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With Different Admissions Criteria, Colleges are Sending Mixed Messages

What are the implications for your student's candidacy?


Usually, March is filled with anticipation. After all, it's when the majority of admissions decisions are released. But this March is cast in a shadow of mixed messages, some of which may be of concern to you and your prospective applicant. As counselors, we owe it to our clients to address fundamental questions: What does a college value? How can peer institutions disagree about the purpose of testing? How are they using artificial intelligence in managing reviews? With recent announcements from high-end institutions and continued guesswork around how AI will shape the admissions landscape, the only thing I know for sure is that critical conversations need to happen. 


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Mixed Message: We Value Standardized Testing

Just when we thought it was safe to explain testing-optional admissions, two elite institutions changed their policies in February. Mighty Yale will now follow a test-flexible policy, allowing applicants to either report the results of their SAT or ACT or else provide their history of AP or International Baccalaureate (IB) scores.



" . . . applications without scores can inadvertently leave admissions officers with scant evidence of their readiness for Yale.”


Meanwhile, Dartmouth will go back to requiring an SAT or ACT, with Big Green Admissions noting, "Most of our students have something close to straight A’s, and that’s wonderful, but also, in and of itself, not a helpful way of sorting."  



At the same time, Cornell, Michigan and Vanderbilt have extended their test optional policies, with Michigan clarifying that IB, AP or PSAT scores would not be used in lieu of SAT or ACT results.



“Choosing a challenging core curriculum in context with what’s offered at the student’s high school is a good indicator /of success."


 

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Mixed Message: We Love Your Essays, But . . .

In meetings with high schoolers, I always address components of the holistic review, starting with the transcript. (See Michigan comment above.) At Duke, admissions readers have assigned curricular strength, grades, extracurriculars, teacher recs and essays scores between 1 and 5. But from an article in the Duke Chronicle, we learned that Duke has decided to no longer score an applicant's essays. Stated Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag, “Essays are very much part of our understanding of the applicant, we’re just no longer assuming that the essay is an accurate reflection of the student’s actual writing ability.” Yes, that's an acknowledgement of AI!



"[Essays] are not given a numerical rating but considered as we think holistically about a candidate as a potential member of the Duke community.”


What isn't changing? The essay prompts. The Common App announced that they will remain the same for 2024-25.   


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Mixed Message: What's the Role of Athletics?

Looking to be paid for your sport? Historically, that's not something in the Ivy credo. Yet the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that men's basketball players at Dartmouth are now employees of the college, which means they might form a union. As the Chronicle explains: "Instead of seeking paychecks, they could, for example, ask for players to be compensated with full athletic scholarships — something the Ivy League currently does not permit."Far from Hanover, NH, is Rock Hill, SC, home of Winthrop University, which is now offering scholarships in . . .  cornhole! Yes, as reported in the Chronicle, the university has just granted half off tuition to two high school seniors in exchange for what they bring to the campus community. 


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Penn: We Do Curriculum Right


There's no doubt that AI will affect our lives. We just don't know how much is hype. Now Penn has become the first in its peer group to launch an AI-specific bachelor of science in engineering (BSE). Billing it as "the first Ivy League B.S.E. in Artificial Intelligence" Penn will "prepare the next generation of students to leverage the power of AI and shape the future of engineering systems.”



ChatGPT: Did Ben foresee AI?


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The Double Major: Is It Really Necessary?

High school students are uncertain about their college majors, yet they need to do some heavy thinking about them when applying. Once on campus, they may change their minds or just want to satisfy multiple interests. You know this college counselor is all about flexibility and interdisciplinary learning for the skills and perspectives afforded students.Now we read that AI is fueling the double major. As reported in Business Insider, a study showed that double majors are "less likely than similar single majors to experience negative 'earnings shocks' — deviations in earnings related to factors like job losses or pay cuts." Meanwhile, an author of the study from Ohio State shared his belief that double majoring may afford some sort of protection in an uncertain and AI-affected job market. 


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Clean Energy: No Mixed Message There!

Inside Climate News tells us that Swarthmore College, part of the Bi-Co, Tri-Co and Quaker Consortium, is looking to the future in a different way. They're “in the process of building geoexchange systems on their campuses in order to lower their greenhouse gas emissions,” joining Princeton and a few other institutions. While it’s described as a small Pennsylvania college in the article, we know that Swarthmore is highly selective, admitting just 7 percent last year. 



Swarthmore: scrutinizing emissions and admissions!


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Hopefully, March will bring good news to our applicants and a happy spring to your family. If you need to discuss issues affecting your student's candidacy, email me. You will receive an authentic response!

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