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A Newsworthy July for College Applicants

Holistic admissions take hold (yet again).

When it comes to college admissions, this summer certainly has started off with a bang. Let's break down the issues while finding out how new programs and potential majors might affect future applicants.

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The Ruling: What's Old is New Again? With the serious, long-anticipated Supreme Court decision, colleges can no longer consider race as a factor in admissions decisions. It's not entirely new. After all, two state systems have had plenty of time to work through the way they admit students when they can't ask specifically about race. California colleges have been race-blind for 27 years, while Michigan's law changed back in 2006. As shared in EdSource, UC is ready to share "expertise and lessons learned." In a statement, the University of Michigan acknowledged its "opportunity once again to serve higher education more broadly, through sharing our lessons learned on how to achieve a more racially and otherwise diverse student body within the legal parameters newly announced by the court." In the EdSource article, an enrollment officer from Occidental College states, “I worry about how this might change the behavior of students and that students will be discouraged from applying to selective institutions.” However, we all know that applying test-optional has resulted in submissions from thousands of students who would not otherwise have applied. Notably, UC is test-blind not test-optional, and its Personal Insight Questions allow candidates to share a good deal of their background. (They're great prompts, as I always tell applicants to UCs.) If they hadn't already done so, college presidents are looking to admissions officers and the holistic process, which unCommon families know all about. A Wall Street Journal article mentioned that after the Supreme Court ruling, Union College president David Harris "immediately emailed his admission director to ask about what sort of essay prompt the school might design around it.”

"Given this decision, it’s going to be very, very important for Black applicants to be able to articulate their lived experiences in their essays for schools that do holistic reviews and have essays as a part of the admission process." -Emory (in CapitalB)

Then there's Forbes education contributor Derek Newton, who writes of a software demo he witnessed three years ago: "The software used data and analytic modeling to advise admissions officers on issues such as how many students they needed to accept and how much financial aid needed to be offered to each student individually to maximize the odds of their enrollment . . . Further, once a computer model of the desired class was assembled, administrators could see it ahead of time – reliably predicting things such as racial or economic or geographic diversity.”

As explained in a Journal article about Asian Americans' reactions to the ruling, "this college-admission system was never going to be a straight forward, merit-based system and eliminating racial considerations does not change that.” So college admissions will continue to be a bumpy road, and I will help students find their way.

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Who's on Trend? Harvard and Other Elites. Who among you recalls the frustration of taking a computer course in college with nobody around to help you through the coding assignment? Count me among them! Now, Harvard is using AI to guide students in its Computer Science 50: Introduction to Computer Science course, helping them "understand highlighted lines of code and advise them on why and how to improve their code’s style." It seems Harvard TAs will be used in better ways. Then there's mighty Penn, which doesn't give us the courtesy of reporting its admissions stats. But some of those fortunate enough to be Quakers may take Living Deliberately, a course led by Professor Justin McDaniel. As reported by CNBC, this class, which boasts a waitlist of 300, requires students to “observe a code of silence, abstain from using all electronic communications and limit their spending to $50 a week.”

McDaniel had a brief experience as a monk and wants students to benefit. His monastic goal: to help students get less afraid of being sad and more confident in their ability to navigate complex emotions."

Meanwhile, rival Dartmouth announced record-breaking contributions that will make two districts a reality on campus. "The West End, dedicated to innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, is driving hands-on collaboration across disciplines to meet some of the world’s greatest challenges. The Arts District is providing students with myriad opportunities to explore the arts as a component of their complete liberal arts experience." I've got to check it out on a future trip to New England, which it's time for Lou's!

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Who are Your Peers? Colleges Have Their Ideas! Looking for a College Y that's like College X? We counselors used to do that with Fiske's Guide. Now, the Chronicle of Higher Ed is featuring an updated iteration of Who Does Your College Think Its Peers Are? Take Williams, the liberal-artsy gem that I stopped at last weekend. Williams - or you - can receive a "customized report that compares their performance to that of their selected peers on various measures, like enrollment, graduation rates, and average staff salaries.” Williams considers 10 colleges to be peers, while 34 colleges believe Williams is their peer! It sounds like friendships . . .

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Liberal Arts Institutions Get Job-Ready A survey conducted by Grammarly and Inside Higher Ed reports that while 92 percent of higher ed faculty and staff "do an effective job preparing students for professional success," students and young alums disagree. According to Grammarly's head of customer success, "The reality is that the more traditional methods of career support that many institutions rely on no longer effectively meet the needs of the modern student." No kidding! So let's see what some forward-thinking liberal arts institutions are doing to get their students ready for the workplace. According to an opinion piece in Higher Ed Dive, "liberal arts colleges can make career services a priority.” They profile UChicago, which has launched a job-shadowing program; this will especially help students with interests in the "arts, education and nonprofits." To give students job experience necessary to snag good internships, UChicago matches students with alumni for experiences lasting between one and five days. States former dean John Boyer, "the best way to demonstrate the power of the liberal arts is to have students achieve professional success using the analytical and creative skills they gain in our academic programs." Another liberal arts institution, Bowdoin College, now requires sophomores to attend a winter bootcamp focused on careers. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, Bowdoin students learn how to write a resume. network and use the college's jobs database. Upperclassmen assist the sophomores through this all-important experience. Each year, Bowdoin's "career development staff surveys the sophomores each year to see what they are most interested in, which industries they want to hear about and what job skills they need help developing."

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Fishing for a University? Last year, I reported on university fishing opportunities - and I don't mean looking for ways to expand a student's college list. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, two students from Auburn University have captured the National Collegiate Bass Fishing title. But since the sport isn't governed by the NCAA, the students snagged a $1 million prize courtesy of Bass Pro Shops! (One of the winners, a marketing major, is going pro, so he doesn't need career services.)

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Look Beyond the Major! I appreciate the numerous calls and emails from parents worried about their students' prospective majors. My belief: regardless of major, a student should maximize the experience and leave with skills in communications, data analysis and critical thinking. Recently, I enjoyed a podcast hosted by education writer Jeff Selingo and featuring Brennan Barnard (Khan Lab School) and Rick Clark (Georgia Tech). What did they say? "Has anybody ever asked you what your major is? They don’t care. Can you do your job?” Now that's the spirit of independence! Postulating that "there is no single best college," Money is now assigning stars since "there are multiple ways for a school to provide value, and multiple “best” colleges, depending on your goals and priorities." Check out the list of the 34 institutions receiving 5 stars!

On, Wisconsin! It got 5 stars!

When it comes to your future applicant, don't go fishing for assistance. Instead, go unCommon; get in touch today.


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