College Planning Cohort Timeline

Our Program is not a ‘Lottery’ – We are ‘Strategic’

Our older son, who serves as one of our college advisors, is a graduate of Amherst College. His journey through North Springs High School in Atlanta, Georgia was part of a strategic plan to gain admission into a top college. His activities, leadership, service, gifts and talents, summer programs, and art portfolio, were all done in a manner as to strategically align with his top college choices—Amherst and Dartmouth.

The video provides insight into the college Amherst College admissions process where admission officers carefully scrutinize each component of a student’s application—activities, leadership, service, grades, test scores, essays, recommendation letters, personal achievements, and how students have encountered and overcome obstacles. However, each year, thousands of high school seniors apply to tens of thousands of colleges without regard to how their applications will be reviewed—they simply hope for the best. Rather than engaging in college planning, seniors throw applications into the wind and hope that one or more result in college acceptance. The result is thousands of rejection letters. However, even after receiving acceptance letters, thousands of students face the grim reality that the colleges to which they have been offered admission are unaffordable. This is not conjecture, this is a reality supported by multiple research studies on college undermatch, student loan debt, college admission rates, and college graduation rates. Since 2007, we have witnessed thousands of students apply to the wrong colleges, enroll at the wrong colleges, and leave college without a degree or with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt.

High schools encourage this haphazard approach by posting college acceptance letters on the wall and celebrating the volume of colleges to which students were offered admission. And, while high schools quickly tally the total amount of scholarships offered, they never tally the amount of student loans that were offered. This is not college planning, but rolling the dice and gambling on students’ futures.

Our program is strategic. As students progress through a comprehensive strategic planning process from the 9th grade through the second semester of a students’ junior year of high school. Each lesson is focused on aligning each student’s college aspirations and financial need with a well matched group of colleges and scholarships. Through this process, course taking, grades, test scores, activities, leadership, and service are pursued within a strategic context to match students to the ‘right’ colleges and for the ‘right’ scholarships. This process may result in a final college list comprised primarily of in-state public colleges and universities or one comprised primarily of private, and selective, colleges and universities. However, each student’s final college list is based on student’s ‘body of work’ and financial need.

What is Strategic Alignment?

Strategic alignment means that each student’s ‘body of work’ and financial need is strategically aligned with a group of colleges that provide both a strong admission and financial match. After strategic alignment is achieved, the focus shifts to ensuring that the student’s essays, writing responses, résumé, and recommendation letters are aligned to make the student the strongest possible candidate for being offered admission and qualifying for institutional scholarships.

By The End of 11th Grade

By the end of 11th grade, each student in our program should have developed a well researched college list, in which they her or she has affirmatively answered the following 3 questions:

Question #1: Do you believe that you qualify for admission to this college? If so, indicate how your grades and test scores compare to the median grades and test scores from this college based on your research. Indicate how your résumé qualifies you as a strong candidate for being offered admission based on what you learned from the Common Data Set for this college.

Question #2: Do you believe that this college will meet your full financial need? If so, clearly indicate what leads you to this decision, such as what you learned from the Net Price Calculator; the college’s website in which they outline their financial aid policy; or a specific institutional scholarship for which you qualify, based on your grades and test scores. 

Question #3: Are you planning to apply for a particular institutional scholarship at this college, such as the Lewis and Elizabeth Dowdy Scholarship at North Carolina A&T or the Elon University Odyssey Scholars Program? If so, indicate the name of the scholarship, application deadline, and amount of the scholarship (i.e., full tuition, full scholarship). 

When a student’s final college list is well researched, and one to which the student is well matched for being offered admission, and for being offered institutional scholarships that will meet the student’s financial need, the list could be as few as 3 schools or as many as 20 schools. However, whatever the number, is not arrived at haphazardly, but strategically.

No matter how academically accomplished, no student is guaranteed admission to any selective college or university. However, the many students profiled on our website were not offered admission to selective colleges and universities, or offered full scholarships because they were ‘lucky.’ Each student developed a strategic plan that guided them in applying to the ‘right’ colleges and for the ‘right’ scholarships.