The Admissions Hype Machine and Advice from an Independent Education Consultant
Gil Rogers, the host of FYI, is joined by Michelle McAnaney, founder of The College Spy. Michelle shares her experiences from over 20 years as a high school counselor and visits to over 240 campuses. Tune in to hear Michelle and Gil discuss the annual admissions hype machine, the campus tour experience, and more.
WHO IS MICHELLE MCANANEY?
As the Founder and President of The College Spy, Michelle works with families nationwide and internationally to navigate the college admissions process. Michelle supports families with one of life’s most important decisions — choosing a college. She assists with building a thoughtful list of colleges, creating application packages, choosing classes in high school to take, and making a final acceptance decision.
When she’s not helping families find the right college and get accepted, you can find her exploring neighborhoods in New York City, skiing in Jackson Hole, walking her rescue dogs, and of course, planning her next campus visit.
IN THIS EPISODE…
Michelle shares what an independent education consulting firm can do for families by offering high-touch, one-on-one service, why she enjoys her work, and why she does it.
“I really like working with students and parents,” Michelle says. “Since leaving my job as a school counselor, I’ve fallen in love with colleges and the admissions process. I’m highly interested in how colleges differ from one another and which college would be a good fit for my various students.”
When discussing why a parent would want to work with an education consultant, Michelle says it’s for specific reasons, including figuring out the best schools to apply to and making sure there’s harmony within their household so that arguments about where they should go focus on ensuring the best for their child.
“They feel as parents that because [college admissions] is more competitive, they’re afraid their child might not be taking the ‘right courses’ or may not be involved in the ‘right’ extracurricular activities.”
Gil then asks how institutions can better communicate with her and other independent education consultants so they can pass that along to the students they’re working with.
“It’s not the data; I know that exists, and it’s easy to look up. I’m curious about what the culture is on campus. I’m spending a lot of time with my students, really getting to know them as people. I’m trying to match them up with the right school where they will be happy and feel good,” Michelle says.
“I think there’s some transparency that would be super helpful. That’s what I want the schools to describe to me — what type of kids are there. And, of course, we have all different kinds of kids on campuses, and we’re kind of asking them to stereotype a little bit. But that’s what kids do when they visit school. They’re trying to figure out, ‘Do I fit in here?'”
Gil and Michelle then discuss that some schools may be worried about alienating certain applicants.
“They want to be all things to all people. They want every student to apply because that gives them the largest applicant pool to pull from, which then goes back to fueling the admissions hype machine and the number of applications and rankings and all those sorts of things,” says Gil.
Michelle discusses ways schools can help students be better informed by improving their visit experiences. She says it starts with the information session, ensuring it’s more of a conversation and less of a canned presentation. During some of the best sessions she’s attended, the presenter engages with the audience: “They’ll ask who’s here? Is it sophomores or juniors? I’ve seen that even done at large schools with large audiences, where the person is not presenting a memorized speech but is actually engaging with the people there and speaking with them,” says Michelle.
“When counselors do that, they’re often going to get more questions from the audience because they feel like they’re conversing with the counselor. So some training around presentation skills can be helpful.”