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USACollegeChat Podcast

Apr 9, 2015

In our last episode, we talked about why high school guidance counselors are not enough of a help to you and your child in your college search, and we speculated that one reason such a high percentage of students attend college in their home state is because guidance counselors do not have the time or background or information or inclination to help them look any farther away. A new report that just came out (March, 2015) has added some support for our argument. The report is called A National Look at the High School Counseling Office. It was produced by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), using data from 2009 to 2012. Here are some notable findings (as reported by Caralee Adams in Education Week, March 26, 2015): Just over half of guidance counselors said that their high school counseling department spends less than 20 percent of its time on college readiness, selection, and applications. So, let’s call that a day a week by each of however many guidance counselors your child’s high school has. Now think about how many juniors and seniors need college-going help, and you can quickly see that there is just not enough time to go around. (By the way, the American School Counselor Association recommends a student load of 250 students per guidance counselor, but most states, on the average, do not come close to that. Even if you had the recommended number of students per counselor in your school, how hard do you think it would be for one person to advise that many students on college searches and college decision making?) Just over 60 percent of high school juniors and just about half of parents of high school juniors met with a guidance counselor to discuss college and other post-high-school options. It is not possible to tell whether these pitifully low numbers are because guidance counselors do not have time to have such meetings or because students and parents do not think counselors can help them or because students and parents do not think they need any help. Actually, another approximately 15 percent of students and parents did hire a counselor outside of school to help them; so they, at least, felt that they needed help. Given what these private counselors cost, it is my guess that an even higher percentage of low-income high school juniors and their parents from inner-city schools could not have or did not access the help of guidance counselors when applying to colleges. And finally, here is something I have known for a long time, something that has been confirmed by studies my own nonprofit organization has done over the years. Who is the main influence on students as they choose a college? The answer we get is always parents. According to the NACAC report, about 40 percent of students named parents, while just about 5 percent named either a guidance counselor or a privately hired counselor. Some people might say that parents are so influential because they are paying the bill, and I am sure that there is some truth to that. However, it was clear to us in the high school we worked with in Brooklyn that parents’ own feelings were a force to be reckoned with for their children—that is, parents’ feelings about colleges they had attended, or colleges a family member had attended, or colleges that were well-known because they were close by, or colleges they simply thought they knew something about (even when it was not true). If parents are the most influential and counselors are hardly influential at all, it is even more important that parents do what they need to do to get the right information for their children. Of course, we are hoping that NYCollegeChat is part of how you are getting that information. But get it, you must. Past episodes you may want to listen to before talking to your child about college options are: Episode 24: Having the Money Talk Episode 9: What Are Some of the Decisive Factors in Putting Colleges on Your List? Episode 10: What Are Some More of the Decisive Factors in Putting Colleges on Your List? In our last episode, we also talked about getting you outside your geographic comfort zone—to look at colleges outside your hometown and, really, outside your home state. I know that is going to be hard for New Yorkers, who are proud of their state and believe that there are plenty of good options right here—and indeed there are a lot of good options right here. And I know that is going to be hard for our listeners from other states, too, because many of you feel that there are plenty of good options where you live as well—and you are probably right. 1. Good Reasons To Go Away However, let’s talk for a minute about two key reasons you should consider going outside of your home state. Both reasons are based on the fact that most colleges seek geographic diversity in their freshman class; in other words, most colleges want to attract and admit students from across the U.S.—and even from foreign countries—so that the college has an interesting and stimulating variety of students and so that the college can advertise that it has students from a large number of states and foreign countries for the prestige value of that statement. I just read a post on LinkedIn from my own alma mater, Cornell University, which said this: Cornell’s newly admitted class of freshmen is the most diverse and international in its 150-year history, with prospective undergraduates representing 100 nations from around the world, based on citizenship. Because colleges want that geographic diversity in their freshman class, your child is more likely to be accepted at a selective college farther away from home than at the same sort of college close to home. For example, if you live in New York, your child probably has a better chance of getting into the top public university in Colorado than the top public university in New York because public colleges in Colorado are interested in attracting good students from New York and from other states in the East to balance out all of the good Colorado students who want to enroll. Furthermore, as one college admissions officer wrote in an article recently, if there are two students looking for a scholarship and only one can be given, is it more likely that the scholarship will be given to the student next door or the student from far away? To the one from far away, she said—because of the desire for geographic diversity we just discussed. Now it is certainly true that there are some flagship public universities that are cutting back on admitting students from outside their states because budget issues are forcing them to make sure that their own residents are well taken care of with the state taxpayers’ money. This is true for political reasons even though out-of-state students bring more money with them. So you will need to do a little research on specific public universities before throwing your child’s hat into those rings. But the summary of our advice is still this: Look outside your home state for colleges that might hold more opportunity for your child than those at home do. For more information about visiting out-of-state colleges, listen to Episode 12: To Visit Or Not To Visit? 2. Geographic Regions of the U.S. and Colleges on Our Virtual Tour We had to decide how to divide up the U.S. to take you on our planned virtual tour of colleges you never thought about. We looked at a number of ways agencies and organizations have divided up the U.S. before deciding to use the regions used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce), which is responsible for producing an array of economic statistics for comparing parts of the country. The Bureau has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s comprising from four to 12 states. We are planning to do an episode for each region—though we will see how that goes once we get started. As we mentioned in our last episode, we are going to look at some colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some colleges for students with more average grades and admissions test scores. But, because every child’s high school record is its own mix of grades and test scores and leadership positions and extracurricular activities and out-of-school experiences, we are not going to try to tell you as a family which colleges your child is likely to get into. We will tell you that there are a lot of colleges you should consider that you probably haven’t, and you will need to look at your child’s own record against the profile of accepted students to see which ones might be right for you. We will include both public and private colleges, both large and small colleges, and both liberal arts and technical colleges—that is, a wide variety of colleges so that there will be some, for sure, that might interest your child. However, we are going to focus on four-year colleges, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region right away. Of course, we know that some of those students will eventually go on to four-year colleges after a year or two at the two-year college, so perhaps our information will be helpful to those families in the future. We want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. They are mostly colleges that we know something about for various reasons, and certainly there are some states that we are more familiar with than others. We do not promise to name great colleges in every state, though I am sure they exist. We do promise to name a lot of great colleges. If you have a college you would like us to talk about on the air, please email us or call us and tell us what it is and why it is great, and we will certainly consider it. We welcome those calls. Let us also say that no college has asked us to name it and that no college has paid us anything to name it. The choices in the next episodes in this series are ours and ours alone. Our next episode will begin our virtual college tour with one of the eight regions of the U.S. Please join us. Listen to the podcast to find out about… Why parents must get information on their own for the college application process How to visit colleges when you are looking outside your home state Why you should attend an upcoming national college fair in NYC Visit the show notes for this episode at to find links to the higher education institutions and events we mention. Connect with us through… Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn! Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help Following us on Facebook at Ask your questions or share your feedback by… Leaving us a comment or question at Calling us at (516) 900-NYCC to record a question on our NYCollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live in our podcast Emailing us at to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately