Three Messages about College Admissions for Juniors

Warning: The subtitle of this blog is “That you may not like to hear.” And unlike most of my intros, we’re not going to waste time or words on analogies, personal anecdotes, or admittedly stretched parallels. Instead, after watching this cycle repeat itself, here are the three direct messages/ primary hopes I have for juniors entering the college admission experience.

Don’t apply to a college you would not actually attend. Seniors did this. I know, right? They basically walked into a store looking for jeans and went to the section three sizes up from theirs and were like- “Yea, I’ll put those in my cart just to have a few extra.” Does that sound dumb? It is. Think about it this way- there are 2000+ four-year colleges in America, not to mention the thousands of other post-secondary options around our country and abroad. I’m guessing if someone lined up that many pairs of jeans you could easily find 7 or 9 or 11 that you could afford, fit well, and you would be excited about/proud to wear. Many application fees are $50 or more. Need suggestions for better uses of that money? Donate to a local non-profit, take your mom out to lunch, Venmo me, basically do anything with it except what the seniors just did. Want more details and insight? Check out this podcast with Rachel Hernandez, vice provost for student affairs at Johns Hopkins University. Not a podcast listener? Ok. Then hear this: Don’t apply to a college you would not actually attend!

The “College Search” is internal. See, the seniors heard “search” and they went looking like a Survivor contestant scouring the island for immunity idols. This ain’t that. How do you know what to plug into a Google search if you haven’t taken time to reflect on what you value, or your hopes and goals for college and life beyond? So, yea. I’m going to be that guy and tell you to get off your phone. Worse still- I’m telling you to go somewhere quiet on your own and really listen to yourself…more than once. And to really go overboard here, maybe even bring a pen and paper and write stuff down about what you really need and want. Again, the subtitle is, “that you may not like to hear.” Promise made- promise kept.

Look. As a talented student and a relatively good person, an annoyingly large number of people are going to have opinions about where and why you should visit, apply, or attend certain schools. Oh… and they’re going to tell you whether you like it or not. At the end of the day, we live in a noisy, busy world. My hope is that you will consistently pull away for a few hours to listen and be honest with yourself. The truth is that these decisions just keep getting bigger- where to apply becomes where to attend. Where to attend becomes what to major in. What to major in becomes job, city, community, family. Oh, yea. I can draw a throughline from today to one far in the distant future based on how you approach this. But hey- you are a junior and we are just on #2, so let’s start with and commit to this. Don’t do what they seniors did! Don’t begin by searching Google with criteria someone else told them was important. Don’t start by looking at rankings or lists of colleges that a marketer developed to sell ads and peddle clicks. The college admission search is internal.

Nothing happens to you in college admission. Read that carefully. I did not say “nothing happens.” Just that nothing happens to you. Now, to be fair to the seniors, this has been a tumultuous and unprecedented year, particularly in light of the FUBAR FAFSA situation, the first cycle following a landmark SCOTUS case, and noise and variance in testing policies around the country.

Still, there was way too much why did this happen to me mentality and not enough why did this happen for me? inquiry. Here’s the truth- next year there will also be change, unexpected events, personal and macro challenges, and general unpredictability. This spring, as admission and scholarship information has come out, a lot of seniors (and their parents) have effectively said: “What did I do wrong?” or “What else could I have done?” or (directly or indirectly) “This whole thing is broken and unfair.” Well, in the spirit of “messages you might not like to hear,” that’s college admission, that’s college, and really that’s life.

As a junior, however, you have a choice. When things don’t go exactly as you hope/plan, i.e. you get deferred, denied, waitlisted, or you don’t receive the amount of money you need to attend a particular school, you can cry/wallow/point fingers/ take your ball and go home OR you can re-frame from why is this happening to me? to why is this happening for me?

Ok. I got deferred. “Why is this happening for me?” Now, I get to decide if I’m still really interested in this school. If so, I get to send my fall grades and submit updated information.

I didn’t get admitted. Or I didn’t get into the honors program. Or that scholarship amount is just not enough to make it affordable… why is this happening for me? Now, I get to pivot. I get to figure out another way or explore a different option. I get to show up somewhere else committed to succeeding, building a network, maximizing my opportunities. Nothing happens to you in college admission.

What messages do we like to hear? I can help you control this. I can make this easier for you. You are special and amazing and it’s all going to work out. I get it. I’m human. That all sounds good to me too. But it is not true (well, you’re kind of special and amazing). And you best believe you can find (often for $$) lots of people who will guarantee you things in college admission. If you see an ad online or have someone approach you claiming to have the magic formula, the secret sauce (or some other noun preceded by a descriptor), RUN!

