Value (Capture) in College Admissions

A few weeks ago, a friend told me about the concept of “Value Capture” – a phrase coined by Dr. Thi Nguyen, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah. Essentially, value capture occurs when a metric becomes the motivation for a certain behavior (Abstract and paper here.) 

For example, instead of posting pictures on social media to simply share with family and friends, we become focused on and consumed by the number of likes or impressions we receive. I appreciate Dr. Nguyen providing well- researched phrasing to what I tried to articulate with fewer citations (but more puns) in my blog: “What are you Strava-ing for?”, which served as a confession that my running had been hijacked by the stats of a fitness app.  

Before I had this app, I rarely brought my phone with me on a run unless I needed the flashlight or wanted to listen to a podcast. Before I had the app, I’d come home with new ideas or perspective, or just feeling lighter (minus my legs) because I’d tuned out and refilled my proverbial cup. Lately, I’ve been coming back and checking to see my pace, achievements, and who else I know has run those segments. Even in the middle of runs, I’ve found myself thinking, “I need to PR (personal record—it tracks those too) this mile or loop.” 

Not up for Dr. Nguyen’s 50+ page paper? In this 8-minute interview with best-selling author (Scarcity Brain and Comfort Crisis) and UNLV journalism professor, Michael Easter, they discuss the recognition of value capture as an invitation to continually check our motivations.  

Why am I doing this?  

What is driving me? 

And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others?

As a high school student, now is a common time to be selecting classes for next year. Beware of value capture. What are you chasing—the grade or the preparation? They are not the same.  

Why am I re-taking the SAT/ACT? Because a school I’m applying to has a merit scholarship connected to a particular score range—value. Because if I get 20 points higher I’ll be able to beat my brother’s score to rub it in his face—capture! 

Again: Why am I doing this? What is driving me? And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

Value Capture Meet College Admission 

The more I read, listened, and thought about this framework, the more I realized the college admission experience (for everyone involved) is tailor- made to be value captured…and it has been—ohhh, how it has been. 

“In value capture, we take a central component of our autonomy — our ongoing deliberation over the exact articulation of our values — and we outsource it. And the metrics to which we outsource are usually engineered for the interests of some external force, like a large-scale institution’s interest in cross-contextual comprehensibility and quick aggregability. That outsourcing cuts off one of the key benefits to personal deliberation. In value capture, we no longer adjust our values and their articulations in light of our own rich experience of the world. Our values should often be carefully tailored to our particular selves or our small-scale communities, but in value capture, we buy our values off the rack.” 

Well, damn. There you have it. Let’s look at a few ways that students and colleges can be value captured- and how to keep this in check.  

Rankings 

And the metrics to which we outsource usually engineered for the interests of some external force, like a large-scale institution’s interest in cross-contextual comprehensibility and quick aggregability.” 

Sheesh! Can you say, “US News and World Report?!” Students and families value going to a good school. They want a place where faculty care, students learn, and graduates get jobs (If this language is too technical, please let me know). All reasonable and commendable desires/ values. But if not checked we can effectively outsource critical and independent thinking for a simplified ordering of colleges.  

Every year we hear stories from students who say they were discouraged from applying to schools ranked below number X; or decided only to apply to schools within the Top 10 in a particular field; or were pressured to ultimately choose the highest ranked school from which they received on offer of admission. No! 

Instead of considering individual needs and wants; instead of asking big questions about the types of settings in which we best learn or thrive; instead of being confident enough to do our own research and ask the questions that most matter to us, “we buy our values off the rack.”  

They call it the “College Search.” But that is not meant to be literal- as in  one-click on Google to serve up prescribed list. SEARCH means within yourself. It means asking big questions not drawing little lines between numbers on a contrived list. 

And what is particularly ironic about the “rackings” (definitely calling them that from here on out) dictating where you visit, apply, or ultimately attend, is the biggest factor in the US News rackings (Told you. See, I’m not even using quotes anymore) are not even numbers at all.  

What? YEP, 20% of the methodology is generated from the opinions of people who work at other colleges.  

What?! And to show you how little effort people put into these, only about 30% responded. 

What!! In the end, 1500~ (1000 fewer than 30% of this blog’s subscribers) highly biased and self-serving people dictated numbers that generate millions of dollars annually. Disturbing. Deeply, deeply disturbing.

Value capture, people. Unshackle yourselves from the rackings by continually asking: Why am I doing this? What is driving me? And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

If you are a sophomore or a junior, try this map, rather than a list, to help you think differently.  

