Counselors from Hell

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Discus: College Search and Selection: September 2003 Archive: Counselors from Hell
By Purgeofdoors (Purgeofdoors) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 05:55 pm: Edit

How many schools should a student apply to? 5? 7? 9? Upwards of that depending on the situation? This is rhetorical, by the way.

Our school got a new counselor this year and her first move was to limit the number of schools a person is able to apply to to 4. 4! Doesn't any half-decent college book in existence say that a minimum of 2 safeties, 2 matches, and 2 reaches should be applied to? What about kids searching for financial aid and comparing gifts?

So should I fight it, •••• off my couselor, and probably get terrible recs or resign myself to applying perhaps EA (yale) and limiting my choices for finaid comparision?

I'm not that badly off because my scores and ECs are good but I fear for the kids who eliminate their safeties to comply with this rule.

By Mike (Mike) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 07:09 pm: Edit

A limit of 4? That is ridiculous. If I was a parent at that school I would make an appointment and find out the reasons. Perhaps overwork with dealing with too many recs. See if volunteers could help with some of the scut work. If there was no logical reason it is time to see the principal. I would never have a student lead the charge. There are somethings that parents need to do and not letting the kid become the lightening rod with authority figures is one of them.

One may be plenty of Applying if you know you wnt a state school and you have the stats. I think Mike is going to skip the reaches and go for 5 matches becasue he likes all of them better then any reaches he has considered. Each student needs to be allowed to go after what they want.

On the other hand if I was the counselor and a student came in with 25 it would be time for a talk about defining objectives.

Mike's Dad

By O71394658 (O71394658) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 07:22 pm: Edit

I would put a safety in, a match, and two reaches...

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 07:56 pm: Edit

I agree that 5 is too few. We laughed 10 years ago when the son of a friend put in ten applications. Three years ago, our son had 7, but everyone else seemed to have ten. Mike's Dad has a good point. Get several parents to point out the facts of life to the principal.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 08:52 pm: Edit

This is a principal/school board issue. Decades ago, I applied to 3. But so did everyone else. If the norm today is 6-12, you need to allow that, and handle the workload issues some other way. Offer to pay the school per application or something if they grouse about costs and time.

Limiting apps to 4 will harm your students.

By Momof2 (Momof2) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 09:05 pm: Edit

Agree with Dadx - this policy is extremely detrimental to students in today's competitive atmosphere. But this is a mission primarily for parents, not the student, if at all possible. Another thought - see if you can recruit any of your AP, Honors or other favorite teachers to lobby on behalf of their students.

If limited to 4, I would have to advise kids to stick with 2 matches, 2 safeties and NO REACHES - and to borrow from my sons - that would suck.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 09:29 pm: Edit

I agree with Momof2. If you are that limited, a reach is, by its very nature, a gamble that you can ill afford.

By Purgeofdoors (Purgeofdoors) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 10:02 pm: Edit

This policy was implemented after several students got rejected from top schools because "Egotistic admit-racking students" applied to schools they never intended to attend just for bragging rights. IMHO, the school's policy is far overboard and ridiculous.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 10:48 pm: Edit

You are right. And the school is punishing current students for the sins of former ones. Do get parents and teachers to talk to the principal and guidance counselor. And the more intercede, the less chance of retaliation against individuals.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 11:33 pm: Edit

Perhaps this is a dumb question, but how can a school prohibit you from applying to more schools? I suspect there is an implied, maybe even explicit obligation to provide certain materials on request?

Perhaps, as others suggested, a call from a parent to higher ups would get a response. It is also not unreasonable for that parent to remind the contact that respecting your identity would probably be a good idea to avoid retribution. In today's lawsuit prone society, I suspect the administration would quickly realize it is on thin ice, in many ways.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 12:00 am: Edit

I suspect the counselor is simply trying to limit his/her own work load by limiting the number of recs, etc. he has to do. This is an issue that parents should take all the way to the principal, then the superintendent, then the school board, if necessary.
It's criminally crippling and, yes, it's lawsuit city if they're going to be that stupid.

By Mike (Mike) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 01:37 am: Edit

People need to start with the advisor. They may be new and just don't understand.I shudder to think about what the first clients who dealt with me had to put up with. If nothing can be worked out at that level then it is on to the P and then the S.

Mike's Dad

By Nyugrad (Nyugrad) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 07:37 pm: Edit

I'd have to agree with thedad. However, is there a chairman of guidance that could be spoken to first?

