Loren Pope (1910-2008)

loren pope


Who?  For most college applicants (US or international), they’ve never heard of Loren Pope.  But they should.

Yesterday, July 13, would have been his 104th birthday.

If I had to think about one person who propelled me into doing certified, professional, and ethical US college admissions counseling in the Philippines, it would be this man.  I read his book Colleges That Change Lives in 2012 when my son and I were looking at colleges for him to consider.  His write up on Reed College made my eyes go wide…here was a college that fit my son exactly!  Or so I thought.  I was able to convince him to apply and he was admitted but he ultimately chose to go elsewhere.

Pope spent most of his life writing, researching, and consulting about colleges.  He was at one time the education editor of The New York Times.  In 1965, he founded the College Placement Bureau in Washington, DC, one of the very first independent college admission consultancies. He ran his consultancy for over 40 years and wrote and consulted well into his 90s. Personally, I am very proud to be professionally descended from Loren Pope.

 In his book, Loren Pope asserts that college admissions today is motivated by status and prestige and not necessarily by education.  He said that if you focus on the education and not the status, then the apple that is the college admission race falls right on your lap.  Focus on yourself…not the school.  Look for a school that fits you AS YOU ARE and not for a school that you will have to pretzel yourself into some kind of packaged product that you don’t even recognize.  If you look away from simple prestige, you will see a universe of first rate colleges that WANT you as you are, imperfect grades and all.  You don’t have to fatten up your resume and suck up to your teachers to get the perfect grades to impress some Ivy League college that won’t do as much for you than any of the small colleges profiled in his book.  These colleges typically admit more than half of their applicants.  Compare that to uber selective Stanford which admits only 5% of its applicants.  Simple message:  they want you.  Does Stanford?

He was not a fan of the Ivy League.  He said they were all about status and not much else.  He urged his clients (as I do today) to look at the small liberal arts college and tried to steer them away from impersonal, elitist schools…Hampshire College, not Harvard College, Cornell College in Iowa, not Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  I would humbly add Beloit College, not Berkeley or Brown;  St. John’s College in Annapolis, not Stanford.

Colleges That Change Lives

His book, Colleges That Change Lives, is #1 on my recommended books to read for prospective applicants and their parents.  If I could, I would buy hundreds of copies of this book and just give them away to all my clients and to all who attend my free high school talks.  If you just read the first 20 pages or so, it will be enough. You will be troubled, then swayed by the power of his words.  He begins the 2006 edition of his book thus:  You don’t have to be one of the jittery millions of wannabes anxiously fattening resumes to impress some high-status school that won’t do nearly as much for you as one of the catalytic colleges that really wants you.  He continues later: ...you don’t have to be an A student to have a better-than-Ivy-college experience that will make you a smarter, better, and more confident and effective person.  These mostly unselective schools–that really want you–have long been proving that they’re unparalleled in changing lives. The forty or so schools profiled in his book have paid no fees to be included.  Over the years, Pope has included…and removed….schools that in his sole judgment and expertise, are model institutions that do change student lives.

These are very strong words, so much so that a group of college professionals in the States have started a non-profit organization to continue the mission of Loren Pope.  On their website http://www.ctcl.org, they explain their purpose.

CTCL is dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. Namely, we work to educate families that the criteria used by most college bound students and their counselors, such as name and prestige, do not acknowledge the importance of understanding an individual student’s needs and how they “fit” with the mission and identity of an individual college community.

I don’t know of another book which has spawned an entire organization dedicated to its premise.  CTCL tours the US and the world along with representatives of many of their many colleges spreading their gospel of a student centered college search and the importance of a broad based liberal arts education.  They came to the Philippines in early 2013 and I’m hoping that they will visit again soon.  We all need to hear what they have to say.




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