Inner workings of the Prep School College Advising Office

Comparing notes on suggested colleges from Prep Schoo/Boarding School advisors. Does it seem like there are similarities. Target colleges are trendy towards The South, Midwest and West. Many disappointed kids from boarding schools when they get “the list”. Any insights?

I don’t understand the question.

We got “the list” but it wasn’t focused on the South, Midwest or West. Are you referring to a published list? Or the one from your CG?

Two observations:

  1. It seems as though, in comparison to a decade ago, more NE prep school kids are applying to schools down South or on the West Coast.

  2. Some advisors seem to have a pre-made list - based upon assumptions not on GPA/test scores/ECs

DS’s CC did not give him a list…at all. In fact, the kids were to come up with their own list with justifications as to why that was their list. The CC’s then made their suggestions- not only as to the strength/sense of the list, but also schools that were similar to what the student was looking for, schools that have been successful for placement in the past , etc etc.
DS added a few schools based on suggestions by the CC, ignored some due to location, and removed some of his originals based on frank input by the CC.
Someone well-versed in colleges and their offerings would look at his list and know exactly what his must-haves are.
BTW, although he was told some Ivy’s would be targets, DS dismissed them because it wasn’t what he was looking for. His CC readily respected that decision.
Overall, we’ve been VERY pleased with the counseling program at SMS.


Similar experience to @buuzn03 .

Don’t discount the South/West though! (Says the parent with kids who went/are going to schools in Texas, Georgia and Virginia :slight_smile:
) Some schools are/were making a big push for prep school kids as a way to raise their national profile.


Now that you brought it up @Golfgr8, there was one school on the list which was in the deep South that I thought was a little off the radar.
I wonder if it’s based on some form of pre-packaged lists. And, 2.)spreading things out so that every kid doesn’t apply to UChicago( which is apparently really popular right now with Prep school kids).
I’ve often wondered what happens when too many kids from the same school want to apply to the same college.

Our experience is very similar to buuzno3. Two different prep schools but both had the kid come up with the list, spent time with the kid and made a few additional suggestions, but overall left it up to the kid. Their biggest concern was that there was a variety of schools on the list (reach, likely, possible).

The only lists shared were lists of where kids from the school have been accepted and/or matriculated.

Are you willing to share the Southern school that impressed you as being off the radar ?

@Golfgr8 : Are you willing to share the names of the suggested colleges in the South, Midwest, & West ? Thank you in advance.


No BS can prevent any student from applying to any particular college but, because the GCs are intimately familiar with the applicant pool from their school as well as the typical number of offers from each university each year (no hard quotas but general ranges that persist year after year), they will cull the herd by:

  • Encouraging and supporting the strongest, most competitive applicants
  • Suggesting alternate schools that are similar in the areas important to less competitive applicants
  • Discouraging applicants who don’t have a snowball’s chance* from wasting an application

I’ve posted ChoatieKid’s experience many times over the years, but it was similar to @buuzn03’s. After Army and Navy, ChoatieKid was interested in strong engineering programs, and he was stat-competitive for any of them. His GC told him he didn’t have a shot at the three or four offers that would come from MIT because she knew his competition, but CMU, Michigan, UIUC, and Georgia Tech were all reasonably in his wheelhouse and she would fully advocate for him at each. If he wanted to apply to MIT, he could, but he would not get the same support, so the application would be a waste.

From the BS point of view, it is not in their interest to encourage useless applications that would dilute the credibility their college relationships are built upon. Proper gating is very much what colleges expect from the boarding schools and, to that end, the back-and-forth between them is designed to let the boarding schools know what they are looking for in any particular year and approximately how many offers they have for that school’s bucket. It’s then up to the BS to advocate for those best matches. There’s no horse trading, but it’s a highly curated process, especially with the most highly-desired colleges.

*At BS, not having a snowball’s chance is more due to the strength of the senior BS pool than any glaring weakness in a particular student. A high percentage of most BS classes is Ivy qualified but, among those both qualified and interested in applying to those schools, there are not enough seats to accommodate. GCs should be very frank with each applicant about what their chances are, set expectations accordingly, and help each hone a list primed to achieve the best results for that particular student. I have not heard of pre-determined lists, though. What would be the point of that?


In general - from several students, college consultants, GCs, and parents we have spoken with at a few schools - here are some of the Southern schools that are popular now for boarding school kids. Some are old standbys, others have gained popularity (per report). Obviously, these schools comprise a VERY diverse list in terms of competitiveness and admission rates. Just listing. Feel free to add your two-cents about the schools or how popular the colleges have become with your prep school.

(LOL) BTW @Publisher no list yet for kiddo, as we are waiting for golf school and the handicap to go down :sunglasses: as usual.

  • UVA
  • Rice (big reach school)
  • Wake Forest
  • Emory
  • Auburn
  • UNC
  • Davidson
  • Elon
  • Rollins
  • Franklin & Marshall
  • Washington & Lee
  • Clemson
  • Tulane
  • SMU
  • Embry-Riddle
  • College of Charleston
  • University of The South
  • University of Richmond
  • SCAD
  • Hampden - Sydney College

Tulane and SMU were the big prep school safeties when my oldest graduated in 2013. (And – he went to SMU!).

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Surprised Duke and Vanderbilt don’t make the list.

Yore correct.they were on the list but were cut off when sent…also William & Mary.

Editing mistakes - sorry - Yore must be Southern for “You are” :smiley:

Thanks @ChoatieMom. That makes sense. Honestly, kids these days seem to have a wide range of schools they are interested in. I can’t see an entire class applying to the same old schools. But maybe, I am underestimating families. I know some families can’t relinquish the Ivy league dream for their kids.

I haven’t heard of pre-determined lists either. But maybe I misinterpreted @Golfgr8. I read her post as their GC having a pre-determined list.

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Rice and SMU were on DSs list. But that’s because he wanted to come back to Texas and major in engineering. UT and A&M are not, though. That’s because he wanted a cap of 7500 students. The only school suggested to him was Tulane- it didn’t make his cut.

Edit: the only school you listed that was suggested to him was Tulane. He had many Midwest and California schools suggested to him, also. The pre-gabbed list I don’t understand. But, the suggestions to different parts of the country are great, IMO. There are quality schools outside of the upper east coast that may be a better fit for a lot of kids.


I read her post as it being a predetermined list, also, so maybe I’m wrong, too.

Both my kids had to come up with a list on their own, but the GC offered additional suggestions based on their scores/grades/strengths and interests - schools which they wouldn’t have considered or known about.

I wouldn’t consider F&M a “southern” school at all (and not just because it is north of the Mason Dixon).

CofC, Tulane and Clemson were/are especially popular with '20 and ‘21, from what I’ve been reading and from where friends’ kids went or were accepted.