By Nealp (Nealp) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 09:44 pm: Edit

i'm doing a min of 10. prolly 12 or 13 by the time i'm done

By Purgeofdoors (Purgeofdoors) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 10:05 pm: Edit

Thanks to all who responded.

Legally, the couselor can't do anything preventing us from applying. But as Massdad suspected, couselor recommendations are crucial to many schools and it was implied that the counselor would withold her support for us if we applied to >4.

The administration is already backtracking rapidly on this decision. A 'clarification' was issued today stating that a student can only apply to 4 "selective" schools, which is a crucial change; it prevents students from eliminating safeties to comply with this rule.

Still, the entire concept of limiting a worthy student's college choices must go.

By Momof2 (Momof2) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 10:10 pm: Edit

Would love to know the definition of "selective" in these days. Will they offer a definitive list?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 11:00 pm: Edit

I'm of two thoughts on this whole issue of limiting applications.

On the one hand I cannot believe this has much to do with counselor work loads, what with word processors. It can take only a few seconds to check the boxes, then print and attach a sheet with the narrative. (maybe the time comes in making sure they're using the info for the right student?)

On the other hand, is it possible that the school is getting a bad name because kids are trophy shopping? Underlying this concern is a real issue, but I suspect the school may not understand the true dynamics.

The issue I refer to is that local schools are often prefered. Let me explain. We live in the Boston area. Some have observed that only kids who applied early decision got into Yale or Princeton, because those schools only wanted kids who were committed to come, not those who applied as a backup to the local school, Harvard. Accurate? Don't know, but this issue has nothing to do with HOW MANY selective schools one applied to.

Maybe the counselor is familiar with prep school practice, where these things are much more tightly managed?

By Valpal (Valpal) on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 11:15 pm: Edit

Excuse me for being ignorant, but how is it possible for a school councelor to limit the number of colleges to which a student can apply? That's a decision only the student can make (along with his or her parents, of course). And as far as the amount of paper work teachers and councelors might be asked to assume on behalf of a student, their individual recommendations will usually suffice to address the concerns of all of that student's prospective colleges. All colleges pretty much ask the same types of questions. Once one letter is written, it's little more than a matter of changing the name of the school in MicroSoft Word. It's been a LONG time since I've had to apply to college, so admittedly, I my be simplifying matters. Someone enlighten me.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 12:30 am: Edit

Chiming in on this. I feel for you and find this a very odd rule that will surely be challenged by students and parents, rightfully so. I think this rule would be doing a disservice to their students given the state of competitive admissions today. Four colleges???? That is actually unwise, particularly if going for tougher schools where admissions is unpredictable even for the most qualified kids.

I am trying to think of what their rationale is and I think I would ask to have that articulated so that the response fits their statement. If it is cause of too much work for counselors, I agree with what others posted that once a counselor writes one rec for you, then the others follow, though involve some paperwork, they do not usually involve rewriting the whole shebang, or at least not the narrative part. I mean this is their job. One reason might be cause as someone said, they are finding kids trophy hunting and applying to too many schools just to see how many let them in and have no true interest in some of the schools. While I cannot relate to that scenario either personally, nor just would never happen in our neck of the woods, I realize this mentality does exist in some competitive environments. Another reason COULD be that a lot of kids in the school apply to all the same top schools and a LOT of them, it makes it harder for kids to get in as colleges do not want tons of kids all coming from one high school so they are kinda competing with each other as well, and if they are applying to schools they have no intention of attending, why make it harder for the kid coming from the same school who truly does want to go to that college.

Even if the above reasons are your school's rationale for this new rule, I think there are other ways they could go about it. Ideally, I would not limit the students, nor take out on them if they choose to go beyond the limit. But if they want a limit, they should choose a more reasonable number....I would say to limit it to not over 10 apps (I even think more than that is too many and not focused enough). I have no idea what they mean by four "selective" colleges. They would have to define that one! I guess if they want to go "there", maybe they could say, no more than 7 schools on the list that have admit rates lower than 30 % or some such.

I surely think groups of families need to challenge this and go in with the right arguments once they hear what the rationale is behind this ruling. But nothing should be done by the school that hurts students' chances of admission. And today that really does mean more than four schools, particularly if going for schools that are fairly selective. My daughter is applying to 8 schools and I think that is a good amt. I am floored by kids on the forum who are applying to over 12 schools. But there has got to be a happy medium between that case and one of only applying to four schools !

