Sal Khan: Test-Optional College Admissions Adds Ambiguity and is Bad for Students

Sal Khan: Test-Optional College Admissions Adds Ambiguity and is Bad for Students

Interesting read if you are following the test-optional movement and related debates. Sal Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a non-profit that partners with the College Board. Read the interview here

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Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

The class of 2022 is resilient. They’ve weathered a pandemic, the confusion of test-optional, okay at best online schooling—the list goes on. 

Great read in Charter by S. Mitra Kalita. “Bottom line: You’re going to be fine. Let’s focus on the next fours years, not the last!”

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Class of 2022 Acceptances

Class of 2022 Acceptances

Our students rock! We are grateful they chose to have us along for the ride. This year was extraordinarily tough, and we are so proud of the work they put in. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by colleges either. Although we are believers that the journey is just as sweet as the reward, we are celebrating the reward (acceptances) in this post.

Below you will find some of the schools where the students we worked with earned acceptances year:

University of Pennsylvania*
Cornell*
Dartmouth*
Duke*
Stanford*
Georgetown*
Williams*
Harvard
Brown
Princeton
University of Chicago
University of Virginia*
Vanderbilt
WashU
JHU
Wesleyan
Boston College*
Northeastern*
St. Andrews*
Tulane*
Bates
Bowdoin
Colby
Vassar
Claremont McKenna
Emory
Indiana University Kelley School of Business*
University of California, Los Angeles*
University of Miami*
University of Michigan*
University of Richmond*
University of Rochester*
University of Texas, Austin*
University of Wisconsin*
Bard*
FIDM
Parson’s
Pratt
Baylor*
Chapman*
Clemson*
Coastal Carolina*
College of Charleston*
Colorado College
Fairfield*
Fordham*
Grinnell
Lehigh*
Loyola Chicago*
Macalester
Miami Ohio*
SDSU
Marymount Manhattan
McGill
NJIT
Penn State*
Oberlin
Ohio State*
Rhodes
Quinnipiac
Santa Clara*
Sarah Lawrence
Southern Methodist University*
St. John’s
TCNJ*
University of Delaware*
University of Florida*
University of Illinois*
University of Iowa
University of Maryland*
University of Massachusetts, Amherst*
University of Pittsburgh*
University of San Diego
University of South Carolina*
University of Tampa*
University of Tulsa
University of Vermont*
University of Washington*

*multiple students admitted

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Helping Teens Weather College Rejection

Helping Teens Weather College Rejection

Rejection stinks! But it’s a normal part of life and college admissions. This short article is for parents. Hang in there. In six months from now, the college application process will be very far in your rearview!

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2022 Waitlist Strategy

2022 Waitlist Strategy

We predict big waitlists again this year.

Are you on one?  Reach out for individualized advice, and keep reading below!

For an example letter, please subscribe to our blog (link below) and email us

Getting admitted from the waitlist is not easy. However, it is possible with a viable strategy and some persistence. Although we do not suggest being overly optimistic, here are some of the strategies that have worked.

First, get familiar with the WL data from past years. How many students are offered spots on the WL? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). A few other sites to review:

Before implementing waitlist strategies (below), it is important to deposit at a current top choice school (a school where you have been admitted) and get excited about the prospect of attending. Take advantage of admitted student days and other events that connect you with potential future classmates, including joining “Class of 2026” social media groups. These forums are often very informative, fun, and can help you take your mind off the waitlist waiting game.

Once you have accepted a spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized yourself with the waitlist data, consider the strategies below. Not all of them are novel, but without much to lose, why not do all you can so you can look back without any what-ifs?

  • Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied—but most importantly—it needs to fill in any GAPS from your original application and highlight a few specific value-adds you will bring to X campus. This is where individualized feedback can be critical.
  • Consider including:
    • Academic Updates: Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take at school X, like those you’d include in a Why School essay, but only do this if you did not submit an essay of this type when you applied, otherwise you are being redundant and that is not well-received.
    • Extracurricular Updates. But only if significant and can be connected to how you will add value to the school where you are deferred. This includes school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraph(s), making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake in college can be helpful additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at school X. Being very specific is important.
    • The additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know school X since you applied. This could include setting up an informational interview with a local alum, a current student, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
  • Make sure you read and follow any specific WL directions that are shared with you. You might be asked to send updates to a specific WL manager, or upload them on your applicant portal. If you previously connected with your rep (you should have at the beginning of the process), reach back out and ask them if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not send updates every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  • Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy.  Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email if they have time. Make sure they send updated grades/transcripts promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped.
  • Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs.  A teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university could draft this letter. Some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs; if that is the case, don’t send. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person knows well you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions (even then, why count on someone else?). If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
  • Worth saying again: Make sure you follow any directions they provide!

