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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
(First off, thank you for the comments yesterday; I will get to… 
23rd-Oct-2012 04:20 pm
Oh, bitchcakes.
(First off, thank you for the comments yesterday; I will get to them!)

Elayna had her college prep meeting with her guidance counselor today.

Her guidance counselor continues to be worse than useless.

"She says I don't have to do anything about my applications until January," Elayna says, quietly bristling at me reminding her that we're going to start work on them this Saturday.

"Uh, NO. We aren't waiting til the day before the absolute deadline."

"It's just that she thinks I shouldn't rush myself to apply early."

"Right. But you know that if you leave it til the last minute, it is going to freak you out. The sooner you do it, the sooner you don't have to deal with it anymore."

Because I know my kid. Given her druthers, she will wait until the day before the deadline, fire off a merely-okay essay in the midst of her panicflail, and then have meltdowns about the fact that she didn't do her best. Whereas if she starts now, she can write the best essay she can write, get this whole thing off her plate, and enjoy the next few months. She has the fall play and spring musical coming up, and her senior thesis project. She should take the time now and get this neatly out of the way.

Which her guidance counselor would know if she bothered to fit the advice to the kid instead of just handing out the same advice to everyone.

Further case in point: she recommended two colleges today that Elayna hadn't looked at. Elayna came home and told me about thess recommendations. One of them does not even have Elayna's major (which was also the case with the counselor's prior recommendations). The other one? Was UMASS Boston.

Okay.

The most important things to Elayna, besides the presence of her major (elementary education), are small to mid-size campus and small class size.

So if you know anything about my daughter, why would you recommend a school with 16,000 undergrads and 100-person classes?

Answer: You don't know anything about my daughter; also, you are not even remotely doing your job.

Sorry. I am just over correcting everything this person says to Elayna. I'm sure UMASS Boston is great for people who do well in large classes and schools, but Elayna is not one of those people. I'm sure some kids do fine just farting out a college app two hours before the deadline, but that is not the way my daughter works. Every single guidance counselor visit we go through this.

Elayna goes to a not-large school with a not-large graduating class. Last year's graduating class was 153 students, per the internet. There are four guidance counselors. So let's say each counselor has ~39 kids to counsel. Not all of the kids go to college, so it's probably less than that, but we'll go ahead and assume the maximum. These sessions happen over a span of two to three months. So you're telling me that you can't take a few minutes to sit down with, at most, 20 kids per month and actually ask them what they're looking for in a college, and tailor your responses to them? Instead of just recommending the same four schools that gave you a T-shirt and a coffee mug in exchange for you shilling for them?

I swear.
Comments 
23rd-Oct-2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
At least Elayna has you there to make up for the counselor's fail. It could be worse: For most of my senior year, I was caught up in the idea that I wanted to major in drama*. I wanted to do serious drama - Shakespeare and whatnot. My guidance counselor recommended - I kid you not - Barnum and Bailey Clown College.

* Fortunately, I eventually ended up in history, which makes me ever so much more employable. ;-)
23rd-Oct-2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
My guidance counselor recommended - I kid you not - Barnum and Bailey Clown College.

LOLWUT?
(Deleted comment)
23rd-Oct-2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
Nope. I had a very active one who was supposed to be the best in the city, but because he was so concerned with getting the school's top kids into the prestige schools for the sake of his reputation, the underachievers in need of real guidance (like me) got screwed.
23rd-Oct-2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
Also, she wants a residential campus. UMB isn't.
24th-Oct-2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
That right there is a more pertinent bit of info that drops UMB off the list. Many of the classes there are in the 20-30 student range, with a few dipping down as low as 10 (says the recent UMB graduate).
23rd-Oct-2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
"Don't worry about it until January"? Elayna's guidance counselor's "advice" is misguided; handing that advice to *ANY* senior is a recipe for disaster. Elayna's had to write papers with drafts before, right? That seems like a reasonable expectation for somebody approaching high school graduation, that their English and History classes would have expected of them, would have said "I want a multi- page paper on this subject, due in 2-4 weeks, don't start it at the last minute." I would certainly have thought a high school guidance counselor would be on the same page as the teachers for somebody writing college application essays.

