Admissions

Our Least Favorite Word: Good

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We get this question a lot, and perhaps it’s one that you have thought to ask: “What is a good college?” or “What is a good SAT score?”  We are often asked what is good, so it’s time to address it.

The truth is that this is an impossible question to answer.  There is not one threshold for anything in the world of college admissions. It’s always a sliding line of what is considered “good enough.” It sure would be nice for you, and make our lives easier, if each college would come up with one number and stick with it, but that’s just not the way it works.

Every year, US News and World Report publishes a list of the best colleges.  They use data such as acceptance rates, graduation rates and first year retention rates to determine the list.  However, several writers have broken the façade and shown how colleges can alter perception and skew the data in their favor to bring them higher up on the list. (good read)  Does that really mean it’s a good school?

And, just because a school is good, does that mean your child will be happy or successful there? Not necessarily. It’s been long known that a good fit is more important for long-term happiness and success than how highly the college is ranked in a particular publication.  That’s why college counselors are always using the words good fit rather than good.

The other question we get asked often is, “What are good SAT or ACT scores?” Again, not an easy question to answer.  Every college admission department has an idea of a GPA or scores they are looking for, but they change their criteria all the time and make concessions constantly.  There is no one good score.  But one thing college counselors do, and students and parents can do, is look at Naviance, or other sources of college admission data to learn the average of students who are accepted.  It’s not a given, but it can help applicants know if their scores are typically good enough for acceptance.

We wish we could answer those types of questions when they come up, but there just aren’t any good answers. The world of college admissions is full of gray area. While there are trends and typicalities, there is no such thing as good.  That is one of the many reasons families choose to hire a college counselor to help them navigate the college process.