If I could give just 3 pieces of advice.....

<p>to someone new to this whole process, I would choose:</p>

<p>1) Understand what "need blind" means. It DOES NOT mean what "blind" means in a science experiment (as in "double blind" - when the scientist does not know who is getting the drug and who is getting the placebo). The adcoms know precisely who has need and who does not. Rather, it simply means they are not supposed to CONSIDER need. (Financial aid corollary: EFC is NOT a guarantee of anything - the max you have to pay, the max you'll get, whatever).</p>

<p>2) Understand that a specific, objective standard for admission to elite schools does NOT exist. It is so sad to hear students and their parents endlessly repeat: "But I (or S or D) had a higher rank/GPA/SAT scores than so-and-so, but so-and-so got in!" (Corollary: "So-and-so took MY SPOT!"). No matter how much I repeat it (I was an ivy interviewer who still does counseling), I cannot seem to get through people's heads that (as I always say), selecting a class is selecting a community, NOT holding people up to a grid of numbers. I cannot stress this one point strongly enough, but I guarantee that when the acceptances come in, people will fall right back into this. (Another corollary: being a Valedictorian or having a 1600 also does not guarantee admission - and again, no one "took your spot!").</p>

<p>3) I'd like to repeat # 2 again, but for #3 I think I'd say, read "The Gatekeepers" or a similar book for some invaluable behind-the-scenes info.</p>

<p>I know there are parents out there who also interview and counsel and probably have more advice....</p>

<p>I'd just add to #1 (tongue-in-cheek) that they are not supposed to consider your need, but they are going to consider your lack of it.</p>

<p>Voronwe, Thanks for your thoughtful post. As a corollary to #1, I'd say that students and parents can develop a financial aid strategy based on their circumstances, including the student's credentials and the parents' financial situation. Such a strategy requires some research and knowledge and these forums provide an excellent source of that knowledge. I'd also say that while considering #1, 2 and 3, don't lose sight of the fact that "getting in" is not the goal or the end of the road. I'm talking about "fit" of course. The parents' idea of a good fit may not be the student's idea. Somehow, both parties have to find a way to balance those views.</p>

<p>Mini - I agree, and not tongue in cheek!!!</p>

<p>CLDad - agree with you too:</p>

<h1>4 Consider your financial strategy ahead of time and talk to your kids (or parents). It is so sad to read the kids' board when there is a post about some student who just discovered that there is no money for their dream school.</h1>

<h1>5 GETTING IN to one's perceived "dream school"is not the be-all and end-all of existence. Fit matters, cost matters, whether you can handle the work once you get there matters, and other things too!</h1>

<p>And I would add</p>

<h1>6 Not everyone will believe me, but your life is not over if you do not get into an Ivy school. You can be astonishingly happy, astoundingly successful, amazingly effective and much more even if (gasp!) you go to a little known school! I know people making well over $300,000 a year who didn't go to Ivies --- and surprise! I even know people who DID go to an Ivy who are miserable wretches and making very little money! I will not deny the pluses - the great contacts etc - but I WILL deny the perceived "necessary connection" between success/happiness and a "name school."</h1>

<p>I keep thinking that CC should post a set of "norms". I'm shocked by the number of posts, by kids and parents, that want to know if schools will overlook__<strong><em>(their low GPA, scores....) because</em></strong>____(best friend had brain tumor, kid just is too bored with homework, he's a late bloomer......), I'm going through my third application process in 4 years. Each of my kids went to different high schools. They all keep great records. Princeton, Harvard and other top schools did not overlook anyone's low SAT score!! They did not recognize the brilliance of the kids at the bottom!! Parents need to help their kids get real because I worry about the devestation in these homes when reality hits.</p>

<p>1) Have your child decide on a very 'general' career course, hopefully based on aptitude. If the aptitude is specific, have a back-up career plan as well.</p>

<p>2) Get the Princeton Review 357 Best Colleges book & begin the narrowing down process, starting with maybe 50 schools, then down to 25, then 10, then start visiting & finally get it down to 5-6 to finally apply to. Make absolute sure there are 1-2 safeties in there, and I mean colleges that child would be admitted to AND that parents can afford without any merit or need-based aid.</p>

<p>3) --and this is where we're at right now--make sure you and child have a good working relationship with the high school guidance counselor. They can be invaluable in keeping the process going with apps, letters of rec's, transcripts, dealing with the registrar & deadlines. Do NOT leave it solely up to the child--it's too big for them to handle on their own, much as we'd like to think our children are perfect and can sail through whatever is hurled at them.</p>

