Aidan’s college quest, Bill Mayher on the admissions mystique

Bill Mayher offers some practical advice on college admissions in this work.

As the father of a “rising senior,” I have two major objectives during the next year: help Aidan get into college and figure out how pay for his education.

These two topics will occupy much of my reading, and, presumably, blog writing during at least the next couple of weeks.

Fortunately, I have a lot of resources from which to choose.

I began this part of my parental education with Bill Mayher’s The College Admissions Mystique.  In addition to having an attractive yellow cover with a laudatory blurb from the headmaster of Lake Forest Academy, the book also has a back view of a son walking away from his parents, who stand arm-in-arm, and toward the Olympian college he will attend (The Greek-looking building is back-lit by the sun in a way that would make Apollo envious.).

In other words, after having  judged the book by its cover and title,  I dove right into the contents.

They were quite helpful.

A veteran of three decades of admissions at tony prep schools in New York and Massachusetts, Mayher gives a relatively down-to-earth and accessible guide to the process on which we are embarked.

He emphasizes the importance of finding a school that is the right fit for the young learn, of thinking of the years from 18 to 26 as a patchwork of experiences, rather than college admissions as a goal unto itself, and of not getting into the prestige frenzy.

Mayher, who at one point in his career got a leave to research ‘senioritis,’, writes in different places in the book to parents and to the students about what they need to do.  I particularly appreciated his suggestions that students construct a list of schools that have consistent elements, but a range of selectivity, as well as his questioning the assumption that increased selectivity necessarily means a higher quality of education.

 The book has some weak spots.  The generalizing from prep school to the universe can always be tricky. 

Mayher’s Who Gets in and Why chapter promised more than it delivered. Other than a quick discussion of “hooks” that let applicants stand out from their peers, he simply suggested to check out a school’s profile.  Published in 1998, the work’s assertion that parents may not be comfortable on the Internet likely needs revision, and his description of the godlike qualities some parents ascribe to guidance counselors certainly didn’t match my experience.

These faults aside, although Mayher may not have demystified the mystique, he did draw on his experience to provide a useful, if slightly skewed, view of the admissions word universe.

Next on the list: The Debt Free Graduate.


8 responses to “Aidan’s college quest, Bill Mayher on the admissions mystique

  1. I would only offer that, remembering how HUGE the selection process was, I look back on it now with the calm that reflection and age produce.

    We parents and the world make it so big, but two incontrovertibe facts are clear: 1, the selection of “the” college is as subjective as picking a lover. It is not based on facts derived from research or “fit,” but the feel your child has when visiting a campus. That and so many other intangible, uncontrollable elements.

    When we visited one upstate NY campus, Meggie refused to get out of the car. She knew, however, when she visited the college that felt like “home,” that was where she wanted to spend four years of her life.

    And, 2? After so many years of teaching at the college level and watching so many friends and their children look for the “perfect college fit,” I understand that, as always, nothing is irrevocable. If the original choice is not correct, another one will be. I wish I had been able to be as cavalier about the selection process when we were going through it.

    Aidan will be more than fine whether he finds THE school out of the chute or transfers to another.


    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Ginna, for that heartfelt and thoughtful comment. We’re hoping to reach your level of wisdom sooner rather than later!



  2. Great summary and critique. I won’t have to read it until the 2019 edition comes out though 🙂

  3. Can’t be too early to start thinking about this. Thanks for the food for thought!

  4. As I shared earlier, tour guide is key. Work it Jeff, work it.

    If you “don’t” want Aidan to go to U of I -Champaign. Take a trip down there this weekend. A concrete desert, no students, and 105 heat index (dropped Danno off there for a summer music program 12 years ago – he still hasn’t forgiven me). Work it!

    And remember the life partner connection too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s