Good luck, and let us know what transpires! Keep after it as time is of essence.


By Purgeofdoors (Purgeofdoors) on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 10:02 pm: Edit

Their rationale (according to what the administration says):

Selective yet highly desired schools such as Duke, WUSTL, or Rice may only accept 1-5 students each from my parish (county out of LA). However, there are usually about 30 from my school and 20 in other local schools who desire those slots. We've also had some problems with excellent students in recent years who have applied to schools they did not intend to attend just to rack up admits for bragging purposes. This hurts the school's #s, since they can't send as many people to selective schools.

They'd much rather have every student do Early Decision to one selective school. They can't really understand the students who can't afford to do that, as the school has a fairly high average income (about 3-4x the state average).

I imagine they define "selective" school as any non-state non-Louisiana school.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 10:12 pm: Edit

Purge, interesting rationale. It's scary, as it shows a COMPLETE lack of understanding regarding the admissions process at competitive schools:

- all competitive schools deny that they have any quota regarding the number of admits from any one school. I rather believe they are being honest, for several reasons. First, they do take large numbers from some high performing schools. Second,

- because their evaluation of candidates considers class rank so heavily, regardless of how many apply, only the top ranked would be considered anyway. Same argument could be made for hooked applicants.

Good luck. You are obviously dealing with some pretty clueless folks.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 10:33 pm: Edit

Purge....well, it is good you obtained a stated rationale. It is actually one of the guesses I had for their reason (though I do not agree with them but guessed this might be a reason they would come up with). As I stated earlier, an argument could be made that given their fear about kids competing with each other for the same schools, they could set a limit but the limit needs to be way higher so as to not hurt kids' chances of having some admittance letters in hand next April. That is why I mentioned a max of ten might be more reasonable. Like someone else stated, even IF kids were competing against each other for certain schools, the ones with certain qualifications are going to be the admits anyway. I think an INFORMAL way to handle this is for guidance counselors to have a list of everyone's application list of schools and on a one to one basis advise kids as to what is appropriate in their case and how many kids from same school are applying to certain schools and perhaps advise kids in such a way to make it a win win for the individuals involved. But I cannot see making a rule about this, and certainly not limitting it to four schools. That would hurt applicants worse than what their current fear is of too many applicants to the same colleges. Cause four schools is NOT enough in today's very competitive and unpredictable admissions process at the higher end colleges. I think they need to handle each case individually and advise strongly but then leave it to the family to proceed as desired. If a kid is going for a school that fifty other kids are going for....let the kid know and the kid can decide whether to apply or not. If a kid comes in wanting to apply to fifteen schools, the counselor can advise strongly that that is too many, needs to whittle down, etc. That is my point of view.

In any case, if most feel as you do (and as you can see even the other posters here also feel as you do), then get together as a group of families to ask to be heard at a school board meeting regarding this new policy. There is power in numbers.
Let us know!

By Lamw (Lamw) on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 01:16 pm: Edit

I don't understand why the guidance office has this control anyway. Maybe because this is how a private school does it ? My S went to a small, public arts magnet HS. He applied to 9 schools for musical theater, none of which would seem very competitive outside of the world of musical theater, but were the most competitive in that field with approximately a 3-5% accept rate.
He organized the entire package for each school himself, all teacher and outside recs--resumes
applications-essays, audition paperwork etc. came out of HIS office. He sent along a letter saying that his transcript would follow under separate cover.He provided the Guidance office with a list of colleges ,9 addressed and stamped envelops
and asked her to send a transcript, the school profile and her rec (which he had a copy of anyway). It took her 20 minutes- she was very happy. He was accepted at 7. I can't imagine why collegebound seniors should not have control of this very important step. I guess this is what I would say to the guidance office.

By Bigdaddy (Bigdaddy) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 12:53 am: Edit

A couple of things....

The national average ratio of counselors to students is 512:1. In California the ratio is 1056:1

None of my daughter's friends applied to more than six colleges and they all were accepted to their first-choice schools.

By Chasgoose (Chasgoose) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 02:57 am: Edit

What you should try and do is ask yourself, "If I could only apply to 4 colleges, where would I apply?" because there is a distinct possibility that the school won't budge on the issue. Then, if you have problems limiting it down to 4, pick one or two and try and convince your school to let you apply there (Probably make the extra school a match or a safety so as to cover your bases and to make you seem less "admit-racking"). Be forewarned that your efforts might fail. (btw do you go to school in the new orleans area?)

