Anxiety Antidote: Which College Suits?
Knowing the odds, parents seek every advantage for their children, and you can't blame them. Still, some tactics are open to debate; The Wall Street Journal wrote recently about a mother who quit her job as a human resources manager to help her daughter get into college. But if a parent gets too involved, such strategies can backfire, since, as Inzer points out, "We try to remember who is applying for admission and establish our relationship with the applicant." Admission professionals note that, with the number of high school graduates soaring 16.6 percent nationally since 2000, there's not much they can (or would) do about the growing demand for selective colleges. But some people's obsessive search for the brass ring — the chance to display the decal of an elite college on the back window of the family automobile — is a problem admission professionals do attempt to address, albeit with limited success.
The antidote to admission anxiety, Schilder says, is getting families to focus not on the college that's the highest rated or most prestigious, but on the college that best suits the prospective student's needs and interests. "It's not all about reputation," she says, "but about being at a place that's the right fit for you."
Wendy Schmidt '05 agrees. "As an alum, I can be so genuine about this place," says Schmidt, who split her responsibilities between admission and financial aid before moving full time to financial aid last summer. "Early on, I tried to sell every person on Hamilton. I've learned that it's not the right place for everyone, but it can be the right place for a lot of people. For me, it's more about a match," she continued. "I'm not trying to force something on them; I'm trying to help them find the right place."
For Inzer and her staff, that dialogue is always a personal one, focused on the individual applicant. "We can't do anything about the number of students graduating from high school," Inzer notes, "but we can work to ensure that Hamilton puts its best foot forward and that our prospective students' experiences with the College are positive and personal, so that they can make an informed decision about whether Hamilton is right for them."
Still, she told a New York Times reporter in March, "We need a shakeup. I think the anxiety families are feeling right now is not the way we [in the admission profession] planned it."