Podcast Recap: Author Jeff Selingo Shares Essential Admissions Insights


The college admissions process isn't a meritocracy, and involves a fair amount of mystery, which are among the factors that make it so anxiety-inducing for students.

That was the word from Jeff Selingo, author of Who Gets In and Why, during today's edition of Strada Education's Lessons Earned podcast. Selingo spent a year embedded in college admissions offices so he could get the inside scoop on how the admissions process works, and he revealed some of his most intriguing insights on the podcast episode.

"We have this belief in this country that if you work hard and do well, you're going to get to go to the best colleges," Selingo said. "And that's not the case. It never was and never will be." In reality, he noted, every college has its own institutional goals, and applicants won't know what those are, so they can't gear their applications in that direction. This underscores the need to convey the total picture of who you are in your applications, so universities will know as much about every applicant as possible.

In addition, he said, many families approach the conversation about paying for college in a backward fashion. "When we're beginning the college search, we'll say, 'Don't worry about the price of the college. Go and find the perfect academic and social fit, and then we'll figure out how to pay for it later on.' And I actually think that's a wrong way of thinking about the college search. I think that the financial fit of a college needs to be up front and center much earlier on than it is for way too many families and students."

Selingo also discussed the growing prevalence of merit scholarships and their importance on admissions decisions, the widening gap of students who can afford college vs. those who can't, and how certain school districts "package" their students to make them shine in the admissions process. To listen to the complete podcast, visit the Strada Education Lessons Earned website.