Challenge Success Team Members Discuss College Admissions Process

The Challenge Success duo of Margaret Dunlap and Jen Coté explained to parents and students at Mercer Island that the college admissions process is just a few of the many steps on the road to a successful adult life. health.

The vital experience goes beyond a singular purpose, they said during a recent MI Parent Edge virtual presentation titled “A Healthier Approach to College Admissions.”

As a result of their extensive research at the non-profit organization – which is affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education – Dunlap and Coté discussed college rankings, general student well-being and their preparation for their next college and life trip, reducing unnecessary pressure as the college admissions process unfolds and more.

To facilitate the workshop — which was also attended by counselors and educators — Challenge Success School team members asked everyone how they define success and what life outcomes they value most. Happiness, passion, independence, emotional and professional fulfillment and courage were some of the answers.

Exploring what drives feelings of pressure around the college admissions process, Coté noted, “More people are actually applying to college, and that’s good. But there is a false sense of scarcity that demand is greater than supply.

She added that in addition to rankings and competition for “best schools”, it is more difficult for students to be accepted into some colleges, even if they have strong grades and scores.

“A college’s level of selectivity does not lead to more learning. Lots of studies on that – it turns out that learning is linked to studying,” Dunlap said.

Coté added of those who were asked about their level of engagement during their college years: “It wasn’t the school that mattered, it was what they did and how they got involved. How you go matters more than where you go.

Another concern is progression from high school to college, Dunlap said.

“It’s a huge transition for all of you parents. With students here, you have to recognize how hard it is for your parents to see their babies go,” she said. “It’s a transition even more important for our students. They are on their own for the first time. Maybe living independently and seeking friendships and navigating a whole new world.

Mercer Island High School counselor Susan Sutherin offered crucial advice for students navigating social pressures and deciding which school is right for them. Dunlap said these issues start in upper elementary school.

“We really try to focus on the student themselves and really ask those key questions to foster self-reflection and really give them a sense of, ‘This is my journey.’ So to really help them own that and really understand that they can define their path, and there’s no right or wrong answer to their path,” Sutherin said.

Sutherin encourages students to interview adults they admire about their academic journey. Students find that the people they have spoken to have not always followed the straight path that everyone thinks they should be on, she added.

Côté agreed that asking questions about the experiences of others can be extremely helpful for students in shaping their lives.

“When I worked in schools, one of the most successful events in college education was the return of college alumni, and they came from all fields and walks of life. It was so interesting to me because the students were excited to hear the experiences and stories of these alumni who all had very different backgrounds,” Coté said.

The video is available until February 9 at

For resources that were covered in the presentation, visit and

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