High Anxiety Navigating the often complicated and confusing world of college admissions.

THIS FALL, WHILE some families are off visiting pumpkin patches or tasting wines in Napa, others are sitting down to begin the grueling college application process. Parents of high school juniors and seniors are poring over brochures from ivy-walled colleges, students are racing to perfect college essays and get last-minute teacher recommendations, and admissions officers are off wooing students who show promise.

Anxiety has reached new levels in college admissions these days. Gone are the times when a 4.0 grade point average and a 1400 on the SAT all but guaranteed a space at Stanford or an Ivy League or UC school. Today, students with perfect grades and test scores are finding more closed doors than open ones. “You could have a 4.3 and 2200 SAT, but for selective schools like UC Berkeley and UCLA, it’s still going to be a reach,” says Laurie Favaro, a private college counselor in Marin.

The result? Students are studying harder, taking more AP courses than ever before and working with private college counselors who charge up to $400 per hour to help gain them a leg up on the competition.

“It’s a jungle out there,” says Gabrielle Glancy, an independent college consultant and former admissions director who has worked with students in the Bay Area for more than 25 years. She is also author of The Art of the College Essay, considered the book on that part of the application process.

“It’s much harder to get into college these days,” she says. “I recently started working with a student whose mom is a West Coast interviewer for Princeton. The mom told me confidentially she could never have gotten into Princeton if she applied today.”

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