10 Takeaways on College Admissions from the Educational Consultants Association National Conference:


Earlier this month I attended the three-day conference of the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Here are some insights from sessions with college admissions officers and other experts.

Five takeaways here, five more in Part 2 tomorrow.

  1. “An admissions officer’s imagination is always worse than reality.” An admissions officer from a top university cautioned that unexplained holes or concerning trends in a student's high school record leave them to assume the worst. They advise students to address any significant issues through the application essay or teacher/counselor recommendations.

  2. Based on the ever-climbing number of applications for Early Decision/Action, large schools are deferring more applicants to regular decision. A deferral is not necessarily a negative, and many students will ultimately be accepted, but the admissions staff just can’t review the volume of early applications by the deadline. The University of Michigan and University of Georgia were mentioned as examples.

  3. You may not realize it but many colleges rely on consultants and algorithms for what is called Enrollment Management. Algorithms project the probability that a given student will accept an offer of admission, based on the student’s profile and demographics. Algorithms are also used to determine what level of merit aid might induce a student to accept College A over College B. Colleges don’t want to be the safety school that you were never really interested in attending anyway. They want to know that if they accept you, there’s a good chance that you’ll accept them. The metric is called “yield”, the percentage of those offered admission that actually say yes. The higher the yield, presumably the more attractive the school. This is now leading certain colleges that have traditionally been back-ups to more selective schools to flex their muscles. The logic may seem twisted, but if you’re a really strong applicant to these schools you risk being Wait Listed or even Rejected! That's because the college doesn’t believe you’ll actually accept an offer of admission and they don’t want their yield to suffer. So if you’re really interested in that school, make sure they know it!

  4. Ready or not, the new Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success application platform is coming. Positioned as “making college affordable and accessible for all students”, the initiative has so far been hindered by a lack of details and shifting timetables. It's a competitor to the Common App and has potential to enhance the application and essay process (more on that in a future post). But it's also an entirely new approach, and currently limited to only 93 Coalition member colleges. Whether the net result will be positive for students, high school administrators and others remains to be seen. For the fall of 2016, a majority of the Coalition’s 93 member colleges will accept this new app as well as the Common App or the school’s own app (no preference will be given to one over the other). A few dozen are sitting out for a year until things settle in and won’t use the Coalition App until fall of 2017 at the earliest. Meanwhile, only three schools – The University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Florida and the University of Washington – have announced their intention to use the Coalition App exclusively for fall 2016. This will be an evolving and gradual process, and I’m staying on top of it. Stay tuned…

  5. I often talk with student-athletes about “the broken ankle test” -- if you are recruited to a college and day one on campus you break your ankle and can no longer play your sport, do you still want to be at that school, is it still a good fit? In his presentation on the state of college admissions Bill Fitzsimmons, long-time dean of admissions at Harvard, tossed out the corollary from the school’s perspective – if a recruited student-athlete can no longer contribute as an athlete, “was it still a good admit?”

I'll post the remaining five takeaways in Part 2 tomorrow.

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