Schools Want Great People, Not Just Great Test Takers. Your College Questions Answered



The years spent in college are a monumental time in a young person’s life. Perhaps for the first time they are living away from home, interacting with peers and professors independently, or creating their own personal work/study routine. It’s crucial to choose a place in which they will flourish and become the women, men, and professionals they wish to be. We know this is quite the task!

Whether you are in the process of choosing the right college, or getting an early start, there are a million questions to ask before even stepping foot onto a campus. That’s why we’ve asked our college admissions expert, Megan Summers, to give us a hand with answering some of your most frequently asked questions.

Megan holds degrees from both Princeton and Columbia Universities and has experience teaching history at Morristown-Beard School in Morristown and Gill-St. Bernard in Gladstone. At The Schoolhouse, she coaches students in the humanities, test prep, organizational skills, and helps guide and direct students to colleges that best fit their needs and styles.

We begin, of course, at the beginning: how Megan helps students find colleges that will be good partners with them as they work towards their goals and ambitions.

How do you help students find the right college?   

I get to know my kids and their parents through conversations and emails, so I can direct them toward the right way of looking for a school. The key is to help kids and parents self-actualize the best fit for them, rather than follow any notion of expectation from an external source.

I ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. Often, at the end of a conversation, families are a little bit closer to realizing what it is they want and need in a school.

What are schools looking for in terms of test scores?

Schools are very open about their median range for test scores.  I like to encourage kids to start early toward the process of preparing to attain a score as close as possible to that median for their favorite schools or maybe even better!

Top schools sometimes use test scores as the last point of elimination when picking between two equally qualified students, so doing your best is very important.  However, don’t forget that there are many qualities that are not quantifiable or evident through test scores alone, and each individual’s own unique qualities should be central pieces of all students’ application packages.  Schools want great people, not just great test takers.

What is a well-rounded student, according to colleges?

A well-rounded student has critical thinking skills, intellectual curiosity, a rigorous but reasonable high school schedule, a life outside of school, and friends within their local community.  It’s much simpler than many families realize!

How important are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are so important to a student’s overall profile, but it’s often best to aim for quality, not quantity.  Commitment to something that you truly love means more than stacking your resume with activities that don’t genuinely reflect your passions.  Explore a lot, but dig in as you hone your identity throughout high school.

Does our child really need to visit each school before applying to them?

Visiting every single school you’re interested in is a luxury, not a requirement.  You can easily prioritize based upon the schools that end up on the top of your list.  Also, very rarely do any schools offer compulsory on-campus interviews; most exclusively schedule alumni interviews with members of students’ local or nearby communities.

Do your online research right, prioritize visits according to your family’s needs and abilities, and make a travel schedule that’s right for you.  Visiting schools that have offered you admission is also a great way to wait and see what makes the most sense to see.

My child isn’t sure yet what career she’d like to pursue. Should she be going to college?

Yes!  College offers intellectual and social diversity and independence that are essential components of finding one’s way.  College gives all students the ability to reflect in a productive way that will lead to an informed and well-considered plan about how to start on a career path.  No person in their early 20s can ever truly know if the path they’re on will have permanence, but the one who has the skills and tools of self-actualization will be better prepared to start off on a solid path.  For students less clear about their professional interests, finding the right college becomes even more important.


To find out more information about Megan, how to speak with her in person, or simply talk to The Schoolhouse about your child’s college decisions, please visit We are excited to make this journey with you!