College Admissions Trends (2015)

trends

Common App Questions, International Admissions, and More: Here Are the College Admissions Trends Families Need to Prepare for This Summer

The admissions process for the Class of 2019 is just wrapping up, but we’re already seeing new trends developing for the Class of 2020. From online education to alternative admission options, and even problematic Common Application questions that colleges can use to make admissions decisions, there’s a lot brewing for the next crop of college applicants.

Recently, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released its annual State of College Admissions (SOCA) report. This new report found that colleges still rank grades as the most important factor in the college admissions decision process, and, once again, more students are applying to more colleges than ever before.
These are just a few pieces of the admissions puzzle that’s forming for the fall 2015 cycle. Our team of expert counselors is constantly reviewing admissions news and trends in order to give our students the highest level of college counseling. This year, our team has identified a number of admission trends that students and parents should be aware of for the fall.

Here’s what to expect and how to prepare this summer:

Colleges asking where else you’re applying.
It was revealed earlier this spring that the Common Application is giving colleges the option to ask students where else they’re applying. This is problematic as a question like this can be used to judge a student’s likeliness to enroll if admitted – something colleges take seriously as a way to manage yield rates and enrollment models. It’s no secret that colleges have often used FAFSA information to judge a students’ affinity for certain institutions, however, colleges blatantly asking this question can add another confusing layer to an already murky college admissions process.

Students can prepare for this question by staying informed on how colleges intend to use the information and formulate a plan of response with their college counselor.
 
More colleges offering spring admission programs.
This application cycle saw an increase of fall 2015 applicants accepted for the spring 2016 term. Cornell University was one of these institutions, announcing its new spring admissions program this March. The practice of admitting some fall applicants for the spring –delaying the start of their college education by one semester– has been around for a while. However, there has been an uptick in this practice lately, and many times students are unprepared for this kind of decision.

So what can families do this summer to prepare for this admission possibility? Do your research. Find out if the colleges on your list sometimes admit fall applicants for the spring semester and decide if that impacts your desire to attend that institution. It can be worth it to delay starting college for a semester in order to attend your top-choice institution, but there can also be adjustment issues for students starting in the spring. While this admissions practice ultimately impacts a relatively small number of students, it is an important possibility to prepare for.

More focus on transfer and international applicants.
As the number of high school graduates in the US plateaus, colleges are shifting their focus from high school seniors to international students and transfers. This is good news for international students who want to study in the US and current college students who are looking to transfer to another institution. Colleges are ramping up recruiting efforts for these students, and are likely to admit more students from these groups than they have in the past. However, it’s important to remember that the transfer and international admissions processes are very different from the standard US admissions process for high school seniors. This summer, it’s important for students to stay informed and know what to expect when applying to college as an international student or a transfer applicant. Make sure you know what colleges require for your transfer or international application and start compiling all those materials before the start of the fall semester.
 
Increased focus on “informed interest.”
We’ve talked a lot about demonstrated interest in the past – a college’s gauge of how likely a student is to attend based on visits, interviews, essays, etc. While 78% of colleges assign some level of importance to demonstrated interest according to NACAC’s most recent SOCA report, expect colleges to look less at specific instances of contact and more at informed interest – how well a student knows a college and how he or she plans to contribute to the campus environment. Students can prepare to show their informed interest through compelling supplemental essays and interviews. This summer, review your research that went into building your college list and get a head start on your essays. Many colleges release their supplemental essay questions before August 1, but even if colleges on your list don’t release topics early, be prepared for common essay topics like “why this college,” “why do you want to study this major,” and more.

More students applying to a higher number of colleges.
With dwindling admission rates at some of the country’s top institutions each year, students are increasingly applying to a higher number of colleges in order to secure multiple offers of admission. According to NACAC, 32% of fall 2013 applicants submitted seven or more college applications, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2008. This year, one New Jersey high school reported an average of 45 college applications per student, and one senior even applied to as many as 70 colleges.

This increase in the number of colleges students apply to often ends up swelling the applicant pool at many top-tier institutions, often resulting in a lower admission rate. This, in turn, makes the college admission landscape more competitive, prompting the next class of applicants to submit even more applications. It’s a problematic cycle that, in the end, adds up to a lot of application fees.

So how many colleges should you apply to? This summer make sure you have a balanced college list of no more than 10-15 colleges. Your list should be a mix of target, reach, and likely institutions, any of which you’d be happy to attend.

The Class of 2020 should already be focused on the college admissions process, and staying informed on the latest admissions news and trends goes a long way to helping families have a stress-free college application season.

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