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New Year, Not-So-New Issues Challenge College Applicants and their Families

Happy 2024 to all parents, students and advisors! Winter can be a time to stay indoors, enjoy family and friends and recharge. Well, maybe not. You might have a senior who needs to - or wants to - get out some last-minute apps. Or you may have a junior or sophomore and need to meet midyear to be sure they're on track.Will the new year bring changes to the college process? We'll continue to keep a close watch on admissions trends, test-optional colleges, digital adaptive testing and direct admissions. For current developments, let's take a look. 

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ED I Not Successful? Plow On! Last month, students and counselors were on edge over ED I notifications. What happened? Highly selective colleges, if they bothered to share their information, reported low admissions stats, for example, 5% (MIT Restrictive Early Action), 12% (Duke ED), 17% (Dartmouth ED). and 34% for both Boston College (ED I) and BU (ED I). Why wouldn't an elite school advertise its low acceptance rates? In a Forbes article, author Christopher Rim explains, "Without data points or statistics, a greater number of students may be tempted to apply to these elite universities, improving the admissions offices’ profits."Applicants should be reminded that these decisions are not personal, but a function of the priorities of the institution. (See the Duke example below.)

“Our goal in providing more equitable access to a Duke education was to help more academically outstanding students from the Carolinas see Duke as an option." -Duke Admissions, on ED notifications

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Early Action Notifications: A Winter Storm Brewing?

Around here, students flood public research universities with Early Action applications. Last year was rough; colleges that had both ED and EA (e.g., UVA, UVM, Villanova) deferred countless Early Action applicants. At last glance, those colleges are supposed to notify applicants late this month (Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill) or mid-February (UVA, Wisconsin). Expect to see issues with limited spaces for out-of-state students.

In the ED round, for example, UVA accepted 18.5 percent from outside Virginia as opposed to 30 percent from in-state.

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What's Going on at Vandy? Applicants May Not Be Happy

My last pre-pandemic college visit was Vanderbilt. Up the hill from Nashville's bridal parties and country music, the classic campus was stunning. But over the next few years, some mighty strong applicants would not break through admissions barriers.NowTown & Country asks, "Is Vanderbilt the New Brown?" Look at the similarities mentioned in the article: collaborative, fun and popular with celebrities' kids! As author Nicole Laporte explains: ". . . whereas 20 years ago Vandy, as it’s called, was considered more of an alternative to other Southern 'smart' schools like Emory or Wake Forest, it is now said in the same breath as Dartmouth, Brown, and the University of Chicago." The result: an acceptance rate of six percent in 2022-23.

Vandy: Celebrity kids (like Brown) and no ED I stats (not like Brown)

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Cut College Time by a Year? It May Happen!

In the United Kingdom, students often finish their uni experience in three years. But in the United States, as paying parents and worn-out students know too well, the standard is four. So it's interesting to hear about a three-year model, examined recently in a Forbes article, Has The Time For Three-Year College Degrees Finally Arrived? For Robert Zemsky, a professor emeritus from Penn, and Lori Carrell of U Minnesota, the U.S. model is ripe for change, and 17 colleges are part of their pilot program. It's interesting - and makes sense - that future-focused degrees like cybersecurity and software development are among those degrees. According to the article, "Zemsky believes colleges need to give more scrutiny to the required core and hopes that more institutions in the Exchange will seriously entertain major overhauls, rather than mere tweaks, to their general education requirements." 

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Cashing in on Football, College Style

It's a new year, which, for those who care about college football, means it's time for the national championship game. Interestingly, the January 8, 2024, matchup features two excellent, spirited academic universities, both of which have 14-0 records: the Washington Huskies and the Michigan Wolverines. U-W, which beat the Texas Longhorns to win the Sugar Bowl, is known for STEM, and U-M, the Rose Bowl winner over 'Bama, does just about everything right. unCommon students love to apply there!U-M Early Action applicants should hear back in late January.With so much focus on college football coaches (think Saban, Harbaugh and Sanders), athletes want their fair share, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, even the coaches think their players should profit from their gridiron activities: "The gap between what colleges pay coaches and what they allocate in athlete funding provides a dramatic backdrop to the rising pressure for college athletes to be paid, and specifically out of the billions of dollars generated by their sports." Using Michigan football as an example, coaches and staff cost the university $75 million in 2022, whereas their athletes' costs tallied about $33 million. (U-M had 950 athletes.)  Remember: athletes are working on profiting from their university studies through endorsements and, according to Seton Hall data, the public increasingly supports them. It all makes frisbee on the Green sound like a good compromise.

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Planning Now for Summer 2024? Don't Pay to Play!

Do you find yourself bombarded with emails and ads for summer programs? As a counselor, I certainly am. I just cringe when I read of the matchmaking services, student-to-researcher, with a promise of published research, especially when it costs a parent thousands and the research is with a grad student. In College Admission Warped 2023, Brennan Barnard of Khan Lab School takes on expensive pay-to-play programs:"Fortunately, my colleagues who work in college admission offices share my disdain for these programs and join me in my eye-rolling at the suggestion that this would move the needle toward an acceptance. I would recommend my college applicants get a job at their local grocery store 100 times over before I ever suggested one of these programs. They are another sad example of how thwarted this experience has become and the rush to make a buck off of fear."Yes, parents! Jobs are the best, showing work ethic and building life skills.

Now before I leave summer and get back to winter, let me share a good resource: Students and parents can see understand program structure, get the latest on eligibility, find out about selectivity and see costs in their Financial Accessibility score. 

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Welcome Back to Campus. Now Get Ready to Interview!

If you thought finding the right summer job was a problem, glance through this WSJ article on what's going on with high-end internships for college students. Financial entities like Guggenheim Securities and RBC are "now recruiting for interns nearly 18 months before college students would be expected to start." In other words, first-semester sophomores are told to ready themselves for internships the summer after their junior year! Examples cited include Rice, which is instructing freshmen and sophomores about investment banking, and Union College, which has sent sophomores to fact-finding missions at Goldman Sachs. What ever happened to frisbee on the Green?

From Union to Goldman 

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With so many issues to digest, you may be ready to warm up with a meeting. Fortunately, midyear timing is the best! So get in touch and go unCommon!



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