By Asallan (Asallan) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 05:48 pm: Edit mother thought that applying to four was a lot. So, I'm applying to four schools...

My brother applied to 2, got where he wanted to go. *Shrugs*

I'm applying to one safety, one cut above (and the honors college, which in itself is a reach), a reach with a good chance, and a flat out reach.

Is this...bad?

By Thedad (Thedad) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 05:52 pm: Edit

Not "bad" but relying on outdated information and perspective. The number of graduating high school seniors will rise 35 percent between 1998 and 2010 while the number of spots for college freshmen is flat or even declining a little due to budget cuts.

Now, what do *you* think the implications of this are for college admissions and what do *you* think is a reasonable response to those implications?

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:06 pm: Edit

Not everyone needs to apply to alot of colleges but I think in this day and age restricting students to only 4 schools is limiting them more than most schools are. I cannot see any schools in any area where I have lived getting away with this. Parents would have a true uprising. Parents and school board should get involved with this policy.
The problem is that for more and more kids, applying to alot of schools is making more sense. With the computer, copy machines, and common application, it is ever so much easier to to multiple apps. Because so many are applying to alot of schools, it is becoming more and more difficult for the colleges to pick out who really wants to come to their school. We are now entering a period of chaos where many college admissions offices struggle even as the students and parents struggle with this process. There are those who believe that limiting applications can help the situation. The problem is that everyone would have to participate and that is not going to happen readily.
For kids who are qualified to get into a highly selective school, it just makes mathematical sense to apply to as many as the student can handle. By handle, that means personal touches on the apps, contacts with the schools, high interest and good infor on the schools, be sincere in interest and the interviews, maintain excellent grades and activiites. That's quite alot to do if you are applying to alot of schools. If you need to audition or have extensive contact with the schools, that is going to limit the number you can handle. Also kids going for financial aid should probably apply to alot of schools as should kids with special hooks. You never know who needs an oboe player---the colleges are not always forthright about what they need and want.
But I have a friend whose daughter only needed and wanted to apply to one school. She made the cut for the state tution free program and was well within the limits to get in. She applied and was accepted within a month. One application made sense to her.
Most guidance counselors and teachers that I know only write up one rec per student, keep it on file and just copy for each college. So after the rec is written all that has to be done is to attach it to college's form with a "see attached" and stick it into the provided envelope and put it in the school out mail box. Perhaps this school fills out each and every little box on each ap. I was not happy when I found out our school's policy on recs but then found out tha t almost all the schools in the area are doing the same. In fact I could not find one that did not.
I suggest you send out your 4 apps all at the same time, ED for your first choice if you have one, and definitely a safety. Then if you are deferred have 4 more aps waiting in the wings and ask if they can be sent, especially if your counselor uses just one rec form as I described above. My son and my neighbor's daughter split their application process into two time efforts and did quite well that way. Their second set was better thought out and they really did them themselves. When the first set went out, they just were not ready to do them and were really distracted, unmotivated and unfocused, so anxious parents took them through the process. I did not touch the second batch-- and he ended up in a selective school from that second batch that he had investigated and applied to on his own. As did my neighbor's daughter. After visiting, researching, talking about the 6 schools she applied to, she decide to apply to 3 more that she felt were calling to her to apply. And she found her match in that group.
On the other hand, my son applied to too many in the first batch, because he had no idea what he wanted and was a mixed bag as far as selectivity. When he got a firm handle on the situation, and could honestly say, "I want to go this school", he was accepted immediately. He got into 6 of the first 10 schools he applied to but really prefered the second group of 7 that he did. His counselor was not happy about that second set but he was not about to rewrite the rec on file--all he had to do was have the secretary copy it and stuff it in an envelope, and he had many students who were just doing their first (and probably only) group of applications that he had to deal with. It was much later he did tell us that we over did the process and I think he was right. But then he was absolutely no help in the selection of schools process or information so I did not feel badly about the 7 extra copies that had to be made and sent. If he had spent alot of time in the process and hand done each ap individually, I would not have encouraged so many applications.
Bottom line--get your 4 best bets (including reach ED, match, high match, safety)early and then start another set for later in the season. If he's swamped, unless he does them individually, it'll be easier for him just to send what he has. My son's counselor did not immediately even remember that one batch went out already.

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