If you are a senior, wanting to make a personalized versus prescribed decisions on where to ultimately attend, how about this quote from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement address: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Admit rates = College Quality 

“We are vulnerable to value capture because of the competitive advantage that such pre-packaged value expressions have in our reasoning and our communications. But when we internalize such metrics, we damage our own autonomy. In value capture, we outsource the process of deliberating on our values. And that outsourcing cuts off one of the key benefits of personal deliberation.” 

Too many students and parents look at admit rates as a proxy for quality and take these numbers in isolation to make decisions and assumptions. Literally, this week I talked to a friend who cannot understand why his daughter is leaning toward one college to which she’s been admitted when she also got into a school that has an admit rate 2x lower. (Cough… value capture.)  

Now I didn’t get all Nguyen-y about it, but I did ask him to consider why his daughter is more interested in one over the other– and why he’s having trouble reconciling this. 

I also thought it was helpful to point out a few things about “admissions math:” 

a. Denominator. Colleges don’t all count apps the same way, and can easily up their n. Some schools require a transcript, test scores, and a completed application with supplements to count as an app. Others? Well, you hit submit on a pre-populated form and then unsubscribe to all follow up comms… yea, we’ll go ahead and count that.

b. Numerator. Through binding Early Decision plans or other layered application deadlines, schools can radically depress their admit count  because of the guaranteed enrollment of those admits. Sound like some dark Bayou magic math? Wave if you are following.

c. Still Numerator. Number of admits can be further decreased by intentionally waitlisting to gauge interest, deferring to watch engagement, or implementing other levers in the process.

Translation. You can’t trust the math. It’s not apples: apples. It’s fruity. But it’s not fruit. 

The big question to be asking is: What do you value?  

Perhaps the answer is: I want to go to a college that denies at least 3x more students than it admits because I value exclusion.  

Or I am deeply committed to single digits. I’ve never had a uniform number above 9; I was born in a month prior to October; and I always measure people in feet rather than inches.  

Sound ridiculous? Go online and buy a shirt that says, “I’ve been Value Freed!” If not, go here and sort by “Admission Rate.” Then find a shirt reading, “Olin = RISD” or “Berea > Bryn Mawr.”  

Flipping the Mirror 

Suffice it to say, when it comes to both the rankings and admit rate, colleges should be asking themselves the same questions.  

Why are we doing this?  

What is driving us?  

And have we lost sight of “our why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

However, I’m not holding my breath to find the answers to those questions on any college’s mission statement, list of values, or strategic plan soon. 

Values 

“Value capture occurs when an agent enters a social environment which presents external expressions of value — which are often simplified, standardized, and quantified — and those external versions come to dominate our reasoning and motivations.” 

I believe you are more than an agent. I believe you have agency. And as a talented high school student and a future college student, there is no better time than now to embrace that distinction.  

 

(Not) about me… and the blog 

(Warning: There are a lot of hyperlinks in this blog. If you have an aversion to URLs or words being underlined, proceed with caution. Otherwise, I hope they’ll give you a small sense of what we’ve covered over the last eight years.) 

For the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of leading Georgia Tech’s admission team and our undergraduate recruitment and review efforts (dual enrollment, transfer, first-year). During this time, we have been fiercely committed to continuous improvement, and as a result have overhauled our approach to recruitment, review, communication, policy, and practice… several times over. It has truly been fun to leverage our platform and megaphone in creative ways (including this blog) to help Georgia Tech become a thought leader in the college admission and undergraduate enrollment, and it has been my honor to serve as one of our primary storytellers in Georgia, around the country, and abroad. 

Much of that opportunity has emanated from Tech’s dramatic rise in reputation and impact driven by our research, entrepreneurship, innovation and more. But every team, company, and organization have its weaknesses, and while we have grown significantly in every other category and demographic, we have failed to increase our enrollment of low-income students and Pell Grant recipients. 

Ultimately, admission without affordability is not access, and as a public university- and a public good- we have a fundamental obligation to ensure Tech’s life-transforming, world-class education and experience is accessible to top talent, regardless of a student’s financial background. This is why our Transforming Tomorrow Campaign is centered on raising $500 million for need-based scholarships and our President, Dr. Ángel Cabrera, has made affordability, return on investment, and social mobility top priorities.  

In pursuit of these goals, Tech recently created a new position in our division of Enrollment Management: Executive Director for Strategic Student Access– and as of January 1, I have stepped into this inaugural role. My focus will be on developing/cultivating relationships and collaborating with stakeholders on and off campus, including school and school system leaders, community and government agencies, corporate sponsors, philanthropies, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and donors. 

