Disclosure: This post is sponsored by CollegeVine. All opinions are my own, or those of my teen daughter.
There are more than 4,000 post-secondary programs in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While it’s wonderful that there are lots of options for college, it can also make the idea of narrowing down your child’s list of potential schools feel daunting and even overwhelming.
My teen and I are both a bit short on both the time and the know-how needed to cull through all the schools. We had a general idea of some schools, but I didn’t want to stick solely with suspect rankings or popularity contests among local parents when coming up with the list of places that could be great fits for my girl, who is soon-to-be a senior in high school. I worried that we would miss that needle in the haystack that would be perfect for her.
Enter CollegeVine. They offer a wide variety of services designed to make the college application process easier for families. Their approach is driven by data, and as someone who adores facts and analysis, this appealed to me. I’d heard their ads on NPR so when they reached out, I was happy to learn more about their approach.
I was even happier when my teen got to test out the program for herself for creating her college list. She worked with Eric, a near-peer advisor to come up with a list of potential colleges that match her interests and preference.
Not only that, Eric gave her an idea of her chances of admission using solid stats from the prior 10,000+ students with whom they’ve worked. I have worked with, well, 0 students. Seems they have a bit more experience than the average parent.
They presented that info in visuals that my teen found really interesting and easy to understand. Not all teens go gaga for graphs, but these really captivated my girl. It also made it easy separate out which schools are reaches, targets and likely for her. (I’m a big believer that “likely” is a more positive term than “safety” and makes it seem less like settling if she goes to one of those schools.)
There were a few things in our experience with CollegeVine that surprised me, all in a good way.
The Near-Peer Advisor Approach
Teens can sometimes think that adults, especially older ones, are not terribly privy to the ways of the world. (Little do they know, but that’s the topic for another blog.) Rather than fight that tendency, CollegeVine uses near-peer advisors. That means they are younger than parents, have recently been through the college application and college attendance experiences, and have been really successful at both. My daughter was paired with one named Eric.
They do video chats, so the kids can really connect with their near-peer advisor. He was flexible and understanding with scheduling, something that not all teens are great about. When my girl needed to reschedule, Eric couldn’t have been nicer about it.
She mentioned in the first of her sessions that she had finals coming up soon, and she appreciated that he asked how they were going the next time they talked. “I really appreciated how well he listened and that he remembered,” my teen told me. (I bit my lip and didn’t say anything about how I’d also like to be around good listeners.). She felt he made an effort to get to know her.
How they create a list of schools
So, I’ve mentioned my lack of time and experience in this area. Turns out, I also don’t have any way of having access to the data that CollegeVine uses to create a school list.
They have a Chancing Engine that utilizes more than 100,000 data points to create a list. Holy data points, Batman. That was never going to be something I could compile for my girl, let alone analyze and synthesize for her.
To match up those data points, Eric had to extract a lot of info from my teen. That can be easier said than done, but he was a pro. Better than I am, for sure. She said it was helpful for her to think about what she wants and for him to give her factors to consider.
Making ROI real
CollegeVine not only helped create the list of schools, they helped my teen start comparing them and including the very valuable (literally) return on investment (ROI) stats based on likely income following graduation depending on major from each school.
When she concluded a session with Eric, she came upstairs eager to show me a few comparisons and wanting to talk about this info was impacting her perspective. “These graphs and charts are really cool! I haven’t seen this before,” she said.
I’m hoping that she takes this analytical approach with her throughout her life. ROI isn’t everything, of course. There are certainly emotional components to decisions, including about college, but ROI should be a consideration, especially when that information so accessible as it is with CollegeVine.
I was a little concerned that the process would stress my teen out. It’s a lot. And talking about hopes, dreams and goals often means being a little vulnerable. Eric seemed very respectful of that and always made her feel like she was enough. She relayed their final conversation and described it as “a bit of a pep talk but not a cheesy one” during which he told her that she would certainly find a good fit and do well and that college acceptance or rejection is not something that defines who she is.
He was complimentary and encouraging without being condescending, and that positivity from a near-peer was really helpful for her.
Frankly, I was also a little worried about my stress level, too.
What if our initial list of possible schools was all wrong? What if I’d completely misjudged my kid and we had to go back to square one?
That didn’t happen. Her list of possible schools included a few institutions that she’s already found and liked. It also had a few that we’d had on the periphery and were debating if they merit further investigation. (Spoiler alert: They do.)
Even better, there were a few new ones that we didn’t have on the radar but that do seem like good fits for her.
Knowledge is power, and a powerful stress reducer. I feel like we learned a lot and gained much more knowledge than we originally had before working with CollegeVine, and that helped reduce our stresss.
Our CollegeVine experience was a very positive one. See what they offer for kids who are just entering high school to those incoming seniors who are anxious to apply in their College Applications Program here.
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