Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Year in Review, and the Year That Will Be

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

2023 brought adventurous twists and turns to college admissions. Here’s my top five biggies, my top five predictions for 2024, and two wishes.

2023 in Review

Artificial intelligence The value of AI in college essays, for better or worse, is still up in the air, in part because counselors and colleges are (sadly) already too used to reading essays written by Mommy, Daddy, overinvolved writing coaches—anyone but the student. Will this become more of a problem as the technology gets smarter?

Self-Reported Academic Record What started out as a great time-saving idea is now the bane of most college-bound students and their counselors. Is it possible to create a common SRAR, so students complete it once?

New Year’s FAFSA Besides debuting when high schools are closed, the late rollout hampers financial aid packages for early applicants, and maybe later ones too. Still, holding off until January 10 makes sense now, so counselors can help families apply and avoid frustration.

Early programs ED, EA et al enjoy another bumper crop of applicants, with a slight uptick reported in earlies boasting an October 15 deadline. Only an onslaught of faithless ED applicants will stem this tide, and that’s nowhere in sight.

College fairs Some reports suggest attendance increases at in-person fairs, while others insist online fairs are the future. Might AI advances yield a better way for students to get to know colleges?

Predictions for 2024

Later deposit deadlines The late FAFSA leads to a lag in filers—so much so that colleges move deposit deadlines back a month so students can make a better-informed decision. Pie in the sky? Not in a year when the number of high school graduates is down.

Summer hunting The delayed FAFSA means students hear back later from their colleges about aid, increasing the number of students who will be shopping for a better deal in July—and again, with a smaller graduating class, more colleges will be ready and willing to deal.

Easier transfer options As few as one in six community college students transfer to a four-year college, in part because they don’t want to enter the Circle of Hades four-years call their transfer credit portal. Four-years need bodies, so look for improved transfer credit evaluation methods, including a Decision Day-type model, where students can walk in with a transcript and walk out with a credit evaluation in less than 30 minutes.

Deli sandwiches Road warriors know all too well that, great as they are, most deli sandwiches have too much bread, too much meat, and too high a price tag. Cutbacks in travel budgets will require delis to dial back prices accordingly, and create a deli sandwich that is more like an ensemble of flavors, something it’s supposed to be in the first place.

Graeter’s The Cincinnati-based ice cream college reps swear is the best in the country gets bought out by Haagen-Dazs and is available nationally just in time for November 1, much to the delight of high school counselors everywhere.

My Wish, Part I College advocates on both sides of the desk grieve with every campus shooting, and when we’re asked “Why? Do you know students there?”, our answer is, “They are all my students.” It’s a mighty task, especially in an election year, but let’s find a way to end them, campus-based and otherwise.

My Wish, Part II As Higgins toasts in Ted Lasso, “To the family we’re born with, and to the family we make along the way”. May your December break find you at peace, and with those who cherish your company.

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