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The Common App Opens in Less Than Two Weeks!

Parents and educators have heard the term summer slide. Will students forget what they’ve learned? Will virtual learning make the phenomenon worse? But rising seniors applying to college know better. They’re moving their way up the learning curve, and with each edit of their Personal Essay and each attempt at a supplemental essay, they’ll get better. But there are stress-inducing issues they just can’t control. Testing: A Downward Slope Tests a No-Go? Over the last few weeks, many unCommon parents shared with me that the July ACT had been cancelled. They were understandably upset; their students were left frustrated and demotivated. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, a majority of rising seniors have yet to take their tests (about two-thirds of seniors for SAT; three-quarters for the ACT). On its website, ACT says that registration for September and October exams will open in late July; it’s scrapped plans for section retesting. College Board is hoping for a successful August 29, 2020, SAT. Let’s see what happens – and be prepared for a whole new level of holistic admissions.  What’s an applicant to do? My advice: Focus on the essays instead! Get in touch if your student needs a refresh or a jumpstart! More Public Research Universities Join Their Test-Optional Peers The last few weeks saw some big names go test-optional.  University of Maryland and CU Boulder, two university systems very popular with my students, made the list. Now If only UMD would get rid of the Coalition App!

“The Admission Committee uses a holistic, full-file review. This means the Committee will consider all factors of your application including grades earned in academic coursework, trends in your grades, your performance in honors, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement . . . your letters of recommendation, your essay, extracurricular activities and other achievements.”     –UMD Admissions Meanwhile, Michigan issued a confusing test-flexible policy. While U-M statesthat “students will be considered regardless of their ability to test or provide test scores,” it adds that “if by the deadline a student is unable to sit for and submit an SAT I or ACT test score, they may choose to submit any standardized testing result (PSAT, Pre-ACT, AP’s, etc.).”  What’s up, Wolverines? We all know that many students don’t take those preliminary tests seriously, and their critical reading skills aren’t as developed. And APs? They were reduced to quick online versions this year. (Results are available this week, by the way.)

At the same time, NCAA basketball coaches have had it with testing. (NCAA DI and DII recruits up until now have needed to meet thresholds for testing.) A WSJ article cites coaches’ rage at the inherent unfairness of testing, though College Board reacted by stating that “any objective measure of student achievement would shine a light on inequalities in the education system.” ACT asserted that “research on the test shows that scores are a valid predictor of future college success, overall and in particular for underserved students.'” Applying: An Upward Trajectory Personal Essay Questions unCommon students know that I push them hard to get the Personal Essay done by August 1. That way, they can launch their array of supplemental essays. (See below.) I challenge applicants to raise the level of their essays. They will matter! Supplemental Questions Even through the Common App and Coalition App don’t open for business until August 1, colleges are already releasing supplemental essay questions, a favorite of this college counselor. A few weeks ago, I shared the new Human Centered engineering major at the ever-popular Boston College. Those applicants will have to address: 

“One goal of a Jesuit education is to prepare students to serve the Common Good. Human-Centered Engineering at Boston College strives to develop people who will integrate technical knowledge, creativity, and a humanistic perspective to address societal challenges and opportunities. How would a Boston College engineering education enable you to contribute towards these goals?”

BC’s new Schiller Institute On Campus: Ups and Downs Anticipated Moving Gets Confusing Slowly but surely, colleges are announcing their mostly hybrid models for the fall. For alma mater Brown, classes with more than 20 students will be remote. Freshmen will have to wait until spring and will attend in the summer, while sophomores, juniors and seniors will be in Providence come September. In its Plan for a Safe and Healthy 2021, Bruno announced, “During the fall, new first-year students will be able to take one Brown course remotely for credit, free of charge, and will also be able to participate in remote orientation, mentoring and enrichment opportunities.” At Dartmouth, which is limiting the on-campus population to 40 percent of normal, freshmen will be on campus for the launch of the semester. Last week, I took a swing through Hanover on a quick New England getaway and was delighted that Lou’s offered outdoor dining.  

Dartmouth: a pretty sight even during a pandemic Princeton will welcome freshmen along with juniors. Emory, which had planned to open, has limited on-campus living to freshmen, transfers and international and scholarship students. Rice University in Houston calls its opening strategy“flexible, agile and adaptable.” That includes students learning in tents using laptops and chairs they bring to campus! All this makes me sad for families who can’t experience the drop-off, a rite of passage (literally). According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, “Due to safety protocols, many colleges aren’t allowing parents in the dorms, or, in some cases, even on campus . . . Parents are confused about how to navigate the quarantine policies for states that require out-of-state visitors from viral hot spots to self-isolate. Some are considering flying into a nearby state that isn’t on the list and staying there for a few days before drop-off.” Sports Fans: What’s Your Plan B? Look for fewer sports and fewer games. A few weeks ago, I shared that Brown had pared down the number of varsity sports, only to add track back in after negative feedback from the community. Similarly, Stanford announced its decision to discontinue 11 varsity sports, arguing, ““The financial model supporting 36 varsity sports is not sustainable. The average Division I athletics program sponsors 18 varsity sports.” Stanford cited numerous reasons for the cuts, including fan interest and anticipated success of the sport at Stanford. Those looking to enjoy college football continue to hear about shortened schedules if not cancelled seasons. Even powerhouses such as Notre Dame, which several weeks ago announced a return to campus, has seen key games with Stanford, USC and Wisconsin, a favorite of this college counselor, removed from its fall schedule. As stated in the Journal, “As long as coronavirus infections rise, as they have since mid-June, the feasibility of staging gridiron contests this fall plummets.” Institutions of Higher Ed: Where on the Matrix? I remember learning the Boston Consulting Group growth-share matrix from my advisor, the iconic  Dean and Professor Barrett Hazeltine. I’ve never forgotten those lessons, and was curious to read USS University, a writeup by Scott Galloway of NYU Stern. After synthesizing much data, Professor Galloway positions actual universities into thrive, survive, struggle and perish on his value-vulnerability matrix. While he did use data from U.S. News, not every counselor’s favorite source, there’s a strong message, as well as a few surprises. What’s not a surprise: the August 1, 2020, launch of the Common App. Let me know if your student needs help brainstorming or differentiating.


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