Additional strategies…

  • Check if school X has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you via Zoom for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, as those learnings might be good fodder for a WL update.
  • Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on TikTok, Instagram, or other social channels to connect. Don’t forget to open all email correspondence from the school, as schools track opens/clicks as interest.

You don’t need to…

  • Show up on campus or engage in other over-the-top moves that you think will make an impact. They won’t. Please understand that this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed.

More questions about the WL? Email us!

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College Deferral Steps

College Deferral Steps

Every year we work with a handful of deferred students on turning those defers into admits. Reach out to us if you want individualized guidance!

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to in early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer some and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small at many top-20 schools) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone! A not so nice practice. Most students who fall into this category should move on and focus on other schools. If you are not sure which category you fall into, ask us. 

If you’d like some general guidance on working the deferral, you’ll find it below. But first, a few notes before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision 2, and keep moving forward on other apps! Those are much more important now.

2. Consider ED 2; it’s often smarter than relying on RD. Not all schools have ED 2; check your Common App to see if ED 2 is offered at any schools on your list. Why? Because….

3. The RD round is tough.  Get familiar with the ED 1 and RD numbers and understand why ED 2 can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart by Jeff Levy and Jeannie Kent. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

4. Don’t make the same mistakes again. You should be very open to doing a thorough evaluation of what might have gone wrong with your early app(s). With fresh eyes, you might find a few things you would change. Or, with the feedback from someone else, see that you missed the mark completely on some elements of your application. If you’d like an evaluation of your deferred app, our “redo report,” contact us.

Other Tips:

–Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor advocate for you via telephone. Make sure updated grades/transcripts are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

-If you applied test-optional, consider taking and/or sending scores. Colleges have always valued competitive scores and this year is no different.

–Get an extra letter of recommendation if the school notes you are allowed to send one*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, employer, or someone else who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is usually no. And…some schools explicitly state not to send any extra letters.

–Make contacts locally and talk to students and alumni. Reach out to local alumni chapters and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending. Information learned in these meetings can be included in your deferral letter.

-Connect with your regional rep and consider sending a deferral letter (aka an update letter or letter continued interest). You should have connected with them prior to applying, so this email won’t be out of the blue. Ask if they have any specific advice for deferred candidates. Are reasons for the deferral that you can address in the coming months (grades, test scores or lack thereof, lack of demonstrating interest, or understanding the mission and values of the school)? If you had an interview and established a good relationship with your interviewer, you can also reach out to them to see if they have any tips. A deferral letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied as a way to show your fit for the school, how you will add value, etc. It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a brag sheet.

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Early Decision and Early Action Notification Dates

Early Decision and Early Action Notification Dates

Early admission decisions start to release soon, so it’s about that time of year when College Kickstart starts tracking the latest early decision and early action notification dates. They post over 100 schools, and update frequently, so you will want to bookmark their page and check back. 

They also very nicely include actual notification dates from last year where available. That said, many schools notify applicants in advance of their official dates, so stay tuned to your email. 

Thank you College Kickstart!

PS — Class of 2026 is also known as the high school Class of 2022

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‘U.S. News’ Keeps ACT and SAT Scores in the Mix…for Now

‘U.S. News’ Keeps ACT and SAT Scores in the Mix…for Now

Though more and more colleges are dropping their ACT and SAT requirements, test scores still count in the closely watched college rankings many folks love to hate. But that might not hold true for much longer.

U.S. News & World Report, which published its latest Best Colleges guide on Monday, once again factored incoming students’ average test scores into its measure of “student excellence” at each ranked college despite recent calls for the publication to remove the ACT and SAT from its methodology. This year, standardized test scores were weighted at 5 percent of an institution’s overall ranking, the same as last year (down from 7.75 percent previously).

