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College applications are at a record high. Students' SAT scores are soaring. The competition is stiffer than ever.

What's a poor parent to do?

Breath. Relax. It will all work out fine.

Anxious parents got advice from a panel of admission types at the Commencement forum "A New Frontier: College Admission in 2010 and Beyond." "All this anxiety about college admissions is really about a very small number of colleges," such as those in the Ivy League, said Bill Caskey '85, a founder of AdmissionReady, a college admissions consulting firm. "If you go through the process wisely, you should have plenty of options."

The panelists said more people are applying to college now largely because of an overall increase in the country's teenage population and the adoption by many colleges of the same online application system, which makes it easy to apply to many institutions all at once. And the rise in quantity hasn't been accompanied by a fall-off in quality. "The vast majority of applicants are well-qualified," Caskey said.

Still, Delaney French '00, a college counselor at the New Orleans Charter Science & Math High School, said there had been no substantial change in the last few years in what colleges are looking for. "The first question colleges ask is, 'Can this student be successful at this school?'"

Caskey said the most important advice he could offer students and their parents was, "Relax. There is no difference between the level of happiness" of students at one college and those at another. "In the end, it's going to be fine."





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