About one week before deadlines, my friend’s daughter was told she was applying to all the wrong schools.  She was told this by her guidance counselor. The very guidance counselor who had helped her select the schools earlier in the year.  The very schools whose applications she was rushing to complete. 

It’s true that my friend’s daughter had waited until the last minute to finish her college applications and the panic she was feeling as the dreadlines approached was partly due to her procrastination.  But she is a bright, thoughtful, sensitive person and simply wanted to put together the best essays she could to reflect her unique nature.  And so she polished and polished her words until they shone. 

And then…boom!  The pronouncement fell on her like a Wile E. Coyote anvil – but this one didn’t miss.  She was doing it all wrong.  She didn’t have the proper math classes to get into her chosen colleges.  And she was told this when it was already too late. 

I’ve heard lots of stories like this.  Sad tales of frustration and mis-advisement.  Tales of parents whose hearts are breaking because they feel they failed their children.   And while I’m sure there are really good guidance counselors out there who care about the students, there are also many who are basically guilty of malpractice. 

After hearing horror stories, my cousin was so afraid of this happening to her daughter that she took on the entire college choice and application process as her mission.  She rolled up her sleeves and made it a project to which she devoted almost a year for preparation, research, visits, and more research.   And her daughter found a school she loves.

But not all parents have that time or even ability to wade through all the details and make sense of them.  So what are parents and their college-bound kids to do?  If they can’t rely on the guidance they are getting from the high schools – and in many cases they can’t – then there is a huge gaping hole that needs to be filled. 

I am told there are helpful websites, but how do you know which ones to trust?  My cousin tells me that some really good ones that she relied on don’t exist anymore.  It takes time and money to keep these things going.  And the ones that rely least on special influences or are most sincere, may not have the ability to sustain. 

So what is the answer?  Is there a way to create a reliable, impartial resource for our youth?

Since I am not an expert in this field, I don’t claim to have the solution.  One possibility that popped into my head is some sort of Wikipedia-like website where people from all over share their experiences and real-world college application process advice with the same sincerity and integrity of Wikipedia.   Or maybe a Craig’s List type of website with different info accessible by state  – with lots of knowledgeable employees and great resources all dedicated to actually helping kids.  Or maybe a combination of both.

Where would the funds come from?  Good question.  I’m not sure.  Maybe this could be funded by a 25-cent surcharge on taxes.  Or maybe a group of caring billionaires.  Or even a pool of funds from colleges.  And of course, there are those local guidance budgets that seem ripe for redirection.

But, as I said, I’m no expert.  Those were just some of my thoughts to get the ball rolling.  What are your ideas?