So, I will not make any guarantees, but I will make you a promise. If you will only apply to places you really want to go and would be excited to attend; if you will begin with asking yourself big and tough questions; and if you will adopt the mindset that the year ahead, while absolutely not predictable or fully in your control, will be one of formation, transformation, growth, discovery, and opportunity; then on the Ides of April 2025, you will have been truly successful in your college admission experience.

Tips for Your Campus Visit: Confessions of a Former College Tour Guide

This week we welcome Associate Director for Guest Experience, Andrew Cohen, to the blog. Welcome, Andrew!

Since there is no majoring in “admission” in college, I often get asked how I ended up in a career working in college admission — more specifically, managing campus visits and events. Like many of my colleagues in this profession, I started out as a college tour guide. (A story for another time is how I was not selected as a tour guide the first time I applied.)

During my time as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to welcome thousands of students and families to my alma mater and share a glimpse of what life was like for me as a student. As we head into the spring visit season, I thought I would brush off the cobwebs, reflecting on  my tour guide years, as well as my current experience managing Georgia Tech’s guest experience, to provide some helpful tips to make the most of your campus tours this spring.

Your tour guide is just one person representing the whole institution.

Thinking back to my campus tours, I think about the poor pre-med or science students in my group as I raved about all my experiences as a communications major (hopefully they realized we had great science programs too!). I hear this feedback often from tour participants – “My tour guide was a biomedical engineering major, but I want to study computer science.”

campus tourCampus tour guides are only one person and they share generally about most programs on their campus. Your tour guide is going to share information about the overall student experience on their campus, and many times their experiences are going to be similar to other majors.

Personally, I chose my alma mater because I toured the school of communications and was in awe of their television studios, camera equipment, and production facilities, which showed me the hands-on experiences that were offered. I enrolled as an advertising/public relations major and never stepped foot in one of the studios or held a camera during my time as an undergrad. What the tour showed me was that there was an emphasis on hands-on experiences, which ended up being very true to my major, but just looked different.

Remember that your tour guide is just one student representing the whole institution. Think about the stories they share broadly and what that means about the student experience and the programs offered at the institution. Use your time with your tour guide to get a good feel for the general student experience and the institution’s community. When you are looking for specifics about a particular program, seek that information from major-specific programs, visits, or tours that are offered.

Utilize the time between tour stops.

Within the profession of campus tours, there is a big debate about tour guides walking backward. Personally, I am not a fan… been there, done that! I think back to icy walkways in Upstate New York, crossing campus streets and parking lots, and the many puddles that ruined several pairs of shoes.  It is now more common to see tour guides walking alongside tour participants between each tour stop.

This time can be some of the most informative times of your campus tour. Join your tour guide up in the front and start up a conversation. Get to know them and ask them some more questions about their experience… even if you are on the quieter side, don’t be intimidated! Tour guides love to talk about themselves and will carry the conversation! This is a chance to hear more about their life as a student. This authentic conversation is a great way to make the most of your tour experience.

Pro-Tip: If you are not talking to the tour guide, make sure you are still looking around during this time. This is a great time to look through windows into classrooms and labs, take note of program flyers on the walls, or maybe even listen in to hear what students are talking about with each other.

Post-Tour Recommendations

Tech students enjoy access to thousands of dining options throughout the city of Atlanta.

As your tour guide is wrapping up and sharing with the group why they chose the institution, think about what is next for you. A campus tour is never going to show a full campus or college town/city. As you near the end of your tour, this is a great opportunity to get recommendations from your tour guides (or even admission staff) on what else there is to see or do. This is your chance to find out what places were not shown on tour but might be worth checking out on your own (again, just looking through windows, reading posters on walls, or listening in on conversations can give you a very different perspective).

For me, I went to school in Upstate New York and had about a 45-minute drive on a two-lane country road after getting off the highway, which was an interesting experience during my first visit when my family arrived late the night before my tour. This place ended up being my home for the next 4 years; I needed to make sure I liked the college town and community. Make sure you plan some time to explore off-campus and eat at a local restaurant. As a tour guide, I had my top favorite restaurants that I could easily rattle off!

Make sure to get these types of recommendations from current students to gain a better feel for what your experience might be like. Your tour guide will have some recommendations and happily share some must-dos while there.