My goal has always been to leave GT admission better than I found it- and to ensure our team, structure, and office culture are sound. I can say unequivocally that is the case. The talent on our team is incredible and imminently qualified to continue the path of excellence we’ve established in “Progress and Service,” and the culture I have helped create, while far from perfect, is built on trust, encouragement, humility, and a deep concern for the work and one another.

I am excited that my longtime friend and colleague, Mary Tipton Woolley, will serve as the interim director, bringing with her over two decades of admission experience, an established track record of vision and success, leadership positions both on campus and nationally.

So, what about the blog? 

After we released the story about this new role, I received a number of texts, emails, and calls that started with “Congratulations!” And quickly pivoted to, “So, what about the blog?”   

Well…I created the GT Admission Blog in the fall of 2015. My daughter was four; the Cubs had gone more than a century without a title; and tick tock was just a sound.  

Was there a grand strategic vision for the blog in the beginning? Hardly. The truth is it began because at the time, my regular Thursday afternoon “running meeting” was with my friend and Tech’s former director of enrollment communications, Matt McLendon. We’d lace up our shoes and set off with a full agenda. BUT inevitably somewhere along the Beltline (which was largely unpaved), I’d start rambling about a particular challenge or admission issue.  

One day (mid-run/ mid-rant), Matt gently suggested I “write this stuff down.” He asserted that families needed to hear more honesty and openness from admission deans and directors, and my random analogies and anecdotes may actually be a refreshing way to present subjects that often stir anxiety. (Although I suspect it was also his tactful way of trying to enjoy the run and keep us on task). 

In the 8 years and ~300 blogs since, that has been the goal. It has led to: myriad of sports references; many predictions- some of which have been spot on, and many others…spot off; extremely loose parallels; countless puns and dad jokes; an excessive number of (likely unnecessary) parentheticals (see what I did there?); as well as various chronicles of my kids’ childhood. 

But the blog has never been mine or about me. Instead, it is Georgia Tech’s– and it exists for you. Its real strength has always been the variety of voices we’ve featured and the feedback we’ve received. Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular blogs have come from Tech’s talented and brilliant admission colleagues. They have helped realize the initial vision of addressing broad admission issues to provide readers perspective, insight, and helpful tips in a relatable/accessible tone – and hopefully bringing some levity and solace along the way. 

Good news! All of that is going to continue.  

I am still focused on undergraduate enrollment and working closely with our admission team. And arguably there has never been a more dynamic and important time in higher education and college admission. Plus, Matt McLendon now works at the University of Alabama, so I can’t get all of my crazy parallels out on runs If you want to literally hear more from me, you can check out The Truth about College Admission podcast.

We have so many experts on our team who are excited to share their perspectives, stories, and tips with you. So going forward you can expect two blogs each month—one from me and one from a Georgia Tech colleague. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. And please reach out if you want us to cover certain topics, find one of our jokes funny, or vehemently disagree. We welcome all of that- and ultimately it makes this blog an even stronger resource. 

In Progress and Service,  

Rick 

College Admission Signals

My son is 15 and learning to drive. Sitting (squirming/ praying) in the car with a new driver has brought back some incredibly vivid 30-year-old memories from my driver’s education experience. 

Our county offered this class at the district level. So, as sophomores we’d load the bus and head off to a joint facility shared by multiple high schools. After a month or two in rudimentary simulators, we finally hit the roads. Each car went out with three students (one driving and two in the back) and an instructor. My understanding is that this model is extremely rare now, and trust me, I see all the reasons it has gone the way of the VHS tape.  

One day, I was in the backseat with a girl from another high school. The kid driving was from my school. For this blog’s purposes, we’ll call him John. Actually, that was his real name. Since it was three decades ago and he has one of the most common names out there, there’s really no need to disguise his identity.   

John was unique. I had Biology with him the year before. Smart, quiet, but apt to both say and do some bizarre things at inappropriate times. Yea, if you are thinking, “Wow. That does not seem like a good combo for driving,” then buckle up, friends.  

We are in the right lane going about 35-40 MPH on a busy four-lane road and headed toward a big intersection. The instructor said, “OK. We are going to take a left at this light.”  

John continues to drive.  

Five seconds later and about a quarter mile from the intersection, she repeats, “Up here we’re going to take a left.” 

John was not picking up on this cue, and I could not help myself. 

An eighth of a mile out I say, “John. You need to get into the other lane.” Without checking his mirrors, he literally swerves into the left lane.

