Would you use a college matchmaker?

Allow me to throw a hypothetical at you. A type of thought experiment. If it were available, would you use a college matchmaker? Imagine a company says

We’re a team of college admissions experts. We’ll talk to you for about an hour to understand what you’re looking for and what’s important to you. We’ll get your transcript and test scores. We’ll get your FAFSA from your family. We’ll get you to write a Common App essay. And that’s it. We take it from there, and by March 1st we’ll have three to five good-fit schools you’ve been accepted to and can afford. All you have to do is choose from those. Our fee is not cheap, but it’s within your price range.

Would you want to use this service?

(Remember, this is a hypothetical thought experiment, so don’t worry about technical objections. How will they get teacher recommendations? What if the schools require supplemental essays? How will I demonstrate interest? What if they can’t guarantee results? Let go of those questions and focus on the big question: if you could hand most of the work over to experts and not have to deal with the application process, but you would have to let the experts do most of the selection for you, would you take that deal?)

Pay close attention to your answer, and work on explaining why. Because this is an imaginary situation, don’t let “it doesn’t really work that way” be a reason for your answer. Maybe you’ll get to things like:

Yes, because the process is so overwhelming that I’d be willing to give up control if I trust the people doing the work.

No, because I want to make sure I have an emotional connection with the school, and nobody else can do that for me.

Yes, because they have a lot more information about a lot more schools than I can find on my own.

No, because that takes the fun out of an important decision in my life!

Yes, because that takes the stress and confusion out of an important decision in my life!

Whatever your reasons for answering yes or no to the question, write them down with a “because” statement. If you’re not sure, write down your reasons for answering yes and no with “because” statements.

Your answers to this question are going to tell you a lot about your values when it comes to selecting a college. People rarely ask about your values in this context, so you may not have given it much thought. But for such an important decision, it’s really best to think about your values.

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of choosing the “right” school without realizing that you don’t really think the differences between all those colleges are so big, and you’d rather spend the time and emotions on something else. It’s just as easy to get caught in a cycle of procrastination and indecision because you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to find help. Understanding what you most value—what’s really important to you—can help you stay on track and make the experience better and easier.

If you want to dig even deeper into the exercise, take your “because” statements and make another level of “because” statements. So, for example, “No, because I want to make sure I have an emotional connection with the school, and nobody else can do that for me,” becomes “I want to make sure I have an emotional connection to the school, because for me a lot of my identity and confidence is tied to the organizations I belong to.”

This may feel a bit like navel-gazing at first. No applications are actually getting processed while you’re making because statements about your because statements. I understand. But if part of your stress or anxiety about college comes from not knowing exactly what you’re looking for—which is completely normal—then this can be an extremely valuable and time-saving exercise. Self knowledge is the best knowledge, and contemplating the hypothetical can help a lot.

Also, if you decide that yes, you would absolutely hire a college matchmaker if you could, then please consider hiring a college counselor. They’re not going to actually apply to schools for you, but they can help you move through the process much more easily. Especially if you can tell them what you really value in college.

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Photo by  Zoe Herring

Photo by Zoe Herring