News of the Week!

News of the Week!

Through mid-November, applications are up, the Common Application finds. For early applicants, there is only a modest increase in submitting test scores.

Ohio State U. Unveils a Plan for All Students to Graduate Debt-Free

Admission to University of California campuses will from now on be done without standardized tests. When the board voted to eliminate SAT and ACT scores from its considerations, it left open the possibility of using another test. But faculty members did not believe such a test existed or could be created.

Schools are starting to release their testing policies for the 2022-2023 admissions season. Stanford is one of the first, going test-optional for a third year in a row. 

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We’re Grateful For…

We’re Grateful For…

The chance to help students and parents tackle the process of applying to college. It means a lot to us! 

Seniors: if you recently applied or are in the process of applying to college, my guess is you didn’t do it alone. Show some gratitude by sending a heartfelt thank you to the people who helped you make it happen, such as parents, guidance counselors, teachers, letter of recommendation writers, admissions officers who hosted special events at your high school, friends who read your essays, and test prep tutors, just to name a few!

Why do we think this is important? An attitude of gratitude is—according to positive psychology research—strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Harvard agrees

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Four Mini Guides to Navigating Your College Search from UPenn!

Four Mini Guides to Navigating Your College Search from UPenn!

Penn Admissions has shared four great informative guides to help students with their college application process—and they are NOT Penn specific (although the samples they provide are)! 

Narrowing Down Your List

Fill out a worksheet for each school on your list while visiting school websites, exploring virtual tours, and attending information sessions. Compare worksheets and see which schools match your must-haves. Download Guide 1

Curriculum & Majors

This second guide will help you narrow down which colleges will be the best fit for you based on academics offered. Use this worksheet to learn more about a school’s curriculum, majors, and learning opportunities. Download Guide 2

Tracking Application Requirements & Deadlines

There’s a lot to keep track of when you’re applying to multiple colleges. Use this worksheet to stay organized and take some of the stress out of the application process. Download Guide 3

Highlighting Your Extracurriculars & Activities

This worksheet will prepare you for the activities section of your college applications. Think of this guide as a way to brainstorm what you’ve been involved in through high school, what your commitment looked like, and how things may have changed in the past year. Download Guide 4

Bonus: Watch this video for even more tips on activities!

Thanks, Penn! Pair this advice with The Complete College Essay Handbook and get ready to apply! 

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Juniors: What’s Your Story?

Juniors: What’s Your Story?

The start of junior year is the perfect time to determine your story for applying to college. What majors are you considering? What have you done to explore those majors? Where will you add value in college both inside and outside of the classroom? Is your value add clear on your resume? 

It might seem early since you won’t be submitting apps until this time next year, but those apps are much easier to write if you’ve done some work ahead of time. 

Juniors, right now you can:

  • Create a testing plan and learn about test-optional admissions
  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people who make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (we can fill you in on why these connections are so important and set you up with a peer guide)
  • Open up a Common App account to get familiar with the system
  • Craft a preliminary college list so you understand the many application plans colleges now use, and why this is a critical component of a smart application strategy
  • Make the best of virtual campus visits 
  • And of course, determine your academic narrative and “story” for your apps, and learn how this plays into one of our favorite parts of the college app process: essays!

Speaking of essays now would be a great time for juniors to grab a copy of our book, The Complete College Essay Handbook

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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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Do Your Best

Do Your Best

In a recent Inside Higher Ed article, W. Kent Barnds reflects on what he should have told his daughter and thousands of other high school students: just do your best. 

As we approach the time of year when it can be easy to lose sight of what matters (regarding college admissions!) it is worth a read!

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Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

The resumes we see tend to take two forms: the students who does it all, but nothing very deeply or well, and the students who does very little (to varying degrees of depth and rigor). 

You don’t need to do it all, but you do need to do something, or a few things, really well or to an extent that goes beyond that of your peers. And if you can’t help but spread yourself a bit thin, you can still craft a narrow application (ask us how!). 

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

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What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

In his recent Forbes article, The College Admission Precedent, Brendan Barnard asks us to please stop using the word unprecedented when describing the college process this year because it is “an unwelcome and constant reminder of just how uncertain the past months have been, as our world reels in the face of a global pandemic.” I’m not bothered by it, but what I love about his piece is the focus on the constants. Year over year, things really don’t change all that much. A few quotes I pulled that remind us to keep moving forward, take a deep breath, and stay the course:

Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University points out that “the basic timing for college learning and degree-seeking as a life event doesn’t seem to have faced the same kind of profound disruption as other related activities.” He says, “with minor exceptions, we’re still seeing students aiming to complete their high school career on time and begin their college career shortly after, and the same for students progressing from college to career or to graduate and professional schools.” He adds, “even when the mechanisms and the anticipated experience are uncertain or have significantly changed, most—really almost all—students seem committed to their anticipated timeline and progress without interruption.” 

Jeff Schiffman, director of admission at Tulane University agrees. He says, “frankly, the applications themselves were not substantially different from previous years. Yes, we saw more students mentioning ‘caring for younger siblings’ in their extracurricular list, and yes we saw a few times where the “12” was missing from the grades the student played tennis, but overall most applications were not markedly different from previous years.” He adds, “to me, it felt mostly like business as usual.” 

Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver at the current NACAC president points out that, “while much has changed this year in the way colleges and students engage with each other and how college admission officers conduct their work, students can take solace that the application reading and evaluation process is still grounded in the same principles and factors as previous years.” He adds, “admission counselors may be working remotely, but our reading and committee work will continue successfully, providing students full consideration for admission and scholarships. That process will not be jeopardized!”

And my favorite — please please students take this man’s advice and get apps in EARLY:

To that end, Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign highlights another enduring truth about how students apply to college. He says, “it is human nature to apply right before the deadline. Of our Early Action applicants, over half came in within the final two days of our deadline. This has been true for each of the last several years. It doesn’t appear to matter if our deadline is November 1 or November 15, most students will apply within a few days of the deadline.” While unlikely, a change to this precedent would be welcome by many anxious parents and educators!

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Optional Components of the College Application

Optional Components of the College Application

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Videos submissions
  • Letter of recommendation (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to Interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here and here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like CMC, U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? It means you want to go above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are as well as their commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. You are giving yourself the opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know more about you. More of “you” to evaluate, assuming the you that you present is in a good light, is usually a good thing.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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