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Summertime and College Admissions

With 95% of colleges utilizing a holistic admissions decision process, families have been struggling for several years to determine how their students are judged. Their confusion is exacerbated by the different ways individual schools define and implement their holistic process, something technology has allowed them to do in increasingly school-specific ways.


What should be clear to families, even with some of the recent news regarding standardized tests, is that holistic admissions generally imply an increasing importance of non-academic, qualitative factors.


The summer months provide students with an opportunity to enhance and improve these non-academic factors.


The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) has done a regular survey of admissions officers for many years that provides valuable insights. With the rise of holistic admissions, student character has become more and more important and in recent years is valued more highly than essays, counselor recommendations, teacher recommendations and interviews by the college representatives surveyed. Of specific interest is that character grew in importance in the NACAC survey from 2021 to 2023, while the other above-mentioned metrics shrank. So, how are colleges evaluating and determining character if letters of recommendation, essays and interviews are less important? We believe direct email interaction with representatives is an overlooked way to highlight an applicant and their character and learn more about a college. This belief is at least partially supported by an analysis of college admissions websites that shows colleges are generally more aggressive in their encouragement of applicant interaction with their representatives.


Taking time to email and speak with college representatives effectively introduces an applicant long before they apply and highlights their focus, knowledge, and interest. With students out of school and regional representatives in a quieter season, the summer is a great time to get attention and responses from representatives who can be very busy at other times of the year. As the person in the admissions process most likely to have an opinion on non-academic factors like character, regional representatives can have an influence we think is often unappreciated by students and their families.


Email interactions and learning about schools is one of the easier ways to potentially enhance admissions odds over the summer, but it is not the only way.


The summer provides students with an opportunity to perform consistent and meaningful hours of volunteer work. Colleges care about the people who enter their community, and having passions and interests that involve bettering communities is a trait schools like. While many students often pursue internships and pre-college classes in the summer, a job of any sort can also be a way to enhance an application and increase acceptance odds.


The summer can also present students with the time to complete their college essays. Many schools offer students help with their Common App essay, but most students need more time and focus to complete that and the supplemental essays most schools require. With many colleges requiring “Why?” essays, having the time to thoroughly explore college websites and ask representatives questions can result in better supplemental essays.


Finally, though many colleges are reluctant to mention it on their websites, surveys like those done by Kaplan College Prep point to a growing number of college representatives taking the time to review applicant social media postings. Understanding that colleges are watching gives students a chance to both clean up their social media presence and start to think of social media as an advertising platform to highlight their strengths and eventually verify key parts of their application. Summer is a great time for this kind of social media audit.



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