mini graduation cap on rolled up cashThe college admission scandal that hit the press recently generated a tremendous amount of outrage, as well as endless questions about the entire college process.

Here are some realities that parents and teenagers need to know:

1. It’s highly doubtful that the kind of cheating that the federal indictments against a California college consultant, college coaches, and wealthy parents revealed is widespread.

2. While college consultants may get a bad rap, most do not charge five figures for their services, much less six figures. College consultants can provide a valuable service to families who need help with such issues as college list building, college essay advice, test-prep strategies, organization, and motivating teenagers.

Two excellent resources to find college consultants in your area are the Higher Education Consultants Association and the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

3. Educational consultants can be especially helpful since families can’t always rely solely on high school counselors. High school counselors are not only overwhelmed, but they also aren’t trained in college planning issues. Many states require public high school counselors to have a master’s degree in counseling, but these graduate programs rarely include even one course on college issues.

4. The preoccupation with elite schools, including the Ivy League institutions, is confined to a relatively small percentage of parents and teenagers. These households tend to be affluent and interested in schools beyond their own state universities.

5. The scandal that impacts far more students is the low college graduation rate in this country. Roughly 60 percent of students at four-year colleges graduate in six years and just 30 percent of community-college students graduate within six years.

You can find the four-year graduation rate for any college at College Results Online, which is a service of The Education Trust. When researching colleges, make sure you find out what it takes to graduate from a specific school in four years.

6. Going through the college process, even with the widespread belief that the system is rigged, is important. Students who earn a bachelor’s degree will enjoy a roughly 20% premium on lifetime earnings compared to those with a high school degree. Getting a graduate degree boosts a recipient’s lifetime earnings another 20%.

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