Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What’s New in College Admissions?

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

If it seems like back-to-school time came around a little too soon, you can thank the Target in my neighborhood. Most of June was devoted to taking this dimly lit cavern into a place where people would really like to, you know, shop—and since they finished early, they figured they’d stack the store with school promotions just a little earlier than usual.

Bullseye and friends aren’t the only changes we’ve seen this summer. While many of these changes are at the serious rumor stages, it would be wise to keep your eye out for college admission changes relating to:

Letters of Recommendation Counselor chat rooms have been full of speculation that some colleges plan on asking for letters from two adults in the student’s life, a requirement vastly different from the traditionally mandated one or two teacher letters and the required counselor letters. Just what colleges are opening things up—and which adults should write for a student—will vary widely, but if this becomes a trend, it could provide counselors with huge caseloads the writing relief they’ve been looking for.

Application Deadlines Some colleges have changed their application deadlines, while others are just taking more students than ever through well-established early programs—so much so that students who don’t apply early are, in effect, limiting their chances of admission. If your high school has a popular college (or two or three), a quick call and email to your rep will help you build a strategy for timely application admissions.

Call and email the Rep Just in case you missed that, it is getting to be standard practice to both call and email reps with crucial questions. Application numbers are getting so high in many colleges that the time to call just doesn’t exist. Doing both is the best way to serve your students—and once you write the email, you now have a script for the voice mail you’ll leave.

Test optional Most reports suggest the overall number of test-optional colleges hasn’t changed all that much, but that average is meaningless if you live in a state where testing requirements were reinstated by a public body. Now is the time to double check the test optional choices at the schools you often do business with—and if something has changed, be sure to tell the students, early and often.

FAFSA changes The new and shorter FAFSA is still a year away, thanks to COVID and some logistical issues. That isn’t great news, other than it means something stays the same for this year.

Back to classrooms Perhaps the biggest change counselors will address this year is the return of many or most schools to full-time in-person teaching. Given all the stress online learning brought with it, you’d think everyone would be celebrating the return of old school school. But in-person school brings its own challenges, from getting out of bed in the morning to peer issues to trying to listen to what’s being taught while Susie sits next to us, texting like mad to everyone about everything except learning.

The US government has been very generous in awarding states money for mental health programs to help students adjust to life after COVID, but those funds have largely gone to states, not directly to high schools. If you haven’t heard about your school getting any mental health money, now is the time to ask. Counselors are notoriously good at spending money on short notice, but there’s no point in building a program you can’t afford. Ask about the cash—and welcome back!