<p>To add to jnm123: if you do not think your hs guidance counselor is adequate, step in and help; to reiterate what s/he said: "it's too big for them to handle on their own". supporting them in the process is not over-parenting, though I guess I'm preaching to the choir with that.:)</p>



<p>I disagree so strenuously with this that I would probably list it as the #1 thing NOT to do.</p>

<p>Except in rare cases, I believe that selecting a college based on career path "choices" made by a 17-year old high school student is a big, big mistake. I am continually amazed by the number of kids/parents here who put so much emphasis on the perceived strength of a particular department rather than the totality of the college.</p>

<p>Obviously, there are exceptions -- mostly for students that have an advanced interest/talent in a somewhat specific area. For example, if someone is a concert-level pianist, then you obviously have to research the music offerings a school. The same is true for engineering, since not all colleges offer an engineering program.</p>

<p>However, the vast majority of kids would be best served by looking at the BIG PICTURE, not the minutia of a particular department. Who the heck knows what they will end up majoring after they give themselves the opportunity to sample a range of subjects at the college level?</p>

<p>OKay, though I was concurring with the poster before about the cousnelor thing, I ABSOLUTElY agree with Interesteddad about the career thing. My college grad daughter still hasn't decided what she wants to "be", but y'know? That's okay. She has a great education from a wonderful school, and that can not be taken from her. when she chooses a specific path, it will be there for her to draw on. She's working at a job she likes well enough, so I can't ask for anything more.</p>

<p>I guess my major message would be that for any single student (with rare exceptions based on oddball interests like Greek numismatics, or Moravian trombone playing) there are usually at least two dozen colleges at which she would likely be happy - challenged, find friends, learn to write well, enjoy the experience. And that with the exception of a very small number of folks in an even smaller number of professions, where one goes to college is likely to matter a lot less than how well one does once there - well, not always defined as by grades, but also in the development of strong, lifelong passions and goals. And that, for some, a good stand of trees and a view of the mountains (or the New York nightlife!) might be worth more than that renowned professor of Old Norse.</p>

<p>(I'd probably add that if your dream school turns into a nightmare, you're allowed to transfer, too! LOL!)</p>

<p>(I'm 54, and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, though I'm leaning toward pixie.)</p>

<p>Re the career thing: I changed my major on the first day of college.</p>

<p>I also agree wholeheartedly with Interesteddad about NOT focusing at age 17 on what your career path is going to be.....I know that in European countries and also in Latin America (and the UK? not sure?) students are expected to choose a path and go to specific universities based on that choice....Here in the U.S. we do things quite differently......thank goodness!......These are the years to "try on different hats".....Trial and error is often how students figure out what they want to end up doing in the long run......</p>

<p>I have only one piece of advice and I posted it last year but it bears repeating for the newbies..
Love the kid you have, not the one you wish you had.</p>

<p>It's easy to be proud of the varsity athlete who "relaxes" by composing for the viola, the kid who worked in a medical lab finding a cure for Parkinson's, the kid who taught himself German and Japanese for fun last summer.</p>

<p>The rest of us are stuck w/the kid on the sofa whose teacher's always talk about how much potential he'd have if only.... The kid who mopped floors at a fast food restaurant last summer because she missed the deadline for applying for a neat internship ('cause she was helping a friend with a boy problem and skipped her appoinment with the guidance counselor), and the kid who should be an all A student except he hates busywork so refuses to do half his homework.</p>

<p>Hard as it is... this is the kid you need to parent right now. I often practiced my adoring gaze pretending my kid was thanking me at the Nobel prize ceremony "I'd like to thank my mom who reminded me to take a pencil to the SAT's since I had completely forgotten to prepare or study, let alone pack a pencil and calculator and photo id". My other son would thank me at the Oscar's "and to Mom, who never gave up on me even when the principal wouldn't let me march in graduation since I'd skipped gym for two years and owed $200 in lost physics textbooks-- both the original and the replacement" .</p>

<p>For the parents of the Uberkids (and you know who you are)-- all the other advice is great. For the parents of the rest of the planet-- this is crunch time. Don't let your aggravation at wondering what might have been "if only he'd taken the SAT again; if only her Spanish teacher hadn't hated her attitude, if only he had an EC other than watching reruns of the Simpsons and Law and Order...." prevent you from being there for the kid on the sofa. Love your kid for what's in front of you and try to guide him/her through this next stage as best you can.</p>

<p>So isn't the point to get him off the sofa before he misses the next boat?</p>