How many schools is Elayna applying to? How many essays does she have to write for these applications? (Do any of her schools take something like the Common App?) When I was applying to schools in the mid '90s, very few did, which is why I ended up writing ~10 long essays (~750-1000 words) and another ~15 short essays (~250 words) for my 10 college apps - which is why for me, the college application process was the equivalent of an additional core course. (Most of my classmates averaged around seven apps; I was indecisive and neurotic. >_>)

And most of my deadlines were December 31 or earlier. There were a couple February 1, and one January 15, but the majority were due before the end of the year. "Don't worry about it until January," my buttinski.
24th-Oct-2012 12:24 am (UTC)
My daughter was able to apply to all the schools she applied to via Common App. It was fairly quick and painless, all things considered. Completely and utterly blew my mind given the range of schools she applied to (small private urban, small-to medium rural public, and exceedingly tiny private in a major metropolitan area).
(Deleted comment)
24th-Oct-2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Heh. I went to USC...*most* of my classes were small (because, yay, USC and honors programs)...however I definitely had a doozy of a multi-hundred person 8:00 am class :)
23rd-Oct-2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
Yikes, yeah, sounds like that counselor is coasting and doesn't give a sh*t.

Another reason to apply early (not just begin working on apps early) is early admission - who tends to get first picks of scholarships and grants through the school.

I got accepted to my college early which granted me a) had less stress when others paniced and b) a $2k/year scholarship through the school directly.

Btw, for a small school in Mass that is great for education I recommend my alma mater - Mass College of Liberal Arts, formerly North Adams State College. Added bonus it's the middle of no where so less trouble to get into and distratctions. Added bonus it's gorgeous year round and great pizza that delivers at 2am. :look
24th-Oct-2012 12:19 am (UTC)
The other benefit to getting apps in early is that she may qualify for extra programs or extra aid by meeting early-bird deadlines. (Why the HECK doesn't the counselor encourage this??)

Good luck!
24th-Oct-2012 12:39 am (UTC) - Since I am the Graduate Student Coordinator for a Large Florida College
For our department, and a former Undergraduate Advisor for the same department at our college and I attend ALL the admissions events, notifications, etc. Here are few things that ARE worth your weight in diamonds.

Many colleges have what they call rolling admissions now. What this means is that because of the influx and greater demand for seats they start processing applications as they get them. NOT after the deadline. The way this works is that for time period x - y they process that batch. They then pick x number of students who meet the qualifications and admit them. What happens is that as time progresses, and the deadline approaches (and you might want to explain this to her) the number of applications increases, and the number available seats decreases and as such, where a 3.2 would have gotten accepted 2 months prior, it is on the cutting floor for this round. So being told to wait till January, yeah.. no... do them now get them in now.

As for the essays. The more 'liberal arts' based colleges are going to weigh them heavier than others. She has got to absolutely be spot on. In our department, it is the math scores. We could care less about your ability to write creatively, can you do calculus? What they are looking for in these essays, is not just WHY you want to attend FAU, FSU, U of F, USF, but what you plan to do with yourself when you get there and WHY that school will help you better yourself as a person and grow. They want students who are forward thinking. This means she has to think past the point of 'I want to be an elementary school teacher' but think about, "By attending, X X X university, which I would like to attend for X X X reasons, I will be better prepared for my future as XXXX because it will give me the foundations to XXXXXX. You gotta sap it up with sugar, sacchrine, and molases. She has to write like a 28 yr old. I know she reads like one, so she has examples.

