BY PETER VAN BUSKIRK
“Young man, it is your job to try to disprove everything I say. If you can disprove something, you have discovered a new truth. If you can’t disprove it, you have validated an old truth. Regardless, you have come to a better understanding of the truth.”
It has been many years since one of my college professors who, upon observing my fastidious note-taking as he presented to our small-group seminar, broke from his remarks to push me out of my comfort zone. The message, “Don’t accept something just because I say it is so,” continues to resonate. While I don’t remember anything else from the class that day, I have never forgotten his words!
As another college admission season begins to ramp up, the need to challenge assumptions — and search for the “truth” — has never been more relevant for students and parents. At a time when eagerness and anticipation morph into stress and anxiety, we tend to seek — facts that can be trusted from seemingly reliable sources — to guide our decision-making. In doing so, however, we are prone to accepting false “truths.”
Given the high-stakes nature of college planning and the abundance of information being conveyed by institutions, online forums, media (social and mainstream) and backyard conversations, the need for critical thinking on the part of consumers is paramount as things aren’t always as they seem.
And, frankly, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Full transparency is not part of the marketing formula for colleges as they seek to improve their admission measurables (test scores and selectivity). The media panders to the mindset of rankings and the rhetoric of high-profile institutions. And social media and backyard conversations revel in ill-informed, self-made expertise.
Consequently, the truth about college access and educational opportunity is often buried! A little digging, however, can be revealing. For example:
Do you have questions about getting into U.S. colleges and universities? Send them to Peter Van Buskirk at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Peter Van Buskirk, former dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College, is author of Winning the College Admission Game and “Prepare, Compete, Win! The Ultimate College Planning Workbook. For more tips on the college admission process, visit his website: www.bestcollegefit.com.)