The interesting thing about college admissions podcasts are that they are so boring. Here we have a topic in which millions of Americans have a personal stake, a matter that involves one of life’s most memorable experiences and one of society’s most important opportunities. And yet most of the podcasts out there don’t have much information or originality to compensate for their generally amateurish production values. How fitting that I should make an equally amateurish attempt here to review them by listening to a few of the top-rated ones from iTunes, a couple of episodes each. Hopefully this post will be of some use to the counselors and test prep tutors who need to stay current on the college counseling landscape.
Note that I present these in alphabetical order; if you want to skip to the best podcast, go to the bottom of the post.
College Admissions Toolbox with Steve Schwartz: the guests make some good points, and you will take those points, because all host Steve Schwartz does is paraphrase what the guest just said and underscore what an awesome point it in fact is. The downside of this call-and-response method is that each podcast is about twice as long as it needs to be. The upside is that you have enough time to grab a pen to write down the names of useful guests like Dr. Ryan Gray, who runs medicalschoolHQ.net, a business devoted to people interested in going to med school.
The College-Bound Chronicles with Dr. Nancy Berk and Lian Dolan: this one seems to be pitched to the parents of college-bound high schoolers, with lots of commiseration about how complicated life is for you and “your teen.” As in a lot of college podcasts I sampled, the hosts here seem to be focused on telling great stories about getting into college. But if you want a great story about admissions, I would go to This American Life and listen to show #504. As Dr. Berk and Ms. Dolan themselves agree, “you should know if you’re funny”… And they’re not.
The College Checklist Podcast with Lauren Gaggioli: if the previous podcast is aimed at parents, this one addresses the college counselor crowd. Host Lauren interviews countless other freelance admissions professionals, with all the tireless optimism of a motivational speaker. Her guests are equally enthusiastic, and many dwell on the spiritual or religious components of their college “journey.” That’s okay, but the sum total feels like infotainment – mutual admiration and self-promotion masquerading as journalism.
College Experts Talk with Felicia Gopaul: here the information-per-minute rate is even thinner, with most of the “experts” sounding like they should be delivering a Ted X talk to an empty auditorium somewhere.
Getting In: A College Coach Conversation with Elizabeth Heaton: this one is the pick of the bunch. Unlike the other podcasts I review, Getting In covers several different topics through the course of an episode. This is actually really nice, because it means that guests don’t have to beat any one topic to death to get through the hour. The podcast was created under the auspices of Salon, and seems to be an in-house project of a business called College Coach. It uses the parent company’s relationship with organizations like Revolution Prep to get truly cogent, expert guests. The production values are also relatively high; I guess it really does pay to have a little corporate money behind one.
There we have it. Hosts, if I got it wrong about your podcast I invite you to set me straight. Readers, if you have any feedback to refine my understanding of your needs, I invite you to comment.