Lastly, if she has NOT made contact with the departments and the various schools and found out what they are looking for exactly in a student, she needs to do so now. I know you have visted many colleges and campuses. Now is the time to send emails and phone calls to the top of the lists because she needs to dig for information that is NOT on the website. You want to know hire rates for seniors, you want to know what the matriculation rates are, you want to know who they are accredited by, our department has accrediations that are not university wide, as well as the university wide. These things are all important. The hire rate may not always be available, but, they should have a pretty good idea on what it is.

Give you an example, we are a tier 4 school. We take in many students that the other state universities do not take in. Thusly, our matriculation rate is only about 30% in our department. (With the state of education in florida, that is gonna drop soon.) Out of the 30% of the students who graduate, only about 15% find employment within the first year because their GPA's are not high enough. Another 5 % stay on to do their Master's. Most students who end up in the program, never make it through their Sophmore year and either drop out or switch majors.

Feel free to ask me anything about college admissions in general. While each university and college has it's own criteria and processes, there are some really common grounds, and it isn't the same as when I went in 1987 to FSU. Not by a long shot.
24th-Oct-2012 02:42 am (UTC)
In my experience, it doesn't get better at the college level. I'm TERRIFIED that it won't be any better at the graduate level. (I have an appointment for that soon. GAH.)

Then again, my high school wasn't so bad. My college was TERRIBLE. I walked in, said "here's what I'd like to do, here's what I DO NOT want to do of that, and how do I find what I *want* to do?" to which the reply was "here are internships in exactly what you DO NOT want to do, apply for those!"
24th-Oct-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
IME, high school guidance counselors are worse than useless. Mine told me I wouldn't get in to any technical schools, so just go to Ohio State already. Ha, ha ha. (For the peanut gallery, my bachelors degree is from that little tech school on the Charles River. You may have heard of it).

Mine also told me that my essays were shite and I should re-write them. In a fit of stubbornness I sent what I had with no further edits, and actually recieved a hand written letter from an admissions officer at UVa saying it was the best essay he read that year. So um. Yeah. My best advice for Elayna is to ignore everything her guidance counselor says.
24th-Oct-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
I'm... of no help. I wanted to go into sequential art or animation. SCAD is a %$@ing awesome school for that. I got into their Rising Star summer program for rising HS seniors. Kids that go to that, bust their butts and do well are usually pretty sure of admission for the main college program. I did, I was, money was put down on the dorm reservation, and then things went to hell shortly after graduation; money that had been promised by my stepmother and father for almost a DECADE if I put chunks of money (both gift and money I'd earned from working) into a mutual fund that then took a dive in the Dot Com Bust was suddenly a great big NO because I was spending much of what I DID have left in my savings account on a used car so I could get to and from work after moving to my Mom's house. Technically it was a deal my stepmother had set up, but my father forbade her to carry through on it because of this "reckless purchase."

So... I was COMPLETELY SET until after high school, when all of that fell apart. Guidance counselor meetings were a breeze--just making sure I'd done all the submissions required. It wasn't until afterwards that I was screwed.
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24th-Oct-2012 10:51 am (UTC)
You are AMAZING. When I had to choose a university my parents were nowhere to be found and neither of them researched or discussed what I wanted. I was so scared. I just picked three random universities, got into all three, and panicflailed into choosing one. :(
24th-Oct-2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
Neither of my parents went to college; they were divorced; my mom didn't understand why I even wanted to go to college when I could get a nice job as a secretary like her. *sigh* Talk about a lack of support.

Though I applied early admission to the college I wanted most to go to and got in before Thanksgiving.
24th-Oct-2012 11:35 am (UTC)
In my day boys were told about apprenticeships, and girls about hair dressing or nursing. I was "clever" so she suggested secretary. You don't want to know what my mother said.

If you need an external reader, I'm happy to help.
What's her major by the way?
24th-Oct-2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I never even HAD a guidance counselor; I was in a class of 1271 kids when I graduated, and I think there were two counselors for the whole school, all three grades. I figure self-reliance is the better bet.
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