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Thursday, April 17, 2014

College Advice From A High School Counselor

In this Thursday, May 26, 2011 photo, high school guidance counselor Roslyn Wagner, rear, talks with Jessica Hujber, 15, at Cooper City High School in Cooper City, Fla. Wagner used to handle just one grade. But two years ago, one of the school's four guidance counselors retired and she hasn't been replaced. That left her with the 800 students to shepherd through scheduling and college admissions, to counsel and support. "It's too many kids," Wagner says with a sigh. She's far from alone in her predicament. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

With this year’s high school seniors finalizing their college plans, we turn to the juniors, who are gearing up to make big decisions about what colleges to consider and how to get accepted. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

With this year’s high school seniors finalizing their college plans, we turn to the juniors, who are gearing up to make big decisions about what colleges to consider and how to get accepted.

Lisa Micele counsels students at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana — which just so happens to be Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson alma mater.

She joins him to discuss how juniors begin their search and what schools are looking for beyond GPAs and standardized test scores. She also answers questions that listeners posted on Facebook.

3 Do’s And Don’ts From Lisa Micele

Things to do:

  1. Start with knowing yourself – as a person, as a student – before building your college list. Focus on finding a good fit.
  2. Parents need to use the net price calculators on the colleges’ websites when students start to hone in on specific schools.
  3. There is no perfect school. Keep an open mind. Research, learn, use multiple resources and don’t get fearful about the process.

Things not to do:

  1. Don’t eliminate schools you’ve never heard of.
  2. Don’t be afraid of college admissions counselors. Use them, talk with them, they want to get to know who you are and they want to help you.
  3. Don’t miss out on your senior year. Don’t get caught up in the hype, worries and fears. Relax and enjoy your senior year.

Interview Highlights: Lisa Micele

On dropping acceptance rates

“The reality is that the complex admissions process at elite schools is definitely getting more competitive each year, it’s getting more confusing and probably less transparent to parents and students, which is causing increased anxiety. But the bottom line is there are many more exceptional candidates than can be admitted. So when we talk about that a school like Stanford has admitted 5.3 percent of their freshman class this year, we have to keep in mind, that pool of elite schools is so small compared to all of the schools that are available for students.”

On focusing on more than just the famous schools

“We have to challenge these biases. We have to tell students and parents to keep an open mind. Be a sponge. Learn about schools. When that mail comes — and I know it’s overwhelming — don’t just throw it out because you haven’t heard of that college. If you’re at a college fair, just don’t stand in line at the colleges that are on your radar or in the top of U.S. News rankings. Get out of your comfort zone. Be open minded. Learn about schools. Because sometimes even parents have an idea of college admissions based on when they went through the process. And it is so different today. We often say, ‘parents, you might not get into your alma mater if you applied today.'”

On the Common Application

“The challenge with the common app is the goal is to not just shoot arrows and hope you’ll get in somewhere. You have to use that as a tool that when you’ve done the research and you’ve built your college list based on things that truly fit you, then if those schools are a part of the common application, it’s a wonderful tool to use to start the process.”

On how a student who does it all still doesn’t get accepted

“Truly it is an art, not a science. If I can say anything for your listeners to grasp onto today, we need to bring joy back into this process. We have students and parents who oftentimes are packaging and doing things to help their students, sometimes from sixth or seventh grade. And what we find is students are losing the joy of learning, they’re losing the senior year experience because they’re trying to do too many college applications, and often if you ask them why, they don’t know why they’re applying to that many. So when it comes to those elite schools, you can’t predict anything. Oftentimes it’s very random. And the schools have a challenge. Those elite schools are trying to build a well-rounded class with exceptional candidates.”


  • Lisa Micele, Director of College Counseling, University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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