That was nuts and I don't see how it doesn't damage the kids

Your comments suggest that I favor holistic admissions because it will somehow benefit my children when that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have no hooks in our family. In terms of testing my older kiddo (rising senior) is a mediocre standardized test taker who will not be applying to top 50 schools so it’s a moot point. My other kiddo is a superlative test taker (easily scoring in 99% with zero prep) who is only a rising sophomore (not worrying about college for him yet). If he applies to Top 20 schools someday I will go into it with my eyes wide open and the understanding that admission will be unlikely despite his academic prowess.

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I didn’t suggest holistic admissions will necessarily benefit your kids. However, holistic admissions are designed to primarily benefit kids like yours (based on your prior posts) who are wealthy enough to put together a good application package with or without good test scores.

Personally, I don’t have a stake in college admissions (holistic or otherwise). My S attends a tippy top college and he wasn’t stressed at all when he applied a few years ago. But I beleive he’s more of an exception and the existence of threads like this demonstrates it.

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Well, except on the West Coast. Nobody is more holistic than UC.

I thought they use a formula?

They use a 14 now 13 set of criteria. Grades are roughly 50% at some campuses, test blind now.

The level of tension, the relentless, practically violent admissions and testing marketing at the kids, the unceasing demands that the kids make serious decisions about a whole lot of things they know nothing about

I’m probably the only person under 25 on here. This chaos is just the default mode of operation for many high-achieving students, both in high school and beyond. I was watching a video of this girl explaining how the best time to motivate herself was in the shower because she can’t justify using those 15 minutes to do anything else. The insane stress and pressure we’re under extends into every facet of our lives – a lot of my classmates feel guilty if they “waste” even short blocks of time when they’re supposed to be productive. Just my thoughts.


I will say I’m not at all sad my S17 chose not to apply to any really selective schools. In his major it wasn’t necessary and we ignored rankings. He had a fantastic undergraduate time and did exactly what the OP says he hopes his child will do. He had a wonderful education with outstanding professors that cared. So it isn’t top 100, it is great in his major and got him into vet school with no problem. He will be starting his second year and is working with a person who is top in his field nationwide. He is going to have a great future and was able to start vet school not stressed out like a lot of his classmates and will graduate with no debt. Mental health is very important to success! The elite schools are not the only path to success and in some cases and for some majors aren’t that important to it. I hate seeing kid’s mental health taking a hit. I also hate seeing the joy of high school being taken away. I remember being stressed my senior year (back in the dark ages) about writing essays for scholarships, applications, etc. Now it is 10-fold worse.


I think most people view the college application process backwards, thinking that colleges have the power. In reality, applicants have the most power because they get to choose twice.

  1. First, applicants get to choose which ones of the thousands of colleges they deem worthy of receiving an application. For every applicant, there are hundreds of colleges that would love for you to apply. But only a small fraction of them will be fortunate enough to get an application.
  2. Colleges then get to choose once among the applicants, but have a lot of constraints after they make their decision. The decision to admit a student is binding upon them, except for uncommon cases such as a large drop in grades, academic misconduct, or egregious behavior. Outside of ED, they can’t force the applicant to join, nor can they increase pressure via “exploding offers” such as exist during job searches.
  3. Applicants then get to choose a second time among the colleges that offered them admission. Outside of ED, they can compare all offers simultaneously for weeks or months and choose the best fit for them. They can try to play colleges off of each other in terms of financial aid. Every college that admitted you hopes you will attend, but only one will be fortunate enough to have you.

Given that students have so much power, where does all this admission stress come about? The pressure is because students have decided to compete for admission into colleges that are are unlikely to admit them, rather than apply mostly to colleges that would love to admit them. Nobody is forcing this upon anyone; it is very much a choice.

No doubt, there are differences among colleges. The state flagship is often much better than the local directional. As schools become even more elite, there are additional benefits in terms of having a stronger student body, better known professors and research opportunities, and often better financial aid.

But if we are only talking about career opportunities, there are diminishing returns after the state flagship level. No doubt someone will respond to this saying that “when it comes to finance and consulting, you need to be at one of about 40 schools to get hired”. And while that is largely true, the reality is that these industries hire only a few thousand people each year, meaning the large majority of students even in the Top-20 schools don’t end up in those industries. Most other industries don’t care at all.

I wouldn’t call my kids college application process stress-free, but it wasn’t bad. Both my kids applied EA to Michigan, which they had identified as a match school for them, and it was one of the first acceptances for each. While both ended up elsewhere, the reality is that they both would have been very happy at Michigan if nothing else worked out. They loved the strong academics and the school spirit. And because they would have been happy there, they were relaxed for later decisions.

Every college applicant should have own their version of Michigan, which is a school they would be happy to attend and is more likely than not to accept them.


I don’t disagree. The problem at least in ‘21 is that it was harder to determine what your chances were based on past data and due to travel constraints also more difficult to determine where you’d like to attend. Uncertainty doesn’t usually make a process less stressful.


I agree that the Class of '21 had a unique set of stressors when it came to college admissions. It certainly increased admission randomness. One silver living is that it seemed, at least at our local high school, that a similar number of students got into the same schools as before. Of course, that’s no consolation for those that fared worse than expected. Hopefully this is a once in a lifetime event.