At that moment, the light turns yellow.  

Now, what he should have done was slowly brake. But not John. He punches it. (Told you- bizarre things at inappropriate times.) 

The girl in the back with me grabs my hand with a look of sheer terror. And that’s when things went from bad to worse.  

Unbeknownst (bonus points if you had that word on your blog bingo card) to all of us, the instructor had an override brake on her side of the car. Whaaaaaatttt???!!! And she steps on it hard.  

Meanwhile, John is still gassing it. The combination leaves us diagonally stopped in the middle of the intersection. Instructor lady is yelling at John, the girl next to me is starting to break bones in my hand, and John is looking down at his foot completely befuddled by how he can be hitting the gas and yet at a complete stop.

Outside the car things are getting ugly. Cars from every direction are beeping because we’re blocking all traffic. Chaos.  

Apparently, “the John factor” was not accounted for in the manual, because instructor lady was totally flustered. She takes her foot off the override brake without warning him. Meanwhile, he’s got the pedal literally on the floor and we fishtail through the intersection and onto an embankment.  

All blood has now effectively stopped flowing to my right hand. All blood has drained from the face of my backseat partner. But the blood is flowing big time in the front seat. John looks at her- and she looks at him- and they both start yelling. Chaos. 

Seatbelts click. Doors slam. They switch seats. We drive the entire way back to the Drivers Ed center in complete silence. The girl next to me didn’t loosen her grip on my hand until we exited the car. Chaos.  

Since my parents still live fairly close to that intersection, I go through it a few times each year. Every time we approach the light my hand goes numb, and I’m hyper-focused on the signal.

Red. Yellow. Green.

And while it’s probably just in my head, I’m still convinced I can see those tire marks ever so slightly up on the embankment.  

Signals Matter

In prior years, I’ve started January with Predictions, Messages for Students, and Hopes. I’ll likely get to the forecasting and unapologetic optimism in a few weeks, but unfortunately this year started the way they all have in college admission — with most nationally known and high-demand colleges posting January 1 deadlines. In my opinion, this is a terrible signal that creates an unnecessary traffic jam of frustration and chaos for students, families, counselors, and even admission offices themselves. And the truth is it is all avoidable.  

Red Light- Application Deadlines on Weekends and Holidays need to stop. 

A few years ago, Georgia Tech went away from having application deadlines on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays/breaks. This makes our dates kind of random: October 16, January 4, as examples. 

But let’s be honest, nobody needs a car stopped in the middle of an intersection with everyone beeping and yelling in frustration– especially on a weekend or a holiday. And that’s effectively what happens when students are working on applications without access to their teacher or counselor, or when they need to contact the college with a last-minute question only to find offices shutdown for winter break or closed for the weekend.  

The truth is these dates also frustrate most admission staff and counselors too, since they come back on Monday or post-break to inboxes and voicemails filled with vitriol, consternation, and petitions for extensions.  

Yellow Light 

When you see a yellow light, you are supposed to consider distance, speed, other cars, and ultimately make a smart decision for you and others on the road. At the end of the day, having deadlines on weekends and holidays is like gassing it through the intersection while singing “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It’s a signal of laziness at best– and negligence or hubris at worst.

In 2024, I’m hopeful more enrollment and admission leaders will roll down their windows, pause to read the room (road), listen to the beeping, yelling, and chaos that deadlines on these days create and… well… actually lead. 

Green light 

There are many policies and practices in college admission that need to be re-examined. Some of those are hard, and in some cases perhaps impractical, to unwind. But the truth is that if a critical mass of well-known, highly- selective schools made this shift, it would green light a macro change–and we would be left with a safer, more friendly, and logical flow and pattern. 

I wish I had one of those override brakes, because I’d step on it hard. Instead, I have this blog and possibly your collective voices to join me. Let’s work to clear the intersection here, people. 

Oh… and Happy New Year!

3 Ways to Spread Cheer in College Admission

With a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, we have many things in our house. Family consensus, however, is rarely one.

The variety of opinions between the four of us is comical at times. At times. Mostly it’s maddening. From seemingly simple decisions of what/where to eat to the conservatorship of Britney Spears, on nearly a daily basis, there are adamant divergent perspectives about music, sports, and what constitutes important or urgent.

The subject that garners the most consternation, however, is movies. Typically, two of us agree, and we can coerce one other to concede. But getting the fourth? Oh baby! It’s like the backroom machinations or public theater of moving Congressional legislation: name calling, bribery, blackmail, horse trading, posturing, grandstanding… and that’s all just from my wife.

