J.R. of Great Neck, NY writes:

I saw an ad in The New York Times for what is being billed as a college application boot camp -- an intensive 4-day "event" where students may complete their college applications with "leading admission pros." The cost is $14,000 for the 4 days, not including food or lodging.

My daughter will be a high school senior this fall, and I was wondering whether a boot camp such as this would be a wise investment?

The College Whisperer responds:

The Few. The Proud. The Angst of High School Seniors and their Parents.

Boot camps are wonderful, assuming you've joined the Marines and are about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Even then, boot camp is not a mere 4 days, but a minimum of 6 weeks, and, last time we looked, grub and a pup tent were included in the price of admission.

At first, I thought you may have inadvertently and unwittingly added a zero or two to the price-tag for the privilege of attending this "event," fourteen thousand dollars sounding rather steep for what could essentially amount to a rush rush, "fill-in-the-blanks" of the Common Application, and the piecing together of what could turn out to be little more than boiler-plate essays.

Astute counselor of college admissions that I am, I tracked down the ad, visited the website (identity withheld to protect the overtly pricey) and, lo and behold, $14,000 it is.

Seems a hefty price for students (and their soon to be impoverished parents) to pay to "develop an application strategy," "complete an activity sheet," and "receive advice on their odds at top colleges" (odds are, their parents will be $14,000 poorer come the end of this boot camp), but hey, who are we to poo poo four fun-filled days in Cambridge (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and night on a bench in Boston Commons sold separately).

Indeed, college is a major life investment, with private colleges topping $50,000 per year (often including meals and lodging). But $14,000 (roughly the cost of a year at a State University in New York, including meals and lodging) for a 4-day event with the likes of a "former Assistant Director of Admissions" and a "parenting guru" so you could have those college apps signed, sealed, if not delivered before the leaves change color?

To each his own, of course, but unless that "guru" is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Beatles fame (and even then), why not consider a four-week teen tour for your daughter, a two-week stay at the Canyon Ranch spa, or perhaps a jaunt across Europe (meals and lodging included), returning home by summer's end refreshed, invigorated, and, yes, with greenbacks aplenty left over from that $14,000, and still the time to formulate that strategic college plan, frame a reasoned, top-notch critical essay, and, indeed, apply to the colleges of choice.

Not to say that a college application boot camp is without merit. Clearly, it is popular. Heck. This may well be the best thing since sliced bread -- at $14,000 a loaf! Sold out for the last 5 years, according to its sponsors (prospectors flocking to the portended gold rush). Then again, what is popular is not always what is right -- or, at least, what is right for you or your child.

Does boot camp work? It did for 7 of 10 juvenile offenders in the Alabama Corrections system, and, as per the stats provided by the folks offering the college application boot camp, it would appear that most of the students who booted up got into their colleges of choice. [Not to say that they wouldn't have, anyway!]

We suppose it's a matter of preference. Intense, pull an all-nighter, cram it in, do I need Aderall, we do it all in 4 short dog days of August, or a more managed (and, in our opinion, meaningful) pace over the course of weeks and months of structured planning and preparation.

A quick, in-and-out, whirlwind, "if this is Tuesday it must be my essay," of a tour through the college admissions process, or a comprehensive, professionally guided sojourn along the road to college admission success.

College is, as I said, a major investment. College planning, while integral to the process and, in this era of increasing selectivity, a necessity rather than a luxury, should not require you to mortgage your house or tap Uncle Money Bags' piggy bank.

Paying $14,000 for 4-days of college planning -- no matter how intensive -- is, in this writer's view, an excess. Taking $14,000 per student, to complete college applications in 4-days, is, in this writer's opinion, nothing short of chutzpah!

Then again, it's your money (or it will be, until you hand it over). Here at College Connection, it's "slow and steady wins the race."

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
* * *
Comments? Questions for The College Whisperer?
Write us at info@TheCollegeWhisperer.com

The road to college begins at www.CollegeConnect.info