low one. Evaluate the earnings potential of each possible career.

8. Is this career my idea?

Don’t let the expectations of others affect your choice of a career. You should make this decision for yourself.

If you feel an affinity for a certain career, seek out an internship or job-shadowing opportunity in that field. Being in the thick of it is the best way to assess if a type of work is right for you. If you decide to pursue that career, an internship will assist in admission to colleges because it demonstrates related work experience and enthusiasm for your intended field of study.

Remember that the purpose of your career selection process is to determine the field that’s best for you. If you can make this determination, you can select the college major that best suits your career plan. Then you can apply to colleges at which this major is emphasized.

Charlotte Klaar, PhD, is a Certified Educational Planner who has led hundreds of students to college and career success in the past 25 years. Charlotte understands the Holland Self-Directed Search and is certified to administer and interpret the MBTI and SII assessments. These tools have guided countless high school students in their search for the right career paths.