The College Selection/Rejection Mindset

Now that the May 1 enrollment decision day looms large for this year’s crop of college-bound high school seniors, we can turn our attention to high school juniors. They will soon be so-called “rising” seniors as they enjoy their summer between junior and senior year. As I’ve mentioned before, when I hear the term “rising” senior, I picture bread baking. Somehow, the word “rising” doesn’t seem to jibe with the image of a high school student on summer vacation. Those of you parents out there who have had to blow a compressed-air boat horn to get your rising senior to rise out of bed will know what I mean.

Anyway, let’s talk about the process high school students use to select the the colleges to which they will (or won’t) apply. I have found some interesting data about that. One particularly interesting set of comments comes from social architect David Porter, who shared with me his theories about why high schoolers may need to rethink their rationale for selecting a first-choice college from among all the candidates they are investigating.

As I discuss every spring, tens of thousands of high school students receive their college acceptance letters in April. It’s an anxious time. Students and their parents want to believe that the schools from which the good news has arrived hold the promise that attendance will be their ticket to eventual financial success in a life’s work. So, if they are trying to get from the here and now to that hoped-for financial independence, how do they select the one school that will deliver that return on their investment?

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