Mr. Szarek, Ashley has a friend who is also entering her senior year.    Would you mind speaking to her Mom about colleges?

Not at all.  Hello, Ashley’s friend’s Mom!

Hello, Mr. Szarek.  My basic question is this.  My daughter has a 2.7 GPA and a 1960 on the SAT.  Can you tell me what schools would be best for her?


Do I need to pay first?


Are you not taking new clients?


Are you just an obnoxious jerk?

Don’t think so.  I think I’m generally pretty nice.  And that’s why I won’t tell you what schools would be best for your daughter.  Because I don’t know.

I thought – well, Ashley’s Mom said that you know about college admissions and such things.  Was she mistaken?

I hope not.  I’ve spent 25 years working in jobs related to college admissions.  I hope I’ve learned something over the years.  But a student’s SAT and GPA do not tell me what school she should go to.  Or more accurately – they don’t tell your daughter where she should go.

Okay, I’m listening…

What interests your daughter? What does she want to be when she grows up? Does she prefer fresh air or Times Square? What makes her tick?  Those are all more important than her GPA and SAT.

With three important caveats.

Mom, I hate those little fish egg things!

First, GPA and SAT play a big role in determining whether your daughter will be accepted to a particular college.  Unless the school is SAT optional, in which case the GPA will play a big role in whether your daughter will get accepted.  But, please remember that two-thirds of all admission letters are acceptance letters.  A student with a 2.7 GPA and a 1960 SAT meets the admission criteria of literally thousands of schools.  Second – and related – GPA and SAT will influence price tag via scholarship and – to a lesser extent – citizenship and leadership grants.  And, finally, students tend to succeed in college when they are interacting with intellectual peers.  GPA and SAT are not perfect indicators by any stretch of the imagination, but they do provide some guidance as to ‘fit’.  Some guidance.  Some.

What about safety, target and reach schools?

Your daughter should apply to schools that will make her healthy, wealthy and wise.  And happy.  She should make sure that there are, at least, a couple that would be considered likely to admit her.  But here’s the key point I wanted to make when I started writing this blog post…

What blog post, Mom?  What’s he talking about?

Your daughter’s college choices should be driven by her needs, NOT the needs of the colleges.  They are here to serve her, NOT the other way around.  She should be realistic, and be aware of admission criteria.  But admission criteria should not drive her choices.  Your daughter’s needs, goals, strengths, weaknesses and desires should drive her choices.

Her desire is the kid two houses down from us…

Shut up, Mom.  But, you know, I think he’s going to a really good school.  It’s on my list…

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at