Colleges That Change Lives, and the Admissions Journey

Each spring, the media frenzy around record low college acceptances sends students and parents into a tail spin of nerves. And then the breath of fresh air arrives – the Colleges That Change Lives College Fair.  Here, executive director, Maria Furtado, calms the hysteria and imparts a smile with her reality check of today’s college admissions landscape. 

“The average admission rate at four-year colleges over the last 10 years is roughly 65%,” noted Ms. Furtado. And the percentage of college freshmen who say they are at their first choice college ranges from 80 to 88% year to year.  So the important take-away is that high school students are much more successful with their college journey than one would perceive from the entire buzz.

Liberal Arts for the Sciences

The Colleges That Change Lives consortium consists of 44 liberal arts colleges throughout the US. These are the undergraduate institutions first profiled by Loren Pope 20 years ago as smaller schools offering superior education experiences that enrich students’ lives.  To be clear, liberal arts colleges are not just for students interested in the humanities.  If you have a teen who is science/math oriented and looking for a strong STEM program, these colleges are excellent options for several reasons.

Liberal arts colleges have a great deal of research underway and undergraduates have greater opportunities to get involved in research earlier than they do at larger universities. That’s because there are few or no graduate students at colleges competing for choice research positions.  The lack of grad students impacts classroom learning as well. At the liberal arts colleges, full professors are teaching the introductory courses as well as the electives, and more often than not, their doors are always open.

As a college counselor, I’ve heard countless students at the top universities tell me “my lab teacher is a grad student who speaks with such a heavy accent, I barely understand him,” or “it’s impossible to schedule a meeting with my professor because he hardly has office hours.”   I’ve never heard these sentiments from my students who attend CTCL colleges.

A unique flavor of the college experience

On the contrary, it is the warm campus atmosphere and nurturing philosophy of CTCL institutions that make them stand out.  Speaking to admissions reps at the individual colleges, their enthusiasm is palpable; these people really love their students. The McDaniel College rep beamed as she boasted that over 10 thousand people from all over Maryland come to the school’s homecoming game.  At Willamette, the rep highlighted the plethora of trips - from weekend jaunts to weeks-long adventures - that almost all students participate in.  Each campus offers its own unique flavor of the college experience.

Another pleasant surprise is the criteria with which most of the CTCL schools view their applicants. Yes, the student's academic record is first, and foremost, but standardized test scores fall further down the list than they do at other institutions. And a good number of CTCL colleges are test-optional which can make the admissions process far less stressful.

When CTCL reps tell me they take a holistic approach to applications, I believe them (I typically don’t at other schools).

If you missed the fair, I urge you to explore  and get to know these schools. You’ll be glad you did.