Thankfully, at this time of year, there is a movie that we not only all agree on but are actually jointly excited to watch…ELF. You knew that was coming, right?! Who doesn’t love ELF? If that’s you, feel free to unsubscribe. If you haven’t seen this modern classic, do yourself a favor and check it out today.

Naturally, we still have some disagreement surrounding this movie, but it’s more about when to watch. My daughter contends it should be the first movie of the holiday season, while I advocate for it to be last. Typically, this means it is the one movie we watch twice in December. We also each have different favorite scenes: “Mailroom,” “Snowball fight,” “Unmasking Santa,” and the bathroom rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are our four.

The movie also contains fantastic lines that each of us quote during December and periodically throughout the year:

“Santa!! I know him.”

“He’s an angry elf!”

“Congratulations! The world’s best cup of coffee!”

“Make work your favorite. Work’s your new favorite.” (You can probably guess who says that one and when in our house).

Regardless of your favorite scene/line in ELF, I think we can all agree that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” The truth is we could all use more cheer in our lives in general, and in college admission, particularly this year, cheer sounds pretty good right about now.

So, if you are a high school senior, here are three easy ways to spread admissions cheer:

  1. Make Celebrating Your New Favorite. When you into a college, whether or not it is your absolute top choice, your job is to celebrate. If you find yourself saying, “Yea. Well, I figured I’d get in there,” or “I’m in. But it’s my backup,” or it’s “just the University of X,” then you are doing this wrong. Wrong I say! Naughty list. C’mon, man. You put in the time, effort, thought, and money to apply to each college. When they come back with an admit, you are obligated to smile. What?! You don’t remember signing that agreement on the Common App? Trust me. It was there.

People call these offers of admission. Forget that. It’s an invitation- an amazing opportunity- and another choice you get to make! Amazing. What human doesn’t want invitations, options, and choices? Congratulations! Celebrate every win. Go to dinner, buy yourself something. You do you. But promise me you’ll celebrate. Spread that cheer, people.

2. Move the “Clausometer.” As we discussed recently, the college admission experience, if done right, is a chance to learn, grow, discover, and mature. But did you know it can also make you a better friend? That’s correct. For no additional charge, college admission can actually improve your relationships with classmates, teammates, and peers. I don’t know what’s happening with you right now. Maybe you have been admitted Early Decision and are excited, happy, and at peace. Maybe you were deferred or denied by a school where you were really hoping to be admitted—or likely somewhere in between. Not to get all Papa Elf on you, but… that’s life.

When things are going well and you are excited about your momentum and successes, it’s easy to forget to celebrate the wins and successes of others. Conversely, whether it be disappointment or lack of contentment with your job, relationships, finances, influence, etc., we can miss the opportunity to lift our friends up and come around them in their winning moments. “The best way to spread admission cheer, is to sing loud for all to hear.” Who in your life is fired up about an admit they recently received? What can you do to celebrate that? Be a good friend. Sing it with me—Loud for all to hear!

3. Celebrate that “Someone Special!” It is hard work being a teacher, a counselor, a coach, etc. Getting into college is an excuse to give them some love. My hope is that every time you get admitted you will be reminded that you did not get there alone. Somebody drove you to school and practice. Somebody taught and coached you. Somebody paid for stuff (technical term) and made big sacrifices along the way on your behalf. You are great! Of course. But you have been made great by a collective effort and consistent investment. The support that amplified your talent and potential.

Take the time this month to look around and “sing” thank you. A sibling, parent, teacher, coach, relative, or a manager…or all of the above. This is not text time, friends. I’m going to challenge you to step it up here and go to them in person. Imagine the joy and excitement you’ll be able to share together if you walk in, high five/fist bump/hug them and acknowledge that they are a big reason for the opportunities you have now. Let’s get ELF-ish here and sing this one with some real gusto.

Happy Holidays!

Fittingly, this makes the 23rd blog of 2023! I am deeply appreciative for you taking the time to read, consider, share… and SING! Enjoy time with your friends and family this season. I sincerely hope you will rest, relax, and be reminded of what is really important. You are bound for amazing things in 2024. Looking forward to being part of that. Much love and Happy Holidays, friends.

The Committees and Decisions of College Admission… And College Football

This weekend Florida State beat Louisville in the ACC Championship and capped off an undefeated football season at 13-0.

Translation for non-sports fans: they beat everyone they played. They practiced and prepared for each game, and despite some hardships– including losing both their first- and second-string quarterbacks to injury, achieved at the highest level within the context of their schedule.