Whether you are a high school sophomore or junior just starting your college search or a senior working on narrowing down your decision, I hope you enjoy your time on campus tours this spring. Take advantage of every minute you have during your campus visit and talk to as many people as you can. And don’t forget to say hi to my fellow campus visits colleagues out there! It’s a busy time of year for all of us!

Andrew Cohen joined Georgia Tech in 2018 and currently oversees the guest experience for all Undergraduate Admission visitors. His love for providing visitors with informative, authentic, and personal experiences started as a student tour guide at his alma mater, Ithaca College. Andrew’s passion for the visit experience has led him to his involvement in the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association, where he currently services as the President-Elect on their executive board.

 

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.  

 

Counselors, Can We ChatGPT?

If you are a high school counselor reading this, THANK YOU! Yes- for reading. But more importantly for all that you do for students and your school community. In addition to close friends who are counselors, and my two plus decades working alongside counselors, I also have two kids of my own in K-12, so I am intimately familiar with the many hats you wear, the pressures you face, the increasing needs, and complexity of issues students bring to school every day. THANK YOU!

While I cannot create more hours in your day, clone you, or hire additional counselors in your school (though you’re welcome to forward this to your principal or head of school as an endorsement), I do believe AI can be part of the solution in making you more efficient, effective, and therefore available to students, this year.

Recap

A few weeks ago, I wrote this for high school juniors. As a counselor, a big part of your job is providing students with perspective, encouragement, resources, and motivation. I know you are constantly looking for ways to help them keep an open mind, consider a variety of voices, and focus on choices and options. Over the last few months, I have come to realize that ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can be a great resource for helping students identify and expand their college search.

If you have not already done so, take time this week to sit down and explore ChatGPT for yourself. Try entering this prompt: “Provide a list of other colleges like (insert school here).”

Since I went for a long trail run on Berry College’s campus (the largest campus in the world, FYI), that’s what I entered into ChatGPT.

And here’s what I received back:

Berry College is a private liberal arts college located in Mount Berry, Georgia, known for its picturesque campus and strong focus on student engagement, work experience, and community service. If you’re looking for colleges with similar characteristics, you might consider the following…

And then it provided me these schools with a description of each.

Sewanee: The University of the South, Warren Wilson College, College of the Atlantic, Berea College, Eckerd College, Augustana College, Rhodes College, Centre College.

Not bad, right?

Solid geographic diversity, varying rationale for connection to Berry (from academic programs to focus on sustainability, to hand on learning, and so on.

The power of AI is its ability to brainstorm, iterate, and scrape data or content quickly. My hope is you will consider integrating the AI tools into your conversations with and suggested resources for students as they search for colleges, broaden and narrow their list, or even plan their trips to colleges.

As you work with your seniors, this blog may also prove helpful.

At this point, very few colleges have published formal policies or guidance on how their applicants should or should not use AI in applying to college.

Similarly, there is nothing on the Common Application addressing ChatGPT or other tools, and based on historical decision making, I don’t expect that to come in the near future.

Clearly, if your high school has a uniform policy on how AI is to be used in your school’s classes, you use that as a touchstone for your advice to students applying to college and writing essays this fall.

But if you are trying to determine how to address AI in your newsletters, programs, or web content, the best place to start this by experimenting for yourself.

After my last two blogs I heard from a few school counselors. Here is some of that insight.

“I taught an essay writing workshop to a small group of our seniors and introduced them to how they can use ChatGPT responsibly with brainstorming and fleshing out ideas. I walked them through a brainstorming exercise where ChatGPT posed relevant questions about their chosen topics. I loved seeing the lightbulbs in their head go off. Subsequently, a couple of seniors followed with me after playing around with ChatGPT to help them get a jumpstart on their opening paragraphs. It’s apparent that they feel a bit hesitant about using AI beyond its usual application in subjects like math tutoring, so it will be interesting to see their comfort level take shape.” Randy Mills, Greenhill School, Dallas, TX

“At first, I feared the way AI would change the college admission landscape. But when I saw how it could help students find their words (if used appropriately), I changed my mind. The students I help use ChatGPT to create effective descriptions of activities, and to start the dreaded essays when they can’t get past the blinking cursor. I always feel it’s easier to edit than create for many of my students. ChatGPT creates something they can edit and enhance, without being stuck with “getting started”. Many outstanding students have difficulty putting their thoughts into written expression. ChatGPT allows them to see their thoughts, then modify them into a working essay (or activity description!)” Meg Scheid, Gwinnet School of Math Science and Technology

My Rec for Your Recs

I absolutely think you should experiment with AI as you write your recommendation letters this fall. The same advice applies to these letters as I provided for seniors writing essays. This is not a simple cut and paste, but instead a great tool for getting started, rephrasing, or discovering different ways to frame the content you are attempting to incorporate.

