Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

While we are unsure all 11 of Brandon Busteed’s changes in Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education will be permanent, the article is worth a read if you want to understand some of what is going on in higher education that directly impacts admissions. Four points that stand out: 

1.     The test optional movement will become permanent. Although many colleges and universities announced such policies as temporary during the pandemic, these will become lasting changes to the world of college admissions. One of the big reasons relates to #2 below.

2.     Higher education institutions will be increasingly and lastingly held accountable to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics. This will be most prominent in ensuring the student population is more diverse, but it will show up in faculty and staff hiring priorities for diversity as well. Pre-pandemic, higher education institutions paid more lip service to these priorities. Going forward, they will need to make real commitments to DEI because many constituents will begin holding them accountable to their progress.

10.  There will be a new kind of price war in higher education. Instead of ever-increasing tuition prices and expenses, universities will now compete to launch lower-cost online degrees to serve a growing market of value-oriented prospective students.

11.  Elite colleges and universities are no longer role models. Despite a history characterized by Harvard-envy – and a lingering obsession among parents, students and the media with top-ranked institutions – their relevance to the rest of higher education is headed toward zero. A lack of willingness to grow enrollments and serve more students in innovative and non-traditional ways – along with a dismal record admitting poor students and minorities – will make elites oddities in and of themselves. Make way for the new role models in higher education: the public flagships and up-and-comer privates that innovate on many dimensions, find ways to freeze or lower costs, and dedicate themselves to being student- and employer-centric.

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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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Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

We talk about the myth of well-roundedness a lot around here, so glad to see it talked about in this recent Forbes article!

Being a well-rounded individual is certainly admirable. What’s not to like about someone who is widely curious and has balance in their interests? When it comes to selective college admission, however, increasingly “being” well-rounded has been replaced by “doing” well-rounded. Applicants approach the experience feeling like they have to do it all. Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond says, “the incessant belief that colleges want well-rounded students needs to just end. We want to build orchestras and we can’t have them if everyone plays the cello.” He tells students, “the reality is we want well-rounded classes. So it’s perfectly fine, if not great, that you don’t do everything at your schools. Ultimately, we simply want to see a positive impact in whatever co-curricular activity(s) you do because we can predict that you will contribute to our campuses outside of academics.”

The whole article is worth a read!

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College Waiting Lists: What to Expect

College Waiting Lists: What to Expect

Many are convinced that next week when Ivy League and the remaining highly selective colleges theoretically tell applicants if they were admitted, they actually won’t for thousands of students. Those students will be placed in waitlist purgatory. 

Read more from Inside Higher Ed on what might be in store for the waitlist this year, and check out some of our insights here (and here) on how to navigate the wait. 

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Waitlist Letters: What You Need to Know

Waitlist Letters: What You Need to Know

Despite more schools possibly needing to go to the WL, getting admitted from the waitlist is not exactly easy. However, it is possible with some work! Although I do not suggest being overly optimistic, there are strategies that have worked for students in the past that I shared in this post. If you want individualized guidance, please reach out.

Once you have accepted a spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized yourself with the waitlist data, also read this article by Rick Clark from Georgia Tech

Accepting your spot on the WL is a standard, required communication, but you might want to consider sending a waitlist letter once you have some meaningful information to share. This might not be the same day or even a few days or weeks after you’ve been WL’d, so don’t rush it. It is better to send something that might be valuable than just send something to say “you’d attend if admitted.” 

Please remember, showing up on campus or other over-the-top gimmicks or antics are looked down upon, so please understand that this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed. The good thing is, you can’t show up on many campuses now; so please don’t. 

More questions about the WL? Email us!

For a sample letter, please subscribe to our blog (link below) and email us requesting it and we will share it within 24 hours. 

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Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is still hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for the spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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LGBTQ+ Virtual College Fair

LGBTQ+ Virtual College Fair

Attend NJACAC’s first annual LGBTQ+ College Fair (Sign up here!)!

