School counselors are starting the college application season with the discovery of two trends they may not have seen much of in the past. While these two trends have been popular in certain parts of the country, they seem to be taking hold nationally. So it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at them, and how to advise students on how to best handle them.
The first trend is self-reported grades. After years and years of holding up application decisions until the student’s high school sends a transcript, several colleges have decided to let the students report their own grades on the application. Using the self-reported grades means colleges can make a decision sooner on the applicant—and if the student is admitted, they must have their high school send an official copy of their transcript before they enroll, so they can confirm the student’s grades.
This approach is seen as a win for all kinds of reasons. In addition to speeding up the process, the responsibility of reporting grades now lies with the student, not the school, meaning the student takes more ownership of the application process in general. Students tempted to report grades that make them look a little smarter than their transcript might suggest know that they have to send their real transcript in for verification—and if the two transcripts don’t match, the college won’t let the student in. Add in the savings of clerical time, and the trees saved by not printing paper transcripts to schools the student doesn’t want to attend, and this idea’s time has come.
The key to explaining this to students is to gently remind them to tell the truth when they fill in their own grades. You’ll also need to make sure students have access to an accurate transcript, but that’s likely easy enough to do.
The second trend that’s popping up is self-reported test scores. Test scores made a big splash a few years ago when a number of leading colleges made test-score reporting optional—in other words, if you weren’t a great test taker and didn’t want to report your test scores, you didn’t have to.
The list of test optional schools is well over 800 now, and other colleges are thinking about giving students the chance to self-report their test scores. The process is the same as self-reported grades; the student submits their test scores as part of the college application, and only has to send an official copy of test scores to the one college they plan on attending.
The plusses of self-reported test scores are similar to self-reported grades, along with one other big bonus—the money students will save. Once you take the SAT or ACT, it costs serious money to send test scores to colleges. A student applying to five or six test optional schools could find themselves saving enough to pay for another college application fee—and, once again, this is one less piece of the puzzle to go wrong.
Counselors advising students on self-reporting test scores will want to make sure they thoroughly understand which test scores each college wants. While most colleges tell students to only send their best scores, some colleges require students to send the results of all test attempts. Failing to disclose all scores at these schools could lead to trouble later on, so it’s important to be clear. It will also be important to make sure student send official scores to their one college in the spring. Given how crazy spring of senior year can be, that could prove to be a very important task.