When most people learn what kind of work I do, they often speculate about the difficulty in selecting the students who will ultimately be admitted to the class. Even though they are certainly right, I am quick to point out that I am just a single member of an otherwise exceptional group of people who make up the admission staff. It is the collective wisdom of the admissions staff that can be credited with the successful enrollment of each outstanding new class.
While I don’t want to minimize my contributions or the work of other admissions officers, our roles in the admissions process are far easier than the tasks that students and their parents face.
For me to weigh in on the merits of an individual applicant, I don’t need to be introspective or do any soul searching to figure out who I am. I don’t need to assimilate tons of information accumulated through extensive research, campus visits and conversations. I don’t have to figure out how to organize all that information, or even determine the criteria that will be used to make the decision. Fortunately, everything that I need to know typically comes together in a nice, tidy package.
For students and parents, this is simply not the case.
If you approach the process thoughtfully, there are no shortcuts. Guidebooks can be useful if you are looking for a quick synopsis. Rankings can provide a comparative yardstick. But there is no substitute for figuring out who you are, who you want to be, what experiences you need to have to help you get there, and what institution is best suited to provide you with those experiences.
I have had several conversations in the last few weeks with students and parents, struggling with issues ranging from which high school environments will provide the best foundation for admission to how does one actually make the choice between enrolling at MIT or one of our similarly selective peer institutions, assuming that one is fortunate enough to have that choice.
I won’t answer either of those questions here, as those conversations were long and nuanced. What those and other similar conversations highlighted for me is that I just haven’t come across a lot of great resources that help students and parents consider these questions. So I am curious, has anyone come across a great resource (other than the MIT Admissions Blogs) that helps students and parents identify and explore these aspects of the college search and admission process (without the misguided focus of attempting to gain admission to a specific institution or type of institution)? If you have, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below. There is a good chance that everyone else will appreciate your recommendations as well.