But U.S. News did change one part of its methodology in an acknowledgment of the growing number of test-optional colleges. It’s known as the 75-percent rule. Previously, the publication reduced the weight of the ACT and SAT by 15 percent for test-optional colleges with fewer than three-quarters of incoming students submitting scores. “The lack of data, for 25 percent of students or more, likely means the ACT or SAT score is not representative of the entire class,” Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, explained in a 2016 blog post. Some enrollment officials have said the policy — which can lower a college’s ranking — penalizes institutions that don’t require standardized tests.

This year, U.S. News lowered the threshold to 50 percent: Colleges received “full credit for their SAT/ACT performance” if at least half of their incoming students submitted a score. Just 4 percent of nearly 1,500 ranked colleges did not meet that 50-percent threshold. But “many” colleges, Morse wrote in an email, fell somewhere between 50 percent and 75 percent, though he and a U.S. News spokeswoman declined to say how many “many” was.

Read the full article here. [Source Th Chronicle of Higher Education]

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Test Optional, Kinda…

Test Optional, Kinda…

Don’t subscribe to Jeff Selingo’s NEXT newsletter? You should! 

Here’s his recent download on test-optional. As predicted, many colleges are NOT releasing an admit rate breakdown regarding submitters versus non-submitters, but he’s managed to gather a few data points. He notes in NEXT:

With less focus on standardized tests scores in admissions for at least another year, high school counselors and next year’s seniors are already asking what the lack of required test scores had on admissions decisions this year. Good luck finding out—at least from the selective schools that ditched required test scores because of the pandemic. Many of them aren’t releasing detailed numbers.

Context: Before COVID-19, 77% of students self-reported a test score, according to Common App. This past year it was 46%.

What’s happening: One vice-president for enrollment at a top-ranked school said that in the rush to go test-optional last year, the admissions staff never had the chance to discuss how they would talk about the results of test-optional admissions. “Just releasing numbers of how many applied and were accepted test-optional misses the nuances of the overall pool,” the official told me.

  • Without test scores, students who in previous years would have been discouraged from applying after seeing the school’s median test score, applied this time around. Many admissions deans reported big differences in their applicant pools as a result—from demographics to the courses applicants took in high school.
  • Who got admitted with tests and without also differed by major. One public university dean I talked with showed me admissions rates that were remarkably similar between those with and without test scores, except in STEM and business, where students with test scores got in at much higher rates.

By the numbers: In general, my discussions with deans at about a dozen selective colleges over the last few weeks found that about half of their applicant pools applied without test scores.

  • In every case I heard so far, students with test scores got accepted more often. In some cases, the admit rate was twice as high for students with test scores vs. those without.
  • Emory: Admit rate 17% (with tests) vs. 8.6% (without tests)
  • Colgate: 25% (w/tests) vs. 12% (w/o tests)
  • Georgia Tech: 22% (w/tests) vs. 10% (w/o tests)
  • Vanderbilt: 7.2% (w/tests) vs. 6% (w/o tests)

Bottom line: For students from the Class of 2022 who are applying to schools without a long history of test-optional admissions, it’s best to have a test score if it will help your overall case.

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Looking Beyond “Highly Rejective Colleges”

Looking Beyond “Highly Rejective Colleges”

Linking to a post by Lynn O’Shaughnessy on The College Solution blog that introduced us to the spectacular term highly rejective college. 

The term highly rejective college was coined by Akil Bello, who is an expert on standardized testing and senior director at FairTest, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing standardized testing.

Highly rejective schools focus on turning away nearly all applicants. Rather than use their considerable financial might and prestige to expand the number of students they educate on their own campuses or through satellite campuses, they cling to the status quo.

More higher-ed observers, including Jeff Selingo, the former top editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, are using the term highly rejective colleges because that accurately defines what these institutions are all about. 

Lynn’s article also features some insights from Tuition Fit’s Mark Salisbury. Here is what Salisbury said about this 2021 phenomenon is impacting popular universities and colleges:

  1. Students who normally would apply to second-tier selectives “shot their shot” with the uber selectives.
  2. As a result, those students didn’t apply to those second tiers at quite the same rate.
  3. Those students got rejected at the uber selectives like they always do.
  4. The second tiers are in the midst of a scramble to get more applications because their admission modeling depends on it. [this is where better deals might emerge!]

Read the whole article here—it’s a must-read!!!

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