Should I have a college advisor? | Interview with Dean Stuart Schmill

We met with Dean Stuart Schmill to discuss college admissions coaches and the need for advisors during the college admissions process. Enjoy!

Should I have a college advisor? | Interview with Dean Stuart Schmill
Most admissions offices that I'm familiar with and certainly true in our office, love talking students and are very happy to talk about the way our process works.” – Dean Stuart Schmill

Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions and head financial advisor at MIT, helps to illuminate the mysteries of the college admissions process. He explains the benefits and drawbacks of being a college admissions coach. While coaches and advisors can help students decide where to apply, Dean Schmill argues that they may be unnecessary because there are numerous other resources available. Follow along as Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stuart Schmill, talks with Dr. Jed Macosko, academic director of AcademicInfluence.com and professor of physics at Wake Forest University.

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Interview with Dean of Admissions at MIT, Stuart Schmill

Interview Transcript

(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)

0:00:15.7College consultant, good or bad?

Jed Macosko Macosko: Hi, this is Dr. Jed Macosko at Wake Forest University and AcademicInfluence.com. And today we have an old friend of mine, Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at MIT. It’s great to have you today Stu.

Stuart Schmill: Thank you, Jed. Great to be here.

Jed: Well, I know a lot of people have a lot of questions about admissions, but one of the questions that I’ve asked other deans of admissions is, "How do you feel as a Dean of Admission about people using coaches, consultants, things like that? What’s your sort of gut feeling about that? Is it a good thing, is it a bad thing? How do you think it’s gonna change over the next few years?

Stuart: So I... I don’t think... It’s hard to make a blanket statement about getting advice and help for students because it really... The answer to a lot of questions is often, it depends on the circumstance. I think that many students and parents see the admissions process as a bit of a mystery and don’t necessarily know either what we’re looking for or whether there’s an actual strategy or anything like that. And that can feel unsettling if you don’t really feel like you know the game, and especially if you perceive it as a game.

And so sometimes working with someone can just help shed a little bit of light on the process. Although I will say that another way to learn about that is just simply to call admissions offices and ask questions, because most admissions offices that I’m familiar with, and certainly true in our office, love talking to students and are very happy to talk about the way our process works and what we’re looking for, and what students should be doing or not be doing.

So, I think generally speaking, too much help is not necessary because our application is fairly self-explanatory, we ask questions that we simply wanting to learn the answer. And there are no trick questions. So it’s not like that there’s something that students need to be doing that they’re not doing or presenting to us that they’re not presenting. It really should be straightforward, but I also understand that students have questions about this.

The reality is that almost any college that a student is gonna attend will be a great environment, provided the student makes it a great environment.” – Dean Stuart Schmill

The other thing that I think sometimes students can struggle with, and sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone, is figuring out where to apply. Because there are literally thousands of colleges across the United States, and so many of them are excellent places. The reality is that almost any college that a student is gonna attend will be a great environment, provided the student makes it a great environment.

So, a successful college experience, much more dependent on what the student makes of it, than the college itself, because most colleges have more opportunities that any student can participate in any way. And so you can be a student that has a great experience anywhere, you can also be a student that has a terrible experience anywhere, sort of up to you and how you approach it.

So given that there are so many places that are viable and most students and parents wandering around, haven’t heard that many colleges, and there are a lot of colleges out there that you might not have heard of that are phenomenal places.

I know my older daughter is about to graduate from school in Pennsylvania, that, before the whole process, you’d never heard of and a great experience for her. So that kind of thing, where opening your eyes to other places is something that often... That can be helpful. There are other ways of doing it without help, certainly, but... So anyway, that’s a very long answer to that maybe relatively simple question.

Jed: Well, actually, I really appreciate it, ’cause you covered a lot of ground. You talked about, that a college coach can actually help you find which schools to apply to. That might be the most valuable thing that a college coach can help you do, whereas maybe it’s not as necessary as people might think. So overall, you could just tackle it yourself. I think that’s great advice, and Stu, I really appreciate you meeting with me today. Even just one question was enough for me to get a better insight into your thoughts, having spent a lot of time in the admissions process. So thank you for talking to me today, I really appreciate.