Well…yes and no. If you look more closely at the schools, esp. large ones, that have high acceptance rates, you find that they sort the kids internally pretty fast, and the bars are considerably higher for most of the programs the kids actually want to get into. Pre-professional programs, engineering, several others, not to mention honors, prestige internships and scholarships, and various certificates. Admission might require essay, interview, resume, letters, it varies by program.

But it’s the same problem in a different context. You wind up with a stratum of high-achieving students who’re essentially going to a different university than the undifferated “general education” mass who haven’t been prepped for that kind of self-organization, rigor, and effort. Over and over I run into those kids who’re drifting around, paying tuition, and they just have no clue how anything works because they’ve never been in situations where adults are steering them and showing them how to higher ed. They’re not stupid, they’re just out in the cold, but they’re in an environment where their mistakes are expensive.

When I look through the unending shouty emails from admissions officers, really reminiscent of Tom Cruise running through the advertising corridor in Minority Report, and the endless emails and demands from counselors, the freaking College Board, the whole apparatus, no, I don’t think the main source of the pressure is the students.

Before this industry existed, before recruiting was like this, it was a rare, weird kid who was laser-focused on MIT or Harvard or whatever, and playing numbers games with applications. Now they’re all jacked up, and we participate, from the time they’re in junior high, and it’s stupid and destructive.


And this is a massive, massive problem in the classroom, where trying to teach kids to think deeply and make connections actually requires risking wasting time. Before you make a move you get kids who demand to know what the payoff is, and they genuinely don’t know what to do with “I don’t know, it’ll depend on what you see and what you already know, and what you do with that.” It’s a very serious problem.


There’s stress. There’s immense, toxic stress. They’re paying mints they don’t have for educations they don’t know will be useful, and at the age of “child” they’re told it’s entirely up to them to make wise choices about borrowing enormous sums of money and use that money to pick a major that will lead to a solid job, otherwise everything bad that comes out of that is their fault. Often their parents are borrowing, too. They cannot possibly know what job markets are, let alone which careers will pay, and they’re also told to make hundreds of decisions along the way about their path through college without knowledge of what those decisions can mean. The choices offered are generally there to benefit faculty and the institution or some professional association, not the student, and the student is unaware of how that landscape works.

They hate it and they’re very angry at this point, and I think they’ve been more than patient with the whole affair and that their sentiments are justified.

Incidentally, this is why I told my kid not to listen to adults who freak at her about various majors and whether or not she’ll be able to do anything with them. One, they don’t know, and two, their opinions don’t matter. She’ll still feel the pressure; there’s not a lot I can do about that. I might suggest she counter with “So will you personally lend me the money for my master’s degree in that field? Don’t worry, I’ll be making a mint, you said so yourself. You can’t lose. Shall we draw up a contract?” I’m guessing people will bother her less after that.


Ok, at this point, this is just becoming a rehash of your original thread, which people can read here:


I was repsonding to another poster who wasn’t talking about financial stress. I fully agree that our system puts way too much financial stress on every family (except the upper income families) to finance their kids’ college education. No other country finances education, college as well as primary and secondary educaiton, the way we do. And none of them cost as much as ours. That’s another good reason to take a good look at the British and the Canadian systems.

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:wink: This spur of it, yes. We can return to the original part about admissions stresses anytime, is fine by me.

Ah, I see. Well, keep in mind that admissions and financial stress go hand in hand for most students. It doesn’t matter that a school’s let you in if you haven’t got $100-150K handy for COA and you’re not getting a fat scholarship. So yes, you definitely see students choosing majors with higher-than-institution admissions reqs because they’ve got a lot of scholarships and other fin aid on offer, or simply stressing massively about grades because of fin aid.

There’s also the confusion generated by private schools that offer more fin aid than the publics do, meaning you get uncertainty over whether it’s smart or not to apply to a bunch of small privates, and that’s driven hard by the admissions marketing. I used to work in junk mail, so I actually started a collection of mailings the various regional colleges/universities sent, and that was the usual hook: cheaper than State U after our brilliant fin aid, tiny class sizes, etc. It gives the kids and families far too many things to try to deal with at once, and the car-lot tactics don’t help with the stress levels.

You probably know better than I do that colleges at many places these days are mostly run by a bunch of administrators (more likely with MBAs than PhDs). Marketing is what they focus on. Everything else on campus needs to serve that purpose. To them, a college is just a brand. To build that brand, it needs to create via marketing the perception (or illusion) of selectivity and even exclusivity, in addition to quality. It also wants to convince us that it’s a good deal too, at whatever price we’re paying.


I have to disagree with you based on S21 experience. He applied to schools ranked in the 30s and up and was accepted into schools ranked in the 50s and up.

Would like to see your examples of practically violent admissions and testing marketing towards your child. We did not see it.

Testing was test optional for 49 states this year.
Florida our state still required them and S21 had a total of 6 cancelled 3 each SAT/ACT. However that was our governor’s fault for not allowing test optional.
My S21 did receive many University of Chicago and Cornell mailings. He knew he was not getting into either. That was about the only unrealistic marketing he received

There are serious decisions that need to be made before applying to school. Cost, chances of getting in, fit, major etc. We discussed all of these.

It looks like you ended up at your State Flagship. This often is the most affordable option. Not knowing the particulars of the school and other options she had can’t comment further.
Our case, State School was the best all around option for him and that is where he is going. He picked it over several Public and Private similar ranked schools that we couldn’t justify the extra expense