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This February, Should Applicants Show their Love to Target Colleges?

It's February - a month of seemingly lovely occasions. Yet with Early Action decisions, midyear meetings, letters of continued interest and college visits, this sweet month might seem a bit overwhelming. As always, I try to reassure families that it always works out - it really does! 

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Demonstrated Interest: How Applicants Show their Love

Back in 2019, I wrote an article for Forbes about demonstrated interest to coincide with Valentine's Day. Five years later, not that much has changed. Early Decision is still the best way to show love, but there are many other methods, including virtual forms, supplemental essays or videos. Your student should take advantage of opportunities, though demonstrated interest is better received at some institutions (i.e., small colleges) than others (like the public research universities referred to in this post).

Tulane expects students to use its Early rounds.

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Early Action: For Applicants Who Like Rather than Love

It's common for unCommon students to back up Early Decision choices with Early Action apps; sometimes, that's the best option. For those who've yet to go through the college process, Early Action or Priority admission is used by the bulk of public research universities (e.g., Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State) along with institutions such as Villanova, Richmond and Northeastern. But is the love returned?This year, the most pleasant EA surprise was Northeastern, whose acceptances were made possible in part because of their expanded options. With its program, which NE bills as "engaging students immediately in the experiential learning model they will follow throughout their years at Northeastern," and their purchase (acquisition) of alternative campuses, more acceptances are possible; however, not all students can begin their college experience in Boston. 

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Standardized Tests: Does Anybody Really Love Them?

In every sophomore or junior advisory meeting, test-optional admissions is on the agenda. Colleges insist they mean it; admissions decisions validate those statements. Yet students and parents don't necessarily buy into it. And with the new adaptive, digital SAT and a concern about grade inflation, the media can't help but give testing even more coverage. A New York Times article in January, for example, cited studies that equate college success more with test scores than candidates' transcripts from high school. In Reason, author Emma Camp argues that tests provide a measure "that isolates academic achievement from expensive extracurriculars and tutor-polished essays."So far, unCommon students are not complaining about the new, online SAT. They particularly like Reading, which is short and to the point (somehow matching their generation). There are many chances to retake the tests, and metrics are available that help in knowing when to report scores. 

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Flagship Universities: Do We Love Them Too Much?

Fortunately for unCommon applicants, public research universities are liking out-of-staters on campus. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 45 flagships showed a decline in in-state students for the 20-year period ending with 2022: ". . . it’s still far more common for flagships to enroll the majority of their freshman classes from within their states — about 75 percent of states still do so. It’s just that the share of students attending flagships in their home state is declining." Here's what we learn from the interactive map in the article (you can hover over your state!):

  • Texas: 12% of freshmen are out-of-state (OOS)

  • Florida: 20% (OOS)

  • California: 22% (OOS)

  • Wisconsin: 56% (OOS)

  • Vermont: 84% (OOS)

UT Austin likes in-state students - and revenue from football!

After a messy admissions cycle two years ago, the University of Maryland is once again showing its love of NJ applicants. Maryland also announced a "campus makeover" that "will entail constructing a new academic and research facility, adding a campus-wide 'Innovation Walk,' and creating a five-mile walking/biking Wellness Loop."Recently, the Chronicle profiled colleges that are spending the most on research. While Johns Hopkins topped the list of big spenders, six of the Big 10 (research, not football) were public research universities. (Federal funding amounted to $54 billion!). Purdue University announced its largest grant ever: $100 million to be divided among the Daniels School of Business and Purdue Computes, an initiative focused on quantum computing and AI. 

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Financial Woes? Something We Don't Love to Hear

In contrast, UChicago, famous for supplemental essay prompts that no AI can conquer, is burdened by debt and reporting a $239 deficit. A Classics professor cited in the Chronicle is concerned about "how the drive for prestige affects its identity and mission." That may mean cuts to the liberal arts, the core of the university.You might recall a previous blog post in which I shared a report of wild spending at flagships, including Penn State. Now, Nittany Lion administrators seek to balance the budget, looking at where to cut and where to invest. University Park will reportedly see cuts of $11 million. 

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AI and Admissions: Love It or Be Left Behind?

Recently, the Washington Post asked: Can ChatGPT get into Harvard? To find out, the Post had a specialist use the AI to craft two college essays: the Common App Personal Essay and a Harvard supplemental essay. They gave the results to a former reader for Columbia along with a set actually submitted by student admitted to Harvard.The result: the ChatGPT-generated essay didn't pass muster. The former admissions reader cited the "unique type of writing" required for admissions essays. "They require students to reflect on their life and craft their experiences into a compelling narrative that quickly provides college admissions counselors with a sense of why that person is unique . . . ChatGPT is not there."While applicants await decisions, this advisor is learning more ins and outs of AI and looking to see how it might affect the college process. 

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Big Sports: Fans are Loving Them!

Those public research universities love their big sports, which generate interest and revenue. An article in Business Insider tells us that "23 universities make at least $125 million annually from their sports teams." Topping the list: the Buckeyes of Ohio State, who make $204 million per year on their sports, led by $90 million from football! They're followed by University of Texas, Georgia, Alabama and Michigan, which just won a national championship and lost its coach to the Chargers. The Fightin' Irish are the only private university among the top ten sports-revenue generators.

Penn State: Not cutting the football team, which brings in $64 million

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Who Loves Data Science?

If your student gets excited by data science, good things may come their way. Inside Higher Ed featured such programs at colleges of various sizes, from UConn to Colby. This counselor's liking how colleges are presenting options in an interdisciplinary manner. States the Colby department chair, “Data science allows students to follow their passion and also gives a useful skill to implement into whatever you’re doing. Data is everywhere; it touches all of us.” We love that women are liking data science as well, with more opting in to those programs as opposed to cybersecurity or computer science. 

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As we get set for February's many events, remember that help is an email away. I love hearing from you!


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