A recent article in the Stanford Daily Newspaper raises concerns about another college counselor advertising in the Stanford Magazine. The issue? Is it cheating to have the help of a college counselor in trying to find the right college.
An alumni of Stanford is taking the position that it is cheating to get any help on the college application. Assuming this person had no help in applying to Stanford including help from his high school counselor, help from mom and dad, help in test prep, or any other kind of help, then I may understand what they are saying. But let’s look at the reality here.
Colleges spend millions of dollars each year in an effort to market themselves. They buy lists from the College Board and ACT with the names of high scorers. They use programs designed to determine who is likely to come if they are offered admission. They reject students with great academic and personal backgrounds simply because they believe the student will attend another college. They pay more to get strong students or they decide to admit students on the basis of whether they can pay full tuition or not. Are the details of any of this disclosed to students? Nope. Why not? Because colleges are businesses and they don’t have to disclose this information.
And is it fair for colleges to admit student athletes and legacy students with substantially lower grades and test scores? Is it fair that Asian students need to have higher grades and test scores to apply and still are often not admitted because of their ethnic background?
But to say that students that have little or no counseling should not have the right to talk with someone who actually knows about different colleges, who knows how financial aid works and knows what makes an attractive applicant is completely unfair. Students should be encouraged to find and apply to the colleges that fit them best. How are they to do this when they have never done this before and don’t have the time to understand the complete college process on their own because they need the strong grades and activities that colleges like Stanford require?
I don’t support the ridiculous fees charged by the counselor who advertised in the Stanford magazine. But to say that student’s are cheating because they get some help is equally ridiculous. Are they cheating when they attend a high school that has strong academics and strong counseling so that they are more competitive for the highly selective colleges? Are they cheating when they take the SAT more than once to get a better score? Not everyone can afford to take the SAT more than once. Yet the colleges themselves, including Stanford, are happy to superscore SAT scores in an effort to make themselves look better to US News.
Life isn’t perfect and it isn’t fair. Some people get more opportunities than others whether we like it or not. Colleges are businesses and they have limited resources.
Applying to college is often not a fair process because some colleges don’t want it to be fair. So, when alumni of colleges like Stanford bring a holier than thou attitude when students use a college counselor to help them find the right college, it makes me mad.
College counselors are not perfect and there are some who charge outrageous fees. But the vast majority do this work because we love helping students find the best college for their needs. Many of us also volunteer our time to help students who really need the help but can’t afford to hire a counselor. I truly believe that most colleges, with all of their imperfections, really want to find those students who will thrive the most in their college.
Let’s stop this silly sniping and focus on what is best for the students we work with. After all, isn’t this supposed to be about making them better educated and more informed citizens.