With the start of the new calendar year and ED1 results released at most schools, we wanted to highlight some of the trends in college admissions we feel families should focus on.
1. With record applications and record low acceptance rates, getting into elite and highly competitive colleges continues to be an increasingly difficult process with schools such as Duke, Penn, Brown, Williams and many others hitting all time low acceptance rates. Importantly , this admissions season has seen a number of traditionally less selective ( but excellent) schools also seeing record applicants with schools like Providence College and Santa Clara University seeing large surges in applicants. The conclusion for families should be that the intensity of admissions competition at all schools should not be underestimated nor should the amount of work an applicant needs to put into the process.
2. Parents who are ambitious for their children often highlight their students GPA as the reason why they are a good candidate for a competitive college . However, what many parents tend to not realize is the significant grade inflation that has occurred in high schools around the country since they attended school. 2022 saw ACT Research publish a very interesting study on grade inflation. While ACT Research obviously has a desire to see admissions metrics that compete with standardized testing discredited, the data in the well constructed study is compelling. The bottom line is that the average high school GPA has lifted from 3.17 in 2010 to 3.36 in 2021 with a pronounced acceleration over the past three years. In brief, what families believe are impressive scores are often less interesting to colleges than they may think . It is also worth mentioning that in an environment where grades seem less legitimate other metrics are increasingly important, increasing the number of areas a quality applicant needs to 'look good' in .
3. While there are many reasons to think that standardized testing will never again be the force in admissions it once was applicants should stay focused on the schools returning to tests and 'favoring them'. While it is easy to see why a number of state systems and STEM schools require standardized tests a school like Georgetown returning to them is notable. It is fair to say that Georgetown has always been a bit different in admissions but our conversations with admissions representatives reinforce the idea that many schools feel that standardized tests historically provided them with a valuable 'signal' in admissions and many prefer candidates who have taken the tests and done well. In our opinion , while standardized tests are not for every student or universally important, parents should plan on their students taking them at least once and should put greater effort into preparation than many now do.
4. Inside Higher Ed's fall 2022 survey of 271 admissions officers has some interesting data for families as well. The first point to make would be that despite highly publicized moves by Johns Hopkins and Amherst as well as some very visible saber rattling at Yale, legacy admissions still matters and can be a real help at the 20% or so of the private institutions who value it in the survey. Despite all the negative press the relative stability of legacy admissions is somewhat surprising and speaks volumes of the value many quality private colleges place on their alumni. Another factor to keep in mind that emerged in the survey was that with or without any Supreme Court changes relative to Affirmative Action , increasing minority recruitment was the number one priority for the admissions officers in the year ahead. At schools where minority students are bellow the national average or the specific colleges institutional goals, the desire to increase diversity will be an admissions factor with or without Supreme Court headlines.
5. Finally , we believe the 2022 NARAC ( National Association of Regional Admissions Counselors ) survey of 440 representatives provides some insights as well with 47% thinking about changing jobs , up from the low 40% level in 2019. While this data may simply reflect compensation levels , the other possibility is that as holistic admissions has grown to become the 'industry standard' the work required to understand students has grown . Assuming this is the case , an organized and aggressive outreach program where an applicant highlights their strengths to representatives in emails and makes it easier for them to 'know' the student would be particularly well received . It is also worth noting that in an environment where regional representatives are turning over at an increasing rate' being aware of those changes and highlighting candidate strength and interest to a school seems likely to be well received by the new representative.
In an increasingly competitive admissions environment we believe the above mentioned trends are worth noting and factoring in to how applicants approach individual schools. Families willing to put in the time can factor this into their students admissions strategy, for those short on time and who feel they may need help, we are available .