From the New Jersey Association for College Admissions Counseling:

NJACAC has organized college fairs and college readiness events for decades, but we had yet to build a safer space for LGBTQ+ students to freely ask the questions that are most important to them. Will I fit in at this institution? Can I see myself as a student there? Will I matter?  

Each school in attendance today has taken an active step in building its LGBTQ+ communities. By participating in this fair, they have acknowledged wanting LGBTQ+ students in their greater communities. Additionally, we have utilized the Campus Pride Index to showcase an objective rating as to where the policies of each institution fall in terms of LGBTQ+ friendliness. The Pride Index is always a good place to start with your search but it should not be the only place you look.

At this fair, please ask questions. In a heteronormative society, it can be challenging to envision yourself in different places. Take this time to explore these schools. Ask the representatives about the experiences you hope to have. Share your concerns about the barriers you may face. Follow up with the representatives after this event and when it’s safe to, if you are able to, go see those campuses you liked in person.

We hope after this event, you are one step closer to obtaining what every student hopes to find in a college; the best fit for you.

Sign up here!

In addition to the college fair, sessions include:

Should I Come Out in My Personal Statement (And If So, How)?

LGBTQ Students and the College Search Process

 

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10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

By 10th and 11th-grade college talk should be fairly consistent—especially if you are, or have a student who is—aiming to attend a selective college or university. The majority of our work with students, which includes summer planning, narrative development (your “story” for college), compiling school lists, and completing the personal statement, app data, and a comprehensive resume—starts in 10th and early in 11th grade. If this is you (or your student!) there is no better time to start the process than right now.

Sophomores should consider the following:

  • Starting to prep for standardized exams early. Don’t wait until spring of your junior year to begin prep. We have a small list of tutors that we can highly recommend; don’t leave who you work with up to chance.
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you heavily involved with any of your extracurricular activities (other than sports)? Look for leadership opportunities in school and consider activities outside of school as well. Does your resume point toward a major? It should start to at this time, and if it does not, that should be a goal for your summer plans.

And juniors, it’s not too late to:

  • Prep for and take the ACT or SAT. Yes, schools are going to be test-optional this year, but high test scores always help!
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other. Talk about your goal schools and your high school’s track record at those schools. Get their take on schools that are going to be a fit, and hash out a preliminary application plan.
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, explore the admissions and academics pages, attend ALL of the virtual offerings offered, and sign up for a peer guide with us to really go above and beyond in your research. Now is the time to kick your college research into high gear.
  • Start your Common App essay brainstorming. Ask us how!
  • Plan your summer wisely. You’ll want to use this summer to round out your resume and make sure it’s pointed toward your intended major, and you’ll also want to finish most of your applications. Make a plan now because you don’t want to be playing catch-up in the fall.

Email us or fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process!

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Rejection Often Happens Because of a Lack of Fit

When someone rejects you, it helps to remember that there’s another you.

Each year since it was posted, I have revisited a wonderful article by Adam Grant on rejection.

We are thankful that most of our students gain admission to their top choice schools in the EA, ED 1, or ED 2 rounds. But every year, we wait for RD results alongside students who were not so lucky or strategic in their choices. I love seeing students’ “pictures” come together in their applications, and I don’t love the anxiety that leads up to decision releases and knowing how hard most students (and many of their parents) take rejection.

As someone who has been rejected an appropriate amount, How to Bounce Back From Rejection is something I know well. However, it is not something you can really teach or prepare a student for when it comes to the college process. It is especially tough during a sea change year (i.e., this year) and when there is a lot of misinformation and misguidance around how hard it really is to get into top schools in the US, but this post is not about that!

What Grants points out that I hope all students and parents can keep in mind is rejection often happens for a reason: lack of fit. It is not entirely personal or a reflection of your whole self or success as a student. You don’t control a school’s behind-the-scenes institutional priorities, and they are shifting drastically. Sometimes, no matter how qualified you are on paper, you are not what a school needs and there is simply nothing that you can do about it. 

Please keep in mind:

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

Hang in there, folks! In the end, things almost always tend to work out just how they should.

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