<p>Bravo Blossom - you gave the best advice possible. As a parent of both uberkids AND that very special other kind, I would even add that the advice holds for uberkids too - for they too will not always be "perfect" and they need to know they are loved and valued no matter what. Of course we know that - but you would be surprised how much they internalize about the perceived need to always be on top.....</p>

<p>3 pieces of advice:
1. Don't listen to PPC's (parents of perfect children). These are the same people who made you feel bad when your flawed,but wonderful, kid was in 7th grade because you were up with said child all night before the canopic jar was handed in for the Egyptian tomb....The PPC are the parents who said "Oh, they had to make a canopic jar..I never know what DD's homework is because she always does it all perfectly herself 2 weeks before it is due." PPC's and their children have yet to learn a big lesson in life- entropy rules.
2. Do listen very carefully to your child. Make them scour reliable, basic information from Fiske, etc...and try to encourage them to see where they want to be in a year, in 4 years and then listen.
3. Get a check on your own ego well before the process begins. Remember, you are not the one taking the SAT's, getting the GPA, etc.</p>

<p>My advice is to not buy into the idea that having less than a high income keeps you out of school. If you are an excellent student, you'll have a spot you can afford. You need to do some work to find where it is, and it may not be what you'd like to afford, but the admissions committees at the very best schools will not hold your low income against you. It will actually help you in admissions.</p>

<p>My number-one piece of advice would be to not get freaked out by the high list price of many schools. I have found, by applying for financial aid (= discounts from list price) for distance learning and summer programs for my son, that many learners can get MUCH better deals than list price for educational services. Always inquire about what a school's offer is for YOUR family before crossing it off your list of affordable schools. </p>

<p>Closely related to this is my number-two piece of advice: there IS a quality difference, and unquestionably a reputation difference, among different schools. That's not to say that everyone needs to pile into the "top" school in the country (indeed, there is disagreement about which school that is), but everyone needs to make sure to not treat all colleges as equal when assessing their affordability. Colleges are unequal in the quality of their faculty, the quality of the students they enroll, the size and depth of their libraries, their perceived selectiveness, the diligence of their academic counseling and placement offices, and in many other characteristics that may or may not matter to your child. Adjust your estimate of what the college costs by what it has to offer. International travel has taught me that the colleges with the truly "top" reputations are a job-market advantage all over the world, and that has economic value that might justify a higher price, depending on what job a learner seeks. Intellectual companionship with learners who are truly curious--rather than merely trying to get a credential for a job--is also important for some learners, and some colleges offer much more of that than others. </p>

<p>Third piece of advice: don't size up these issues based on your own experiences in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. There has been a tremendous "flight to quality" in the college admissions market since then (as this Web site amply demonstrates) and the job market and scholarly community are both much more international than they were when, say, China and India were still mostly closed off from international trade and immigration. I know people locally who say, "I went to [obscure school] and I think I did just fine," and indeed the people who say this at least had the expediency to choose occupations that were high-paying at the time, and that mean they have never known want. Precisely because I have observed the competition for good-for-society-in-the-abstract jobs that DON'T pay well, but that fit some people's passions, I am rather more concerned that my children (and, by broadening of concern, yours) go to schools, whatever those schools are, that are acknowledged to be of high quality in all the circles a learner might move into after graduating, wherever in the world the learner goes.</p>

<p>Sorry to have offended you Robrym. I had quite a struggle with one of my sons. All through middle school he was not anxious to work up to his potential in any way. We struggled, got a lot of help, got him to where he could learn in an environment condusive to his needs. And yes, I'm proud that he's now at Princeton. Sometimes a kids just needs a kick in the butt and some adjustments. I'm not sure positive parenting always means accepting the status quo. We Europeans aren't afraid to acknowledge this but I know it seems anti American to some.</p>

<p>My three, this week and in no particular order.</p>

<p>There is no "one" perfect school for your child.</p>

<p>Tell your child about the financial considerations at the earliest possible moment in the search to avoid disappointment.</p>

<p>Using whatever quantifiable criteria you have about your child and the colleges, identify a range of colleges using the tools available. Within that found range let your child use fit, feel, and personality to select individual schools.</p>

<p>That's all I have so far. I'm kind of slow on the uptake. I'm new to the site but started thinking about this when d started keeping a college folder in the eighth grade. Unfortunately I spent the first three years wandering lost in the sea of random information that is out there about specific schools. It was much like searching for information in a non-alphabetized encyclopedia. Or a dog chasing his tail. You choose.</p>