Navigating the big decisions together

Each college admissions cycle is unpredictable and tells a unique story. The 2020-2021 application cycle has been impacted by many unforeseen factors including Covid, a national test-optional movement, and a stunning spike in application volume. The underscoring theme is that the need for college planning help is greater than ever for families. Parents who take on project managing for the college process without any help may be taking a huge risk with their son or daughter’s future. College planning requires a foundation of knowledge and a continuous stream of best-in-class information from admissions officials to professional associations.


What are we learning about this application cycle and where does professional college planning help make a difference?


College Planning Help to Understand Test-Optional Policies


Does “test-optional” really apply to our son or daughter? Many parents struggled comprehending test-optional and how to best strategize it into their son or daughter’s college application. As colleges made announcements about test-optional polices for this recruiting cycle, it was met with skepticism and uncertainty. Should my son or daughter continue with standardized testing plans? Will colleges really admit students without test scores?


The University of Notre Dame infographic below illustrates the competitive nature of the Class of 2025. Interestingly 31% of students applying early this year to Notre Dame were admitted without a test score. So yes, an applicant can be admitted to a very selective college without submitting a test score.


Class of 2025 Admissions Stats

Should your son or daughter submit test scores? The recommendation to submit test scores this year was done on a case-by-case basis for my clients. It was advantageous for clients to submit some applications with scores and other applications without test scores. I have not experienced any clients placed at a disadvantage by not submitting scores and some clients have even secured acceptances to very selective colleges without test scores.


College planning help will be important to navigate test-optional strategies in the years ahead too. Many colleges announced test-optional polices only for this application cycle and some have already extended it for next year.


Extreme Application Volume in the 2020-2021 Application Cycle


Numerous institutions received significantly higher percentages of applicants in the early application phase. For example, New York University (NYU) recorded their fourteenth year of record application volume with a whopping 100,131 applications for freshman admission. NYU received 17,148 Early Decision applications, which also was a record and a 14% increase from fall 2020. The graphic below illustrates the stunning and accelerating rise in applications from 2008 to 2021.

NYU Record Setting Freshman Application Volume

One of the benefits of my membership in the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is the sharing of information from colleagues across the country. The chart below from an IECA colleague illustrates an extreme and unexpected surge in Early Decision and Early Action applications.


Class of 2025 Admissions Stats

The percentages in this chart are staggering as it equates to thousands of more applicants. While some students may have been “aspirational” when submitting their application, there are likely more qualified candidates than ever before at selective universities. Families that did not seek out college planning help to calibrate a college list with an appropriate balance of reach, target, and safety colleges may be scrambling to find options for their son or daughter.


Advocating for a Student’s Application Success


Many students assume the application phase is over when they hit the submit button in the Common App. On average, students are applying to seven to ten colleges. There are millions of electronic transcripts, letters of recommendations, and standardized test scores sent each application cycle. Without following up to ensure all required information is received by a college, an applicant can risk being moved to the regular decision round or have their application considered incomplete. This may lessen or delay their odds of acceptance to a desired college.


A majority of students and their parents find asking questions to college admissions departments to be intimidating. They do not want to risk being improper, especially in the application phase. I provide college planning help that understands the admissions side of the desk. From spending over fourteen years in college admissions, I understand how to ask questions without raising red flags. I have helped numerous clients this year quickly resolve required admissions materials that were not properly transferred into their applicant portal. If these clients would have been moved out the early application round they would have faced intense competition in the regular decision round and less likelihood for acceptance.


Making a Final College Decision Will Require Resources


How do students make a final college decision in the months ahead when they cannot visit officially visit campus? Making their final college decision will be very different this year. Accepted Student Days that were once a showcase opportunity to host hundreds of families appear to be on a virtual track this year. Students will need to be very thoughtful and resourceful to find the best college fit, especially when they cannot experience the campus atmosphere.


Most families do not have connections with current students who attend a top contending college, recent graduates, or alumni to share important insights. In addition to my own clients attending colleges throughout the country, there are many colleagues in IECA who share their student contacts. Understanding the campus from a student perspective is invaluable. Sorting through college reviews websites can be daunting and overwhelming to determine unbiased high-quality information.


Will College Planning Help in the Future?


While this application cycle has been wildly unpredictable, it is unlikely there will be stable admissions cycles in the future. Application volume has been significantly rising for many years, especially at selective colleges. There does not appear to be an end in sight. Colleges are always changing admissions standards and requirements too.


The need for college planning help has become a necessity for families that seek to find successful admissions outcomes, navigate changing conditions, and reduce their stress. Could college admissions help be right for your family? Contact Campus to Career Crossroads for a free consultation and understand how personalized college planning services will benefit your family.

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