What’s hot in college admissions? Advice for parents of rising seniors.

Between new students, revised ebooks and webinars, it’s been a busy season for this college counselor. Here’s what’s hot in the world of college applications, Summer 2018.

Be a Follower. It’s great to be a leader, but when it comes to social media for college, there’s nothing wrong with being a follower. That’s an important message for rising seniors and juniors as they finalize their short lists and get ready for application season. While scanning my Twitter feed this week, for example, I noticed a Tweet from the University of Richmond:

For all the planners out there, dates for 2018-19 open houses have been posted! #FutureSpiders, registration will open closer to each event:http://ow.ly/ZNuD30ce0by

Open the link, and you’ll find out that Richmond offers traditional campus visits, all-day open houses, Spider Chats (meetings with current students) and Spiders in Session (classroom visits in fall and spring.) With Richmond hot this year, students are advised to demonstrate interest and sign up now!

If you’re traveling to Richmond, let me or Moira McCullough of College Scoopsknow, and we’ll send you a copy of our new ebook, University of Richmond, An Insider’s Guide, when it’s available.

Thanks to Lucy Wang of Ivy Path for hosting me on a virtual presentation: Differentiating Your Application, Looking Beyond Grades and Test Scores. The audience, international students in Great Neck, New York, have ambitious goals for college. Now they’ll be prepared to write unique personal essays, target their supplements and use ZeeMee and social media to show admissions officers what they’re all about.

Go AP? It depends. Rigor is huge in evaluating your students as applicants, so doesn’t it make sense to load up on APs?  Yes and no. If the high school offers honors and AP courses, your student will be evaluated with that in mind. However, it’s not worth overloading at the risk of losing sleep and sanity.

To further complicate matters, some elite prep schools in the Washington, DC, area announced that they are eliminating APs altogether. As an article in Inside Higher Ed points out, those schools have already proven themselves to colleges. According to Drew University’s Robert Massa, other high schools electing to do away with AP courses “will need to take great care in their profile statements to explain their honors curriculum and the depth of content explored in those courses. That would help college admissions officers in their effort to judge the quality of the student’s course choices, and would go a long way to assuring that those students are not disadvantaged in the process.”

SAT or ACT: Has the choice become clearer? Generally, I encourage juniors to take both tests and repeat the higher of the two. Now, the College Board and ACT finally have a concordance table that they can agree on, as announced in last week’s webinar. (How many times can you say robust?) So be sure that your student uses the official table to compare their SAT with the ACT before making decisions about retesting.

Ambitious students applying to the University of Chicago this fall won’t have to submit any standardized test scores. In a Wall Street Journal article, the elite university explained that eliminating the requirement “levels the playing field” for first-generation and low-income applicants. As expected, the major testing organizations defended their pro-test positions. According to College Board, grade inflation made comparisons difficult, while the ACT cited the need for a “common metric.”


Common App: What’s New? This week, I viewed a webinar from the people at the Common App, which opens for the new application year on August 1. Two popular choices in our area, Penn State and Pitt, will be on the Common App. With my students brainstorming and drafting their Personal Essays, it was interesting that the presentation included data on the relative popularity of the seven prompts in 2017-18.

  1. Background, identity, interest or talent (selected by 21%)

  2. Challenge or setback (21%)

  3. Question a belief or idea (3%)

  4. Solve a problem (4%)

  5. Period of personal growth (23%)

  6. Lose all track of time (5%)

  7. Topic of your choice (23%)

Of course, I’m glad my students pick unCommon prompts! (They really do.)

If your rising senior needs some guidance on the Personal Essay or the application process, be sure to book a meeting now. And see to it that they have some fun in the sun; they’ve earned it!

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