Having done this personally for a few colleagues this summer, and after hearing from several college professors endorse the practice, I think you will find entering a few of your ideas or student provided details and specifics and then revising or “regenerating” in ChatGPT could save you precious time.

My co-author and friend Brennan Barnard at the Khan Lab School in California puts it this way, “AI can simplify the counselor recommendation process by quickly synthesizing and effectively communicating the many sources of information we as counselors gather about students. In truth, college admission officers are scanning recommendations for context and color on students and beautifully written prose about individual students is a thing of the past. We can feed AI the personalized details we have from getting to know students and save us time that can be spent one on one with them.”

This is spot on advice. At the end of the day, you have a myriad of demands on your time and a significant case load of students. Yes- rec letters are important. But contrary to the Reddit rabbit holes, YouTuber conspiracy theories, or the predictable paranoid parent in April, they are not the reason a student does or does not get admitted.

Good recommendation letters add color to an application. They often describe how you have seen a student grow, contribute, or impact the people and community around them. Helpful letters touch on what makes a student interesting, unique, or compelling. Taking your knowledge of a student, incorporating details you have gathered from them or their teachers and coaches, and then allowing AI to help you craft the letter could be a valuable assist.

Experiment

A/B test. Write five letters from scratch and another five by starting with or iterating with ChatGPT.

Sample. Have a counselor or teacher colleague read a few of your letters and attempt to decipher whether or not AI contributed to your final product.

Time yourself. What is the time difference from start to finish using and not using AI?

Conclude and report. Share your results with me or online. Am I way off here? Are there additional tips and insight you would add that can help your counselor colleagues?

All in favor say, “AI.”

Even if you disagree with everything I am suggesting, I still say THANK YOU. As the year begins, please know how important your work is and how fortunate students are to have people like you in the school building. On behalf of my fellow admission professionals, as well as other parents who entrust our most valuable asset to you each day- THANK YOU!

 

 

Juniors. Can We Chat(GPT)?

If you are a rising junior, the most important thing you can be doing right now to prepare for college is recharging and heading into the school year rested and ready. Many things have changed in the college admission experience over the last few decades (and weeks), but one that has remained consistent is that your junior year is important.

Junior year courses are challenging, and often you have a heavy academic load as well. Additionally, it is the last entire grade you will complete before applying to and being considered for college (I know. I know. You come here for groundbreaking clarity). Outside the classroom, this year allows you to  enhance and impact your school and community in ways you simply could not as a freshman or sophomore.

So, while it makes sense, it does not make hearing “junior year is important” any less annoying. And since you are reading this blog, I’m guessing you’ve heard that comment increasingly as fall approaches. So, you don’t need me to reiterate or expound– and that’s not what I’m here to do.

Nope. Instead, I’m here to remind you of the other primary topic people increasingly bring up as you approach and enter junior year… the colleges you are interested in. I’ve written extensively on this blog and in my book about backing up from “where” and thinking about “why” you want to go to college.

My hope is that this summer, and certainly as the year begins, you will really consider what you most (and least) enjoy about school, your classmates, your opportunities outside the classroom, and how what you have or have not experienced informs the type of place (not the exact school) you want to go for college.

Over the years, I’ve also stressed the importance of: keeping an open mind, listening to a variety of voices, and focusing on choices and options. And this summer, after talking to colleagues, listening to podcasts, and attending a few conferences where AI is being discussed and explained, I’ve come to realize that ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can actually be a great resource helping identify and expand your college search.

Identifying and Expanding Colleges to Consider

Right now, you probably have a few colleges on your mind that you have researched, visited, or are pretty confident you will apply to. That’s perfect. As a rising junior, I am hoping that set of schools continues to grow and change. Starting broad is key and continuing to add and remove colleges from your list based on your earnest goals and interests is the best approach.

So, let’s give it a shot.

Step 1. Write down (maybe using AI enabled voice texting) five of the qualities in a college you are prioritizing. Perhaps that is location, major, size, or a few of the non-academic interests you have.  This piece may help with that.

Step 2. Go to ChatGPT (or your platform of choice) and enter those as a prompt.