In other words, they demonstrated not just competency but excellence. And they did so in the face of real adversity and challenge.

Ultimately, however, they were left out of the four team college football playoff, which will include two teams (Texas and Alabama), who each lost a game this year. If you want varying opinions on how this should/could have gone, feel free to go down an internet rabbit hole  or delve into the vitriolic threads of social media. (FYI- apparently, there is also some barking going on in Athens, GA about lack of fairness and committee bias.) 2023 College Football Playoff bowl games: Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama fill four-team field - CBSSports.com

But if you want facts, here are a few.

  1. A committee of imperfect humans made this decision.

This group gathered in a room, presumably with veggie and fruit trays, plenty of gluten, and hopefully at least one recycling bin. They looked at team and conference strength of schedule, home/away wins, timing of games played, and a variety of other factors. At the end of the day, they made their decision given the quantitative information they had, as well as the goals they were trying to accomplish.

  1. Stats do not guarantee slots.

On that note, their goal in this holistic review was not to “admit” or provide slots to the undefeated, i.e. numerically perfect teams. Otherwise, FSU is in and would not have been nervous about it leading into Sunday’s reveal.

  1. Supply and Demand is an issue.

When this group assembled to watch games this weekend and debate quality and merit, they knew their primary challenge was “too many good teams for the number (4) of slots available.” They knew no matter what decision they made it would be contested, debated, ridiculed, and challenged.  I can’t tell you how many folks in that room were wearing quarter-zips or On Cloud shoes, but I can tell you what they were thinking, “Why couldn’t we have expanded to 12 teams this year vs. next?!”

  1. Geography matters.

Is Washington better than FSU? Perhaps. We really don’t know. Could U(sic)GA beat Alabama in a rematch? Maybe. But one “problem” the committee had was two SEC teams and one ACC champion with tons of talent and big cases to be made for their spot in the playoff.

Three teams from the South? Is that really a National Playoff?

Conversely, we can pull in one from the southeast, one from the southwest (or what some would simply call the Republic of Texas), one from the Midwest, and one from the Pacific Northwest. Now that does sound intriguing. That sounds “National.”

  1. Money matters.

And let’s be honest, these four teams have big fan bases and impact major TV markets. Michigan gets you Chicagoland and Midwest markets, plus any absolutely enormous global fanbase. Throw in a little (ok, a lot of coaching and sign-stealing controversy) and Meechagan means eyes, engagement, and bucks. Alabama is clearly a perennial powerhouse with a big national following, and they check the box for key markets in the South. Washington brings you Seattle and portions of the country the others don’t extend to as naturally. And Texas… Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and more. We are talking about big, big, big money. Yes, friends that is three “bigs.”

Admission Translation

Ok. Test time: Which of these principles apply to college admission decisions? What Is the Law of Supply and Demand? | The Motley Fool

  • People make decisions.
  • Numbers are only part of the equation.
  • Supply and Demand is the primary driver.
  • Geography Matters.
  • Money Matters.

Admission committees are congregating all over the country just like the NCAA playoff committee right now (with fewer flat screens and personal jets) to debate these same issues.

How many spots do we have available?

What is our mission?

Which students will help us shape a class?

Will this class help us grow our brand and build national interest?

Does the bottom-line work financially?

So, yea. The answer to the test is “all of the above.”

What does this mean for you?

  1. It means in the college admission experience many things will be outside of your control. You will not be able to influence or control who is making these decisions. You will not know all of the machinations and factors that they take into consideration. You won’t be able to control how strong the other applicants are that year, or from your state/region, or in your major.
  2. It means that despite having great numbers, maximizing what was available to you, and showing tons of preparation, fortitude, character, and potential, you may not get into some highly selective colleges.
  3. It means that it’s not you… it’s them. If you get deferred or denied or waitlisted this month or this year, it does not mean you are not talented or bound for amazing things in college and beyond.

Over the years, I’ve continually quoted my friend Pam Ambler who says, “The way college admission decisions are made is not how they feel.” Boom. Spot on. A defer or deny does not mean you are not smart or amazing. It just means you’ll go on to demonstrate all of that elsewhere. What can FSU do now? They can sit home and cry. Sure. But ultimately they will need to pick themselves up and go win their bowl game. Life lesson: Succeed where you get opportunity!

I could keep drawing parallels all day, but I’ve made a commitment to keep this blog under 1000 words, and I’m at limit.

Happy Holidays, friends.