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College Admissions and the Pacific Crest Trail

Picture showing hikers walking next to the Pacific Crest Trail sign
Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail by Sebastien Goldberg

Ever since I read the book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I have been obsessed with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The Pacific Crest Trail is a hiking trail from Mexico to Canada. It spans the entire West Coast and is a grueling, rewarding journey through our nation’s most beautiful vistas.

The Calm App just created a series of sleep stories about the Pacific Crest Trail and I listen to all of them on loop. Why does this trail intrigue me so much? If you know me, I am not what you would call an outdoor girl. Hiking would be the furthest thing from your mind to associate with me. Yet, the draw is real as I am fascinated with the quest.

I recently did a presentation featuring the Pacific Crest Trail as an allegory to the college admissions journey. It was a way to integrate one of my passions with another. And, to examine the parallels between each quest.


If you are planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a “through hiker”, that means that you intend to go from the Southern Terminus in Mexico all the way to the Northern Terminus in Canada without stopping, you have to plan for months in advance. Careful planning for each stage of the hike can be the difference between life and death - it’s that serious.

While college admissions is not life or death, it does take meticulous planning. And, contrary to perhaps popular belief, it can take months to find your college fit - and the financial fit for your family. The trail can be rigorous at times - especially during application season, but with solid preparation, you can weather those rough patches.


The people that assist Pacific Crest Trail hikers with providing water, fruit, and appropriate food/snacks along the trail are called Trail Angels. Trail Angels appear at different points along the trail and they offer places to stay, showers, and even stores to replenish your necessities for the next leg of your journey.

In the admissions process, you have several Trail Angels. First of all, parents can provide loving support throughout your journey to finding a college fit. School counselors will give you the tools to create your course schedules and navigate your student portals. They also can provide solid guidance on college choice, depending on the time they have to devote to each student. Independent Educational Consultants can also be Trail Angels, in that their entire goal is to customize your experience and prepare you for a peaceful and smooth application season.


I like to talk a lot about magic as there are just some experiences that are so unexpected and beautiful, they cannot be categorized with any other term.

On the Pacific Crest Trail, there are several instances of Trail Magic. The gift of a glorious vistas around a bend or at the crest of a steep incline can provide an unexpected, well deserved moment of awe. But, the Trail Angels provide magic as well. Out of the blue, you could find oranges, water, and tortillas with peanut butter. Just when you have hit your limit, Trail Magic appears and sustains you for this leg of your journey.

There is beauty in the admissions process as well, if you are open to it. Staying in the moment during college visits and seeing yourself as a student at that college or university can be an awe-inspiring experience. I also like to see the magic when students research or visit a college that was not on their radar, but when they discover it, it is the place they want to be. This kind of discovery is magical.

My Goal is to be a Trail Guide

Like the Pacific Crest Trail, the college journey is one that is rigorous, exhausting, and requires your attention to details. Just as through hikers do not want to forget their bear canisters to protect their food when hiking through the Sierra Nevada, high school students need expert guidance to avoid the emotional pitfalls and financial missteps of a bad college experience.

And, as an Educational Consultant and CEO of EWC College Consulting, I like to think of myself as the Trail Guide. What an honor it is to share our passion for higher education and the admissions journey with the families and students we work with on this extraordinary expedition of finding your best college experience.


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