Realistic College Lists: Helping Parents See the Light


Do you work with students who feel pressured by their families to add out-of-reach schools to their college lists?

NACAC member Beth Slattery has some insight that may be helpful to share with parents. Her advice? Ask moms and dads to consider what their suggestions signal to students.

“I don’t believe parents are intentionally trying to send the message that they are disappointed in their child when they suggest out-of-reach colleges. Most of them believe they are expressing confidence in their child’s ability, but that isn’t how the child hears it,” Slattery wrote in a recent post published on the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS) Admit All blog. “The student hears that the parent is disappointed in the colleges that they can get into. The student hears that the parent wishes they were the kind of applicant who had a shot at that type of school.”

But not every student is a good fit for the small handful of ultra-selective colleges that boast admit rates in the single digits, noted Slattery, upper school dean at Harvard Westlake School (CA). And that’s OK. Families that wholeheartedly embrace their child’s unique strengths end up being better allies in the college search and selection process.

“Be the parent who fully accepts the amazing gifts your child does possess,” Slattery urged moms and dads. “Be the parent who actively looks for colleges that match those gifts, regardless of where it is ranked. Be the parent who, when your child mentions a school you’ve never heard of, takes the time to find out more, rather than dismissing it out-of-hand.”

Read the full blog post on the ACCIS Admit All blog and check out NACAC’s Guide for Families in the College Admission Process.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at