Applying to college does not have to be overwhelming!  The following principles and guidelines can help make the college admission process more manageable, more productive, and more educationally appropriate.  This guidance is offered by the Education Conservancy, a group of admission professionals committed to calming the commercial frenzy by affirming educational values in college admission.

    These guiding principles are relevant for parents, students, counselors and admission deans:
    • Education is a process, not a product.  Students are learners, not customers.
    • The benefits and predictors of good education are knowable yet virtually impossible to measure.
    • Rankings oversimplify and mislead.
    • A student's intellectual skills and attitude about learning are more important than what college a student attends.
    • Educational values are best served by admission practices that are consistent with these values.
    • College admission should be part of an educationa process directed toward student autonomy and intellectual maturity.
    • Colleges can be assessed, but not ranked.  Students can be evaluated, but not measured.
    • Students' thoughts, ideas and passions are worthy to be engaged and handled with utmost care.
    Student Guidelines
    An admission decision, test score, or GPA is not a measure of your self-worth.  And, most students are admitted to colleges they want to attend.  Knowing this, we encourage you to:
    • Be confident!  Take responsibility for your college admission process.  The more you do for yourself, the better the results will be.
    • Be deliberate!  Applying to college involves thoughtful research to determine distinctions among colleges, as well as careful self-examination to identify your interests, learning style and other criteria.  Plan to make well-considered applications to the most suitable colleges.  This is often referred to as "making good matches."
    • Be realistic and trust your instincts!  Choosing a college is an important process, but not a life or death decision.  Since there are limits to what you can know about colleges and about yourself, you should allow yourself to do educated guesswork.
    • Be open-minded! Resist the notion that there is one perfect college.  Great education happens in many places.
    • Use a variety of resources for gathering information.  Seek advice from those people who know you, care about you and are willing to help.
    • Be honest; be yourself!  Do not try to game the system.
    • Resist taking any standardized test numerous times (twice is usually sufficient).
    • Limit your applications to a well-researched and reasonable number.  No more than six should be sufficient, except in special cases.
    • Know that WHAT YOU DO in college is a better predictor of future success and happiness than WHERE YOU GO to college.
    Parent Guidelines
    An admission decision, test score, or GPA is not a measure of your student's worth.  And, parents should always be mindful of the behavior they are modeling for their children.  Knowing this, we encourage you to:
    • Recognize that gaining admission to college is merely on step in a process of education that will include your student attending a college where she or he can maximize talents and growth.  Emphasize the education.
    • Resist doing for your students what they are capable of doing for themselves.
    • Allow your child to take responsibility for his or her own part of the college application process.  Be involved in the process, but do not try to control it.
    • Resist relying on rankings and college selectivity to determine the most suitable colleges for your child.
    • Realize that researching, selecting, and applying to colleges does not have to be an expensive process.
    • Resist attempts to turn the process into a status competition.  Develop a healthy, educationally based, and family-appropriate approach to college admissions.
    • Consider that gaming the system may not only diminish your child's self-confidence, it may also jeopardize desired admission outcomes.
    • Listen to, encourage and believe in your child.  Do not use the term "we" and in "we are applying to..."
    • Discuss the idea of education as an ongoing process, and how selecting a college might be different from buying a product.
    • Love them enough to let them demonstrate the independence you have instilled in them.
    • Keep this process in perspective.  Remember that student skills, self-confidence, curiosity, and desire to learn are some of the most important ingredients in quality education and successful college admissions.  Do not sacrifice these by overemphasizing getting into the "best" college.
    Phillip Ballinger, University of Washington
    Michael Beseda, St. Mary's College of California
    Jennifer Britz, Kenyon College
    J. Antonio Cabasco, Whitman College
    Sean Callaway, Pace University
    John Carroll, Kalamazoo College
    Sidonia Dalby, Smith college
    Doris Davis, Cornell University
    Will Dix, University of Chicago Lab School
    Bill Fitzsimmons, Harvard University
    Karl Furstenberg, Dartmouth College
    Marilee Jones, MIT
    Daniel Lundquist, Union College
    Brad MacGowan, Newton North High School
    Bonnie Marcus, Bard College
    Paul Marthers, Reed College
    Rovert Massa, Dickinson College
    David McDonald, Western Oregon University
    Tom McWhertor, Calvin College
    Mark Moody, The Bush School
    Marty O'Connell, Colleges That Change Lives
    Ted O'Neill, University of Chicago
    Bruce Poch, Pomona College
    Jon Reider, San Francisco University High School
    Jeff Rickey, Earlham College
    Mike Sexton, Lewis and Clark College
    Bill Shain, Vanderbilt University
    Jim Sumner, Grinnell College
    Steven Syverson, Lawrence University
    Harold Wingood, Clark University