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The College Admissions Waiting Game

It has come to my attention that a good number of high school seniors this year have been wait-listed at the colleges of their choice. I'm not sure if I'm alone, but I am absolutely amazed by this.

As there is currently residing in my house a high school senior, and in light of the fact that I overhear (i.e., eavesdrop) some of his conversations with his peers, it has come to my attention that a good number of high school seniors this year have been wait-listed at the colleges of their choice. In other words, the board members of the admissions committees at these schools are telling our high school seniors that they'll get back to them on whether they will allow our students (and of course, their parents) the privilege of paying over $50,000/year to attend their prestigious institutions.

I'm not sure if I'm alone here, but I am absolutely amazed by this. What other industry can treat its customer base this way and get away with it? And not just get away with it, but thrive in it. Bask in the knowledge that if one kid says no, or their parents say, "Sorry, we can't afford it," there will be several hundred more applicants right behind to take their place and be thrilled with the idea of paying such exorbitent sums for a college education that these days guarantees you nothing but student debt.  

I have another theory (a recurring fantasy actually). What if some smart and enterprising high school senior rose up through the ranks and through the use of social media unionized all seniors in this country to take a year off. A gap year. Go feed the poor, build homes, join the Peace Corps -- do some good somewhere in the world, anything. Just make sure you DO NOT ATTEND COLLEGE that year. Do you think that might get the colleges' attention? Do you think the overpaid staff and bloated college presidents might perk their ears up? The message is simple: We, the students, refuse to pay over $200,000 for a college education that guarantees us nothing but the privilege of lining your pockets!!!  

As a parent of three teenage boys (with three college tuitions looming over me in the horizon), I readily admit that I might be a little biased. But I say, as long as we keep lining up to pay these ridiculous, exorbitant sums and have our kids mistreated in the process, colleges are simply going to continue hiking up their fees each and every year.

It's the basic rules of supply and demand. Simple economics. I say cut off the demand and sit back and watch the cost of a college education plummet to where it should be in the first place. Better yet, let's have the colleges vie for our kids, fight over them, and we just kick back and tell the schools, "We'll see...we'll put you on our waiting list."

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Jennifer Crohn April 19, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Great op ed. Perhaps it's a shame we have no NAHAL in the US.
Victoria Hanks April 19, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I love the idea. The trouble is kids don't usually get these great ideas until the actually get to college! The other problem is, the children themselves are not paying for college--well not for a long time, even if they are actually taking out their own student loans. The reality of this is usually lost on 17 year olds, whether they pay later or not at all. A gap year is an excellent idea for graduating seniors. But who pays for what they do during that time unless they work? I think the student loan push back that is going around the internet is great to get on board with. Many of the loans should be forgiven, especially for people who have been paying for years and in this economy and for long after can't possibly see their way to making a dent in the principle. They are crippling for anyone just starting out and push kids to major in business rather than the humanities. Neither major guarantees a job as we now know.
Lori Chopoorian April 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Brilliant.
Rick Cahill April 19, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I am afraid this idea will fall by the way of all drivers not buying gasoline for a week, thinking this will cause gas prices to fall. It is quite plain that college tuition is out of control. As long as colleges play the affirmative action game, nationally and internationally, there is little chance that tuition will decline. It is the usual problem: professors being granted tenure and the continually rising cost of benefits. Someone needs to be held accountable and, honestly; I do not know who that should be. I think we need to encourage our kids to get back into a trade rather than be a "business" major where there are fewer and fewer opportunities. We outsource to many of our economy's functions.
M OKeef April 19, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Victoria -- Why exactly do college and grad school loans "need to be forgiven"? No one forced the person to borrow the money or attend an expensive private school or more likely graduate school? College/grad school is a CHOICE and is not akin to a life threatening medical emergency....these people borrowed the money in the hopes of their own self improvement. My tax dollars should not allow be used to pay their debt and allow them to escape their voluntary debt.
Edward Hotel April 20, 2012 at 01:19 PM
As they say, talk is cheap. Let's see what you do if one of your sons is accepted into an Ivy League schools. You will be sending in the 1st check before you can say I'm a 1%'er.
Katie Demaio April 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Are you upset about the tuition or upset that your son is on a waiting list? We mounted our own boycott. My son only applied to public schools with more reasonable tuition. He got some small (but helpful) scholarships and admission to his first choice.
Cynthia Cumming April 20, 2012 at 09:22 PM
We have a senior as well and are considered 'too wealthy' to qualify for any federal or state aid. However, our son had a 4.0 gpa (honors) for 4 years and was accepted into his four choices, some of whom offered merit scholarships. We're still looking at about 12K a year in loans, some subsidized, others unsubsidized. Plus a lot of colleges help the kids get jobs. He's also going to live at home and go to college locally. Other friends are putting their kids in community colleges to get requirements out of a way in the first two years, and then they can transfer to state colleges.
NKatie April 21, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Sounds good to me!
Felicia Gopaul April 25, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Like Rick, I'm not sure every student taking a gap year would work long term but it would certainly get the colleges attention before they return to business as usual. I fervently believe in a college education but after interning at a high school, I've learned that not every student is made for college. Some should consider a trade or community college or even the military like my father.
TheCollegeHelper May 02, 2012 at 02:51 PM
As a college counselor, I understand your frustration. While mostly all colleges use a 'holistic' approach to evaluating applicants, we can't be absolutely certain as to what they're looking for. That's why it's important for students to work closely with their parents and counselors to come up with a smart list of colleges to apply to. This list absolutely must include not only their reach and target schools, but also some safety schools. A student's safety schools must be schools that the student would be happy to attend if none of the other schools on the list worked out. It's also not uncommon for students to get admitted to Ivy League schools, but get rejected from non-Ivy League schools. Since there are no guarantees, the best solution for students is to be strategic during the college application process. Lauren TheCollegeHelper.com

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