The build-up was big, but boy, did he deliver. Robert Franek, Senior Vice President/Publisher at Princeton Review and author of “The Best 376 Colleges” and “The Best Value Colleges,” was recently a guest speaker at Myers Park High School in Charlotte. (Full disclosure: I sit on the Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board.)
Notices of his upcoming presentation started appearing months ago. Interested students and families were asked to register online to reserve seats. Vicki Brunnick, counselor and scholarship coordinator at Myers Park, met him in February at a professional conference in Virginia and extended the invitation.
Franek is nothing if not informative, interactive, energetic and entertaining. He began with two simple facts: 1) it’s never been harder to get into college and 2) it’s never been easier to get into college.
He got everyone involved from the get-go. “Who here is concerned about getting into a good college?” All hands were are raised. “Who has fear or anxiety about the college admissions process?” All hands remained up. He suggested that everyone take a deep breath and he went on. “We’re all scared.”
In the Princeton Review “Hopes and Dreams” survey, everyone was united in their fear. According to the survey, the No. 1 worry for students is that they will get into the school of their choice but won’t be able to afford it.
He asked students and parents to write down the names of three colleges they would like to see themselves or their children attend, with the caveat that neither financial aid nor the college’s level of selectivity were factors – just where they would like to go to college if there were no obstacles. Franek gave them a minute to think and then shouted, “Cross off any Ivy League schools.” Okay, not much reaction.
“Cross off University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” Audible moans.
“Cross off Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina State University, Elon and the University of South Carolina.”
The list went on until he ticked off roughly 25 colleges. He then asked “How many of you have three colleges left on your list? How many have two? You see, everyone is applying to the same 25 colleges and universities.”
So the take-away here is to have a mix of colleges on your list; a few of the usual suspects, but you should try to find one or two schools that meet your criteria but don’t have as many applicants from your high school.
Franek then started talking about the college application, and people took notes. When asked “What’s the most important piece of information reviewed by college admissions representatives?” Audience members called out “essays, extracurricular activities, grades” and then someone blared “who’s your daddy?” and Franek, along with everyone else, laughed.
Colleges want to know that students took advantage of what their high schools offered them. The rigor of a student’s coursework and performance outweighs all other factors by far.
Next week: Franek Part II – What are colleges looking for? Being a savvy college shopper.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.