Admission Trends & Early Applications: Early Decision & Early Action Are Increasingly Important in Admissions

This past admissions cycle more colleges than ever experienced an increase in the number of early applications, correspondingly increasing the number of admissions offers made from the early application pool. For the most competitive colleges, like Duke and Harvard, over half the class is filled before the January 1st deadline for regular applications.

Early application programs come in two variations: 1. Early decision, in which case the student is admitted early and required to attend if accepted, 2. Early action, in which case the student is still admitted early but not required to attend if accepted. At Harvard, which uses a non-binding program for early admissions, the regular decision admission rate was 4.7%, while the early action program applicants enjoyed a 13.4% admissions rate. When looking at the most competitive schools, early decision is the most common early application option. While students must then commit to the institution and forgo the chance to entertain other college offers under this option, early decision applicants are rewarded with an acceptance rate double or triple that of their regular decision counterparts. Correspondingly, with most of the class filled before regular decision, published admissions rates (based solely on regular decision applicant pool numbers) have dropped, benefitting colleges in popular rankings like US News.

We mentioned in our blogs on 2018 trends that the number of applications to college has increased as adoption of universal applications (e.g. the Common App) eases the process of transferring application material across schools. With students being accepted to more places, yield rate for accepted students into the freshman class is at a historic low. These trends in early action and early decision should be understood within this context. Colleges are attempting to stabilize their class sizes and react to increased student yield volatility with an increased preference for high-yield applicants, including early applicants and non-traditional students like transfer students. However, each year more people realize the increasing benefit of early decision programs, with schools like Barnard and Brown seeing a 20-30% increase in early applicants in recent years. As early applications become increasingly common, the higher admissions rates enjoyed by early applicants will fall, coupled with an even lower regular admissions rate. Beyond 2019, the expectation is that early applications will not be an advantage for the informed, but the new normal for the competitive.

Admission Trends & Guidance: How Admissions Counseling is Changing in 2019

In 2016, the guidance counselor to student ratio in public schools was 1 to 350. That means that the average public high school guidance counselor was in charge of guiding and addressing the college application needs of 350 students. Just over half of principals reported, “helping students prepare for postsecondary schooling,” as their top priority for their schools’ counseling office. The average public counselor spent 21 percent of their time on post-secondary counseling compared to their private school counterparts spending 47 percent of their time on college guidance. This leads to a 10-hour gap per week between the amount of time public and private school students receive college guidance, not accounting for any difference in financial resources or impartible knowledge between public and private schools. Even so, private school counselors, while offering more to the average student, report that most students don’t take advantage of the full gamut of resources offered. In a national survey, 90% of counselors indicated that their schools offered information on college admissions tests, colleges, and the basics of the financial aid process. The percentage of students who took advantage of these types of help was far lower because the initiative remains with the student and parents to ask for assistance, or even demand it against the clamor of hundreds of other students and families.

As these trends continue into 2019, it is more critical than ever to take control of your child’s future and secure the guidance needed to remain competitive in the admissions process. At Collegiate Blueprint, we understand that guidance is personal. We cap how many clients we serve each cycle to ensure we can provide a personalized roadmap and admissions strategy for every student. Contact us today for a free consultation, and we can figure out which of our service plans best fits your family’s needs.

Admissions Trends & Tech: 3 New Ways Students & Colleges Share Information in 2018

Technology has been transforming the admissions landscape long before 2018, and the trend continues with only greater prominence as technology tools become more advanced and achieve wider adoption. While technologies vary in maturity and adoption across education institutions, there are 3 major trends concerning tech and admissions across the board: 1. Student recruitment efforts have been enabled by technology through social media outreach and screening, 2. Greater amounts of information is being made available online for prospective applicants, 3. Online tools for test prep, scholarships, and college-specific research are becoming increasingly popular and critical for applicants. Concerning student recruitment over social media, colleges can reach out to students and share material relevant to applicants on their social platforms to engage prospective applicants, as well as review and consider students’ social media profiles in the admissions process. For students, this means following your top choice schools as well as adjusting the privacy settings of your social profiles when applying (as well as cleaning them up for content!). In the same vein, colleges expect that applicants are more informed about why their school than ever before. With more information available than ever about potential programs, student experiences, and campus cultures, students have less of an excuse for not being able to articulate why they want to attend one school over others. As colleges put more effort into getting to know and reviewing students using technology tools, there is an increasing expectation of reciprocation of effort from students to know relevant details and selling points for their top choice schools. Finally, with a plethora of online tools for strengthening and informing students application components, tech-savvy students have a distinct edge. With technology, the most competitive students and parents are taking responsibility for self-education in terms of navigating (or hacking) the admissions system and standardized testing.

