"Education is a process, not a commodity." "Students are learners, not customers."
  Posters | Advice to Students | Resources for Colleges | FAQ

Here are tools to make college admissions sensible, educational and productive. Tools for students, parents, counselors, and colleges to print, disseminate,and use. Tools endorsed by colleges across the country.

  We Admit...Guidance From Those Who Do

  8.5x11 flyer
An 8.5"x11" version of the flyer (pdf)
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  "Speak Out For Students" -- a poster of quotes from the book, College Unranked.

  11x17 poster
An 11"x17" full color version of the poster (pdf)
8.5x11 poster
An 8.5"x11" black & white version of the poster (pdf)

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  Advice to Students
  • Do not take any standardized admission test more than twice.
  • Do not rely on the rankings to select colleges.
  • Limit to six or fewer the number of colleges to which you apply.
  • The more you do for yourself, the better will be the outcome of your college admission process. (Do not allow others to do for you what you can do for yourself.)
  • Share your questions and concerns with your teachers, high school counselor, parents and college representatives.
  • Do not apply to a college because the application is free or easy.
  • Do not approach college admissions as a game to be played or won.
  • Do not let an admission decision, test score or GPA tell you what you are worth.
  • Follow your curiosity, be confident, work hard, enjoy learning!
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  Resources for Colleges
Guidance for college trustees, presidents and admission deans wishing to revise and develop college admission practices and procedures. top of page

Q & A with Lloyd Thacker
"SparkNotes" Interview 1/15/05

1. Tell us about the origin of your organization and your book, College Unranked. Why did you decide to write the book and start your organization now, after many years spent in education?
During the past fifteen years college admissions has been drastically transformed, at the expense of students and education. While many college officials have become concerned about this transformation, most seem helpless in bringing about positive change. College Unranked began as an experiment to address this crisis: It invited college presidents and deans to express their concerns and to offer advice to students and parents by contributing essays to a book. Response to this invitation has been overwhelming. Voices from often competing colleges emerged as a collective conscience, speaking out for the needs of students in a system that has become unduly influenced by commercialism, and proclaiming that there are critical issues that need to be addressed. The Education Conservancy was established to publish the book, to deliver its messages to students and parents, to advocate for the needs of students, to orchestrate leadership in furthering issues raised in the book, and to bring about positive change.

2. College has been around for ages, but the problems you've identified with college admissions have arisen quite recently. What changed? Who or what is most responsible for these changes?
While college has been around for a long time, and the essential ingredients of "good education" remain inviolate, college admissions has been transformed into an industry by agencies external to education. College rankings, standardized testing, costly test preparation, expensive marketing consultants for colleges, and highly-paid independent consultants for students-these and other commercial entities are profiting from fear, anxiety and myths they have helped create. As a result, college admissions has become an extravagant game to be played and education a prestigious prize to be won. The commercial transformation of college admissions corresponds with the increasingly pervasive commercialization of American culture. Beginning in the early 1980's colleges began to use certain commercial practices to help them attract and retain students during declining student enrollments. Once insinuated into academic culture, commercial precepts and practices proceeded to dominate college admissions, increasing educational costs, confusion and excessive competition.

3. You discuss how colleges have become like corporations in recent years, complete with marketing departments. What's the difference between a brand like "Harvard" and a brand like "Coke"? What should be the difference?
Education is not a product. Repeat. Education is not a product. It is not given to you, made for you or done to you. Education is a process, an experiment, a journey, an exploration-with the student in charge of making education happen.
Certainly, teachers, facilities and classmates are part of the educational process, but it is the engagement of the individual student that distinguishes education as a preciously transformative process. While the brand of soda you drink and the label on your shirt may influence your image, the value of your education is not reflected in brand or image, or necessarily determined by where you go to college-no matter what the rankings suggest. What you do in college, the way you engage your educational opportunities, the efforts you make to learn...these will determine the value of your education, your success in life and the meaning you find along the way. Statistics, and common sense, confirm this.

4. In your book, you refer often to "studenthood"? What is "studenthood" and why do you consider it central to your mission?
"Studenthood" is what makes education happen; it is the catalyst for learning. Curiosity, imagination, effort, creativity, independent thinking, passion, and even integrity...these qualities (and others you might have discovered on your own) make up "studenthood". While these qualities are easy to recognize as essential for education, they are nearly impossible to quantify, compare or rank. So, they are ignored and diminished by commercial influences in college admissions. The term "Studenthood" is used to draw attention to the significance of these qualities, to help us discern commercial practices from educational principles and to guide students, parents and educators in making important decisions about college admissions.

5. What role do students have in the college admissions predicaments you describe? What can students do to avoid the hype and get the most out of their college experience?
Students can avoid many of the commercial pitfalls of college admissions by understanding and trusting their own educational hunches and experiences, and by developing a healthy skepticism for any process, myth, message, advice or "professional service" that increases anxiety and frustration about going to college. Begin by considering some important questions: What is my relationship with education? What do my experiences with learning tell me about the importance of Studenthood? What makes for good education-what are the ingredients, list and evaluate each one? These and other questions are worth discussing with your parents, teachers and friends-people you can trust, people who are not out to sell you products and services. College Unranked provides additional advice for helping students and parents overcome the many myths and fears associated with contemporary college admissions, and to make the most of college admissions.

6. If you could sum up your message to students in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
Above all, confidence counts: There are many paths to good education, trust your studenthood to make the right ones work for you.

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