Parents: What Don’t You Know About College Applications?

It’s officially summer! Relax, enjoy, and don’t forget about college applications. Questions? unCommon Apps is around to provide answers.

How do colleges review applications?

Parents often wonder just how admissions readers make decisions that affect the lives of their teens. Recently, an article in Inside Higher Ed explains how certain elite universities have changed the way they manage application reviews. Rather than the traditional solo review in which a single admissions officer does a first read and writes a report, some colleges look at apps by committee. This is working particularly well at Penn, Emory, Bucknell, Swarthmore and Case Western. Citing research conducted by Penn, the article explains that:

  1. There is considerable time savings when readers work together.

  2. Working in teams of two, one reader may evaluate academics while another looks at extracurriculars.

  3. Candidates from the same high school are reviewed at the same time and are considered in light of what is offered at that school.

All this is made easier, of course, as a result of digital files.


Bucknell conducts initial application reviews by committee.

I have often explained to parents that admissions officers have history with various high schools and use high school profiles to understand curricula and grading. In that manner, they are able to evaluate how much an applicant has challenged himself or herself given the opportunity. When a college is popular with a particular high school’s applicant pool and slots are limited, applicants may compete with each other for spots.

How is the college application process inconsistent?

In his opinion piece in U.S. News, contributor Danny Ruderman hits on many serious issues, especially the pressure to get in:

“To students who have barely glimpsed the challenges of life, getting into college serves as the ultimate validation for their level of ability, potential, work ethic and societal acceptance.”

Ruderman explains that underserved students in particular have difficulty understanding the process, while all candidates can be confused by inconsistent deadlines and interview policies. Criticizing colleges for having too many supplemental essays, he tells us, “All colleges should require the same personal statement and only one supplemental essay – I’d suggest the popular prompt of ‘Why do you want to attend this specific college?’ because it forces students to research the schools to which they are applying.”

He would also like to see the number of applications capped at 12.

Take note! Supplementing the Supplement, my primer now available on iBooks, includes tips on constructing targeted supplemental essays and using social media to stand out from the crowd. As always, special thanks go to Social Assurity and ZeeMee.

What’s the latest in college rankings?

By now, my parents and students know that it’s all about the match, not the ranking. Interestingly, I just read a release from Times Higher Education, a spinoff of the Times of London that calls itself “the company behind the world’s most influential university ranking.” Curious about which institutions performed well on their 2017 World University Rankings (based on scholars’ selection)? Here’s what stands out:

  1. Of the top ten, only Cambridge and Oxford are not U.S. universities.

  2. Harvard tops the list.

  3. Asian universities have climbed in the list. Tokyo U, Tsinghua University and Peking University are in the top 20.

  4. Large U.S. public universities fare quite well, including Michigan, UCLA, Texas and Wisconsin.


On Wisconsin! This public university gets international acclaim.

Why check College Board this summer?

For students who need to retest—and students who want to get in a few SAT Subject Tests—College Board has added an August 26, 2017, test date.

But get this: Scores from the June 3, 2017, SAT won’t be available until July 12, a few weeks later than the norm. July is a big score-release month, as AP scores are also available then.

The next ACT is September 9, 2017, allowing your student to test before things get too hectic at school.

The August and September dates should be used by seniors, not juniors. They’ll have plenty of chances later.

What can my teen do this summer?

You’ve heard it during the year: Expensive summer programs are not essential for college admissions. In fact, your teen can get much more out other activities, including:

  1. Volunteering to teach kids a favorite sport or hobby

  2. Blogging about an area of interest

  3. Taking a job at a local business

  4. Shadowing a mentor at work

The college process won’t go away even as temperatures soar. Email me and schedule a session to get your prospective applicant in gear.

Follow me on Twitter: @nberler

#collegeapplications #collegesupplements #Testing

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