These trends speak to the major overarching technology trend in 2018: Applicants who are more involved in the process become more educated and refine their applications accordingly, while disengaged applicants are left unprepared and unaware of how their application is being reviewed (and therefore how it could be improved). As an educational consultant, I use the latest technology tools and resources to ensure that all my students are well-positioned to shine their brightest and make informed decisions about college application choices.

Admissions Trends & Policy: Shifting Legal Landscape & The Impact on Admissions

Beyond trends on the side of applicants and colleges, a third and often forgotten player has been increasingly influential in admissions: the government. In 2016 the Supreme Court narrowly decided Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, siding in favor of the university by narrow margin that it is not discriminatory to have affirmative action policies for underrepresented racial minorities. However, a lawsuit against Harvard brought on by Asian applicants is currently circulating the courts, where Asian applicants are accusing Harvard of illegal racial quotas and trying to overturn current court precedent allowing consideration of race in admissions. With new shifts in the Supreme Court since the 2016 decision, the status of race consideration in admissions – including affirmative action for underrepresented minorities – is uncertain in 2018 and going forward.

Additionally, the enrollment of international students has been decreasing in recent years as international students are uncertain of the volatile US immigration and political landscape. The effect of decreased enrollment is two-fold: college campuses are becoming less diverse and public universities have fewer financial resources for students (since international students pay significantly more than domestic students and subsidize domestic student costs). With over 40% of colleges reporting a decrease in international student yield and international student enrollment falling by 7%, colleges are increasing efforts to recruit and retain international students, and these efforts will continue into 2018.

Admission Trends & Colleges: Holistic Factors & Increasingly Flexible Application Requirements

As we covered in the last blog, increasing numbers of applications have driven colleges to recruit greater numbers of students, especially from nontraditional applicant pools, and prefer to admit applicants who have shown greater amounts of commitment to attending the college when accepted. Beyond increasing applications and their consequences, other admissions trends for 2018 include colleges changing their policies concerning how and what they consider in the admissions process. In addition to increasing consideration of demonstrated interest, colleges are considering a greater number of soft factors, like student work portfolios and multi-media (video, images, etc.) submissions, in addition to hard factors like GPA and test scores. This trend has been dovetailed by a decreasing emphasis on test scores, with many colleges opting for greater test score flexibility (allowing students more choice in what kind of tests they can submit) or dropping consideration of test scores all together as test-optional policies increase in popularity. Together, more holistic admissions and greater application flexibility means it is more important than ever that a student be able to speak for their value beyond their academic achievements. At an increasing number of schools, demonstrated interest, genuine passion for your studies, and intent to give back to the campus community will be more likely to be the deciding factor in admissions than a high test score or attendance at a competitive high school alone.

In short, college admission is becoming a more holistic process, where traditional hard factors like test scores, and GPA will be increasingly equal in weight to an increasing number of soft factors like personality, samples of work, evidence of increasing responsibility and engagement in your communities, and demonstrated interest.

Admission Trends & Applications: Increasing Applications & The Impact on Applicants

In 2018, there are 3 interconnected trends in college applications: a greater number of applications per student, a lower yield rate for colleges, a greater emphasis on soft factors like demonstrated interest, and more opportunities for nontraditional students. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the number of college applications increase across the US. Much of this is due to two factors: 1. Universal applications (like the Common Application) allow students to apply to more colleges each cycle with less effort, increasing the total amount of applications overall as the number of traditional applicants in America plateaus. 2. Colleges are increasing student recruitment, including from nontraditional applicant pools like international and transfer applicants. Students who apply to a greater number of colleges, as we see enabled now, are more likely to get into more schools than applicants previously, decreasing the chance that any given applicant will choose any given school upon acceptance. Thus, with an easier application system and more admissions offers per student, the average yield rate of accepted applicants into the incoming class has dropped with admission rates. As a greater number of applications overall increases competitiveness and accepted student yield becomes more unpredictable, waitlists and high-yield nontraditional applicants have been reengaged in the application process to compensate when colleges don’t have a high enough accepted student yield to fill their freshman class.

However, colleges prefer not to use their waitlist, and soft factors like your college essay and demonstrated interest become more important as a proxy for how committed an applicant is to attendance. With many students applying to 6 or more colleges, it’s increasingly beneficial to show admission committees some level of commitment to attending upon acceptance (in turn increasing the overall potential yield rate as more students commit upon acceptance). The best way to show demonstrated interest is to apply early (particularly through early decision) and visit the college campus, which helps students write more compelling and informed “Why X College” supplements.

The Common App: Activities and Recommenders Sections

Moving on from our overview of the Common App online portal in the previous post, I want to address some typical areas of confusion concerning how to fill out the Common Application itself. The application is mostly self-explanatory; however, students typically have questions for me when filling out the Recommenders and FERPA as well as the Activities sections.

