Celebrations are still going on to honor the postsecondary choices high school seniors are making, but it isn’t too early to look back on this year’s college and career advising efforts, and see what we might learn to make things a little easier for next year’s class. There’s ample truth to the saying that the only constant is change, and that’s definitely the case here. Consider these points, as you review your year, and plan ahead for the Class of 2019:
Applications are Up—Again If there was ever a year for college applications to decline, it was this year. A decline in the birthrate is predicted to shrink high school graduating classes through 2024, and it was supposed to hit nearly every state pretty hard this year in particular. That doesn’t make it too far of a leap to conclude college applications should decline as well.
Nope. Schools like USC and the University of Michigan saw application increases of about 14% each in a year when applications were supposed to be flat. While some of U-M’s increase could be attributed to their new scholarship incentive for low income families, no one expected anything like this.
Safeties Were Less Safe This continued increase at selective colleges mean some colleges that had plenty of room now find themselves the beneficiaries of some high performing students who had nowhere else to go. While these students may only take up the spots at the honors colleges, their presence increases the average GPA and scores of a college’s class, meaning those colleges are likely to be more competitive next year. The result? If you’ve been recommending the same schools year after year as sure shots, it’s time to review the list.
Sure Things Were Less Sure More applicants also meant that selective colleges had students from more high schools to choose from—and this added breadth of choice led to its own confusion. Counselors report admissions decisions that are just harder to understand, with some students being denied at colleges that took students with lower grades, but stronger essays, or lower test scores, but stronger work outside the class. Looking at the entire student—also known as holistic review—has always made predicting admission difficult. Add in the increased number of applicants, and it seemed like everything was up in the air this year. Look for more of the same next year.
“College Isn’t for Everyone”, Part I This was also the year when more and more counselors were taking to social media to advocate for students who were making postsecondary plans other than four years of college. A resurgence of interest in technical careers and skill trades is clearly on the rise, but counselors will want to make sure not to get too carried away. Counseling curricula should include a full view of all of the choices for life after high school, and ways to help students critically think and self-reflect their way to making the choices that are best for them. That may mean more pedagogy focused on careers, but that shouldn’t come at the exclusion of exploration of all the college options.
“College Isn’t for Everyone”, Part II This is especially true for schools where a small percentage of students go to college, where college exploration should begin in elementary school, in order to get students—and especially parents—used to the idea of college as an option (but not a requirement.) If done badly, “College Isn’t for Everyone” can quickly devolve into “Not Everyone is College Material”, and all the elitist, racist arguments that phrase conjures up. We must do better.