U.S. News recently published an article titled, “8 Big Changes to College Admissions in 2010 and 2011.” We’ll summarize the eight changes here and you can refer back to the article for greater detail.
1. Admissions readers spend less time per application. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reports that each admissions member’s caseload has increased significantly over the last year. The organization estimates that each application receives about 15 minutes for a first read.
2. More students are applying early. Students are desperate to gain admissions to college and will increase their chances of doing so by applying early. As a result, college early decision programs were swamped this year; Northwestern University, for example, experienced a 25% increase in early decision applications this year.
3. Less weight is placed on recommendations. Students are applying to more and more schools, thus creating more and more work for their recommenders. NACAC reports that the percentage of schools giving “considerable importance” to recommendations fell 4% from 2007 to 2009 (from 23% to 17%). Admissions officers are noticing that recommendations are becoming “bland” and so not putting as much emphasis on them.
4. Less emphasis is placed on high school class rank. The reason for this is simply that more high schools are refusing to rank their students, so colleges don’t have much of a choice here. According to NACAC data, in 1993, 42% of colleges gave class rank “considerable importance”; in 2009 that number dropped to just 15%.
5. Colleges are placing more weight on tougher high school courses. Students who take more rigorous courses in high school are viewed as more likely to succeed in college level courses. Most admissions officials would agree that a B in a challenging class is more valuable than an A in an easy class that was taken only for the sake of inflating a GPA.
6. More schools view application essays as front and center in admissions decisions. NACAC’s survey finds that 14% of colleges gave essays significant weight in 1993, compared to 26% in 2009. This is particularly true at elite colleges where the essay can literally make or break an admissions decision.
7. More attention is being paid to the senior year. Slacking off senior year is no longer acceptable. Many adcoms believe that students should work harder their senior years, in preparation for college, than they did in their sophomore and junior years in preparation for college admissions. Last year, the University of Washington withdrew 27 admissions offers to students who didn’t take their senior years seriously.
8. Application fact-checking is on the rise. Many schools, including Harvard and Stanford, are working harder to catch plagiarism and fudged facts. One plagiarism software program, Turnitin, is becoming increasingly popular among college admissions committees.
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