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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 07/13/2010

Say 'no' to college admissions creep

By Valerie Strauss

My guest today is college admissions consultant Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, Inc., in Cabin John, Md.

By Bruce Vinik
No. This term doesn’t refer to the dean at Yale who decided to reject the application of your all-but-perfect-daughter. Rather, it refers to the unfortunate way that the college admissions process has crept into the lives of students earlier and earlier in their high school years.

It wasn’t long ago when students didn’t get serious about finding a college until the summer before twelfth grade. When I began my college counseling career in 1991, it was almost unheard of for students to visit campuses over spring break of junior year. Outside of reading through a guidebook and taking a spring SAT, most kids were happy to delay the onset of college madness. And yet somehow they managed to do all of the things they needed to do to get into college. In fact, many of them are successful, upstanding citizens today.

Over the years, as college admissions has become more competitive and many of us (parents, counselors, admissions officers, the media) have made getting into the “right” college a national obsession, we have encouraged a shift that isn’t healthy for most high school students.

Too many ninth and tenth graders are studying college guides and websites; too many eleventh graders are taking the SAT and ACT in the fall of junior year; and too many adults are feeding the frenzy by encouraging children to grow up quickly in order to impress that Dean of Admissions (who really isn’t a creep after all).

We need to step back a bit and give our kids a chance to be kids and to enjoy their lives in high school. They should have the time to explore their interests both inside and outside the classroom without the constant worry of “college” hanging over their heads. I’m not suggesting that we return to the days when students waited until twelfth grade to begin to think seriously about their college futures. There are simply too many parts to the process to wait that long.

However, I am suggesting that we hold the line when it can still be held -- at the second semester of junior year.

With rare exception, there is no reason why kids should be visiting colleges after ninth grade or taking the SAT in the fall of eleventh grade. In my experience, many of those students who begin the process early burn out in senior year at the very time they need to be most focused on college admissions.

Let’s take a stand. Just say no ... to admissions creep.

See some of Vinik's other posts, including:

*The high school courses students need for college

*How to decide on a college


Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Bruce Vinik, College Admissions, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  bruce vinik, college admissions, college admissions creep, college admissions process, college applications, juniors and SAT, when to start the college application process, when to take the SAT  
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I disagree with Mr. Vinik. What is wrong with visiting campuses with a younger high school student? We do need to talk about collge earlier than junior year with our children, because their grades from freshman year on play a role in the college they will attend. If a child wants to attend an upper level university, they must take rigorous high school classes. A decision about which high school to go to takes place in 8th grade!

Visiting a variety of colleges throughout high school could help take the pressure off during junior year. Why cram all the visiting into just a few months? When we take a vacation, we visit at least one college wherever we are, just to see what colleges are like in different states. I don't see how this could possibly hurt my son.

Posted by: jennypalmer1 | July 13, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

jennypalmer1: if you are taking vacations, your kids have an idea if they would like to live in a particular geographic area. They can research the individual colleges to find out which ones have the academic programs they are interested in. They can read the sports news to find out if a particular college is a "party school," with a riot after every football game or if it is a serious school where sports are just another form of entertainment. They can read the catalogues to find out if there are irksome restrictions they can't live with, such as no being allowed cars at Miami University (and how on they plan to get back and forth in that case).

All the rest of college life is pretty much the same all over--at least one professor will show up drunk part of the time, at least one other will be outstanding, most are very good and devoted, the food is about the same, some dorms will be noisy and hard to study in, some roommates will be perfect matches, the air-conditioning will consistently break down in at least one building on each campus, the elevators will be slower than taking the steps, etc.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | July 13, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Not a bad thought process for the visitation of college campuses. However, to be "ready" to visit in the breaks offered over winter/spring terms in high school, a junior should be mindful of what they're looking for beginning in the fall of their junior year. Particularly if the family is looking for financial aid.

I am a strong advocate of not beginning any college search until the family is aware of how much they can reasonably afford to pay for college, based on their resources. The most opportune time to go through that exercise is before the end of the tax year on December 31 of the student's junior year.

My blog discusses the nuances of knowing "when to start" the process and can be found here:

Posted by: toddw1 | July 14, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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