The Recommenders and FERPA section:

This section is located under each individual College that you have added to your “My Colleges” list. Please see this link, which will highlight all that you will need to know to properly complete this section.

The Activities Section:

You may list up to 10 activities and may include a short description of accomplishments and recognitions within each activity. Before you start the activities section, sit down with your resume or a blank sheet of paper and start listing the 10 (or less) activities within which you were the most involved or accomplished. Once you have a list of activities, write about each summarizing your accomplishments and/or your involvement. You have a 150-character limit, so make sure every character counts by making your statement as concise and direct as possible. In this statement, use action words like “Co-created,” “Maintained,” “Organized,” and “Represented,” keeping the statement impactful and results-oriented. (see: word bank below). Colleges want to know what you’ve done, so make sure you convey depth in your involvement and results as your accomplishments. Here are a few examples:

“Competed in Model UN senior year, placing fourth nationally and first in women; elected president junior and senior year.”

“Educated children about the voting process as their parents vote during local, state, and national elections; led team of 6 other volunteers.”

“Led team on and off the field; encouraged all players; chosen by team as Captain junior and senior year; head of recruitment with coach.”

After drafting your descriptions, the last step is to figure out how many hours a week you spent on each activity, how many weeks per year (36 weeks in a school year), and which years you participated in that activity. This should all be pretty simple to procure, and remember that estimations are okay as long as they aren’t unfounded exaggerations.

While initially overwhelming, with all of this information in hand, you are ready to plug in your activities into the Common App. When you done, please make an appointment with me so that we can review your Common Application together.

Word Bank

Leadership Collaborative

On The Common App: Introduction and Orientation

When first encountering the Common App dashboard, a lot of students feel overwhelmed and confused before they even start the application itself. However, the Common App is intuitive and easy to navigate with a bit of guidance and knowhow. In this series, we will provide tips and instruction on how to navigate the Common Application interface and how to fill out the Common App itself. To begin, the Common App web interface has five sections: the dashboard, “My Colleges,” the Common App itself, college search, and financial resources. When you first log-on, your dashboard and “My Colleges” tabs are empty. By switching over to your college search tab, you can find your desired schools and add them to your “My Colleges” list, which will populate your dashboard with individual schools’ supplemental requirements. Your dashboard will be an important space for keeping track of writing prompts and upcoming deadlines. Notification and submission of college-specific requirements and essays will be managed through the “My Colleges” section, separate from the Common Application section and your Common App essay.

Having set up our account and dashboard, the rest of the interface itself should be self-explanatory from that point forward. Having orientated ourselves with the platform, we’re ready to move on to navigating the Common Application itself. In the following blog, we will address the structure of the Common App and some common student and parent questions.

The Updated 2017-18 Common Application: Outside Advisor Access, Self-Reported Transcripts, and Spanish Language Resources

In addition to changes in essay prompts and new Google Drive compatibility, the Common App has added outside advisor access, self-reported transcripts, and Spanish language resources. Outside advisor access will encourage greater oversight on my part of student application completion, and self-reported transcripts will allow students to communicate their academic history to colleges without having to wait for their high school transcripts to be processed, sent, and delivered to their choice colleges. For those who need it, Spanish language resources will open the Common App to a wider audience of applicants, providing clarity for those whom English is not their first language.

Reprinted from IvyWise College Admissions Blog:

Outside Advisor Access

Now, students who work with independent consultants, community-based organizations, or other advisors will be able to collaborate with them within the Common Application system just like they would with a regular recommender or their school-based counselor. This will allow students to share a view of their application while they’re working on it in order to get feedback and suggestions from whoever is advising them through this process.

Self-Reported Transcripts

The new Courses and Grades section will allow students to fill out self-reported transcripts directly into the Common Application. This feature will be available when the new application opens on August 1, 2017.

Spanish Language Resources

For families that speak Spanish as their primary language, a number of important resources on the Common Application as well as how to apply to college, how to apply for financial aid, and more will be translated into Spanish in order to help students and parents better understand the application process.

The Updated 2017-18 Common Application: Revised Essay Prompts and Google Drive Integration

With the updated Common App, we have for the third year in a row an expanded offering of essay prompts for the personal statement section. With the addition of 2 new prompts, including the return of the “Topic of your choice” prompt previously removed 3 years ago, students have more flexibility to tell their story and showcase their abilities, choosing the structure or prompt that best enables them to express their narrative. Additionally, Google Drive functionality has been integrated into the Common App, allowing students to easily transfer their documents into the app, including resumes, personal statements, and supplemental materials.

Reprinted from IvyWise College Admissions Blog:

Revised Essay Prompts

Here are the 2017-18 Common App essay prompts:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. REVISED: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. REVISED: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. REVISED: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. NEW: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. NEW: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.