Since Georgia Tech is adding a new Environmental Science degree this year, I wanted to see if AI was smart enough to pick that up, as well as the other colleges we may overlap with in the region.

Here was my prompt: provide a list of colleges in the south, offer environmental science as a major, have big sports programs, strong study abroad options, and are near cities.

Here were the suggestions:

  1. University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida
  2. University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
  3. University of Texas at Austin – Austin, Texas
  4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  5. University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina
  6. University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia
  7. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
  8. University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  9. Clemson University – Clemson, South Carolina
  10. Auburn University – Auburn, Alabama

Hmm.. ok. I have questions.

  • What order are these in? Your guesses/theories are welcome @gtadmission
  • How are they defining “city?”
  • Why is Tech not listed?

So… I asked and got this:

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Georgia Tech does not offer a standalone Bachelor’s degree program specifically in Environmental Science. However, Georgia Tech does have several related programs and initiatives that focus on environmental and sustainability issues.

C’mon, man- it’s mid 2023!

Takeaways: This is a great tool to get the ball rolling and for helping you react to the information provided. It can help you move into more detailed research and evoke responses that are helpful and informative.

Think about this exchange like a conversation with one of your parent’s friends or colleagues about movie or book recs. Generally, they throw out something that resonates, as well as a few you can politely dismiss. And while they may not be 100% accurate in recalling plot, characters, actors, etc., the conversation helps you think about what you are interested in, not interested in—and why. Ultimately, at this point in your college search, that is what you are hoping to accomplish.

Step 3. Broaden Your Funnel. Going back to my particular list, the ten  schools suggested was a good start, but I want you to think about ways to expand in order to bring more choices and options up for consideration. For instance, on the list above, all ten are public schools. So I could “Regenerate” or refine the prompt to: include some private colleges; a different state or part of the country; schools with an admit rate over 50%, etc.

Or take your list to your counselor, a teacher, a coach, or another adult supporting you and ask them input, additions, and insight.

Step 4. Amazon Your Experience. I’m sure some of you have learned about or purchased an item, or perhaps watched a show or movie because of the suggestions that came up on your screen (Don’t raise your hand as you read). I get it.

Apply that same mindset here. Again, your goal at this point is to explore. Pick a few colleges you are already considering- or ones that came up in Steps 1-3 above- and ask for additional suggestions based on that college.

For instance, I entered: “What other colleges are similar to Holy Cross?”

And here was the response:

If you’re looking for colleges similar to Holy Cross, which is a private liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts, known for its strong undergraduate education and Catholic affiliation, here are a few institutions that share some similarities:

College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts): Since you mentioned Holy Cross, it’s worth considering similar colleges within the Holy Cross Consortium, such as:

    • Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
    • Loyola University Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland)

Jesuit Colleges: Holy Cross is a Jesuit-affiliated institution, so you may find similarities in other Jesuit colleges that emphasize a well-rounded education and a commitment to social justice. Some examples include:

    • Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts)
    • Fordham University (New York, New York)
    • Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, California)
    • Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

Liberal Arts Colleges: If you’re interested in the liberal arts focus of Holy Cross, you may want to explore other liberal arts colleges that provide a similar educational experience:

    • Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts)
    • Amherst College (Amherst, Massachusetts)
    • Colgate University (Hamilton, New York)
    • Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine)

Then, it closed with: Remember that each college has its unique characteristics and strengths, so it’s essential to research and visit the campuses to determine the best fit for you.

I like it!

Step 5. Do Your Homework. (Yes, I know it’s summer). Take time to explore the suggestions, confirm the accuracy of the responses, and continue to add or remove schools from your list based on your unique priorities, needs, wants, and so on. AI is a great place to start, brainstorm, and help move you along, so you can go deeper or add detail to your conversations and considerations.

The admission experience (like college and life itself) is about using a variety of resources, considering information and doing your research, as well as doing some legit soul searching, in order to arrive at an informed opinion and an ultimate direction for decision making. So, iterate. Your college list is not meant to be static.

Bonus prompt: “can you recommend a few places to eat lunch near Georgia Tech?”

Answer:

Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta):

  • The Varsity: An Atlanta institution serving classic American fast food, including burgers and hot dogs.
  • The Flying Biscuit Cafe: Offers Southern-inspired dishes, including biscuits, breakfast items, and comfort food.
  • Antico Pizza Napoletana: Renowned for its authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas.

OK. ChatGPT, I see you. Not bad. Not bad at all! Almost makes up for not giving Tech its due on Environmental Science.