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By Marian Wilde
Applying to college can be stressful, but students and parents alike need to keep things in the proper perspective. Lloyd Thacker, director of The Education Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the admissions process, warns parents to resist the admissions frenzy for prestigious schools. Thacker contends that "college rankings, standardized testing, costly test preparation, expensive marketing consultants for colleges and highly-paid independent consultants for students are profiting from fear, anxiety and myths they have helped create. A commercialized point of view is what turns the admissions process into a game and education into a game."
Thacker adds: "There is very little evidence that correlates the status of a college with effective educational practice. Parents need to listen to the facts, not their friends at cocktail parties."
Trends, shifting college reputations and each student's unique needs means that parents and students need to do their homework. Make a list of the colleges you'd consider, then dig in to do the research on each college, it's programs, requirements, financial aid stats and deadlines.
Be aware that colleges are constantly changing the emphases they place on different admissions factors. Have your student talk to her high school counselor and stay current on the requirements and trends. Brown University, for example, requires multiple essays on its application form, while the University of Oregon requires none.
Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Loren Pope, Penguin, revised edition 2006.
Earnings from Learning: The Rise of For-Profit Universities edited by David W. Breneman, Brian Pusser, Sarah E. Turner, SUNY Press, 2006.
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