What are your top takeaways learned from the most recent admissions cycle for rising seniors about to apply?

It is worth remembering that the end of the day, all colleges want to admit enough qualified students so that they fill their beds after taking yield into account.

Importantly, the number of highly qualified students has not changed much in the last few years. What has changed is the number of applications for the top 50-100 colleges. Given the same number of highly qualified students and beds, the increase in applications means that for most colleges, the yield goes down. Low yield is bad for colleges as they find it hard to predict who will actually attend. The colleges now put more emphasis on yield protection, admitting not just the most qualified students, but the qualified students that they perceive will actually attend.

This unpredictability creates worry, as you wonder if it will be you or your child that gets “yield protected” out of the schools they would otherwise be admitted to if college admissions was more rational. I get that.

But the way to minimize the chance of that happening is to have a good set of match and safety schools AND give those apps as much or more attention to those apps than to the reach schools. A high quality application will result in more perceived interest and higher likelihood of admission. In my children’s case, after they completed each reach app, I had them complete an app for a match and a safety with the same care.

ETA: One other thing is that my children completed all their apps before hearing from their early schools. One got into her first choice early and was done, so the remaining apps were “wasted effort” but she was so happy it didn’t bother her. The other didn’t get into first choice early, and having those apps done with care well ahead of time paid off immensely in terms of higher quality and reduced stress the last two weeks of December.

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I used to think this was true, but the definition of “highly qualified” has expanded and therefore the highly qualified applicant pool along with it - more women applying to stem schools, more urms are applying across the board, test optional gives some students an entryway that would otherwise self-select themselves out of applying, schools are getting better at outreach, more financial aid is available to coax students into applying.

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I agree with most of your points and partly agree with this one as well, but I would say something may be wrong. People always say you can’t like schools like Michigan and Williams for example or Columbia and Brown or NYU and fill in the blank. But I think assumptions are made when statements like that are made. Somebody may love Brown’s open curriculum and prefer it to Columbia’s core, but they may really love NYC and may be willing to go with the core to live in NYC. The same way somebody could have some strong desire for some program at Michigan, but may also really love something about Williams. I don’t think it is unusual for people to have multiple likes and dislikes. I went to a decent sized school in a city with a city campus (although I still say it had a well defined campus- currently about 15,000 undergrads). But I would have loved going to a small LAC or a school like Brown and had considered applying but I didn’t apply to Brown or any LACs because they didn’t support my major, at least not at the time. I had considered NYU and came close to applying but in the end I did not and I don’t remember why. But I had to make cuts because I only applied to 4 schools. So, instead of saying things like “people can’t like Haverford (used to be all men) and Barnard (is all women)”, it should be more- be aware of the differences in your school list when compiling it and make sure it makes sense for you. :grin: You, could be right, the two different schools could mean a horrible fit for one, or it could mean the student has diverse tastes or that there is something particular about each that is attracting the student.

I still don’t know how you demonstrate interest. If driving halfway across the country to tour a campus and applying as well as writing the “why U?” Essay doesn’t demonstrate interest I don’t know what does. I guess liking their social media posts??? :face_with_raised_eyebrow: I guess stop reading email in preview mode in case they track opening email which seems intrusive and kind of stupid if they think that is the only way to “demonstrate interest”. A student can read their entire website and watch all the videos on it without them being aware.

On the multiple posts about applying early as much as possible. That works for rolling admission schools and I highly recommend it for schools like uT Austin, Pitt and Michigan and others. But EA, ED you can only apply to one and I saw countless posts over the last 6 months where people listed all the schools they applied to ED or ED and EA in clear violation of the schools’ policies. So, just to be clear for those applying next year- apply early as much as you can y rolling admission schools- only apply ED or EA to one non rolling admission school. If you get deferred or rejected ED1 or ED, you are free to pursue ED2.

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Well said.

Similarly, some kids may not have strong preferences for urban vs. rural or big vs. small, and those attributes aren’t going to be dealbreakers in their decision making process, or even significant factors at all.

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Slight clarification: you should only apply to one ED or REA school but you can apply to as many EA schools as you like.

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For true safeties, consider auto-admission schools, if you have the stats.

And do your best to show interest – no school wants to be seen as a backup, especially selective privates outside about the top 20. Many of them are fierce about protecting yield. Also, if such schools have a non-binding early round of applications – I’m looking at a school like Tulane – send it then. RD admit rates seem to be plummeting, as apps rise and more and more schools are relying increasingly on early rounds to fill their classes.

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I am going to link to my response in another thread that shows the evolution of our own thinking about what mattered most. As it turned out, the school my D22 will attend very nearly didn’t make her application list because we weren’t asking enough of the right questions early enough in the process:

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Yes — Visit the campus if possible. If not, at least register for virtual sessions. Yes, a STRONG “why this school” essay. Research the school so you’re not just making generic points. “I want to study under Professor ____ and I’m excited for the _____ program that will let me further my interest in ______.” Detailed demonstration of interest. And engage with the school – Not just opening the email, but sending personalized emails to the admission officer for your region to ask questions.

Maybe some people are violating policies. But I think you’re generally just seeing people group together ED1, ED2 and EA. “I’m going to apply to these 5 schools early” – meaning an ED1, an ED2 if rejected from ED2, and a bunch of EA.

And circling back – ED/EA is part of demonstrated interest. Applying ED is the ultimately demonstration of interest, it’s the strongest way imaginable to tell a school that they are your first choice.

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I’m seeing that in my own son… And in reality, you can’t fully expect a 17-18 year-old to fully know exactly what type of school they are going to love. They should research and try to figure it out, but they won’t know with certainty until years later.
It’s ok to fall in love with totally different schools for different reasons. Or there may be a couple critical similarities about totally different schools. Maybe a student doesn’t care about big or small, urban or rural, they primarily care about the strength of a particular major.
Especially at the application stage, it’s ok to like more than one type of school. Unless the application fees are going to hurt your finances, it’s ok to apply to lots of schools and decide more firmly after your get acceptances and financial aid packages.

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Sorry, Good point! There are schools that do not restrict Early Action, but once you choose a Single choice early action or a restrictive early action college or an ED college, you cannot apply to any others. I saw multiple posts where people listed their ED/REA results for multiple schools among the Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, Penn, Brown, Notre Dame and others among the ED set like NEU, NWU, BU, NYU, sometimes many of them. Anyway- don’t do that. :grin:

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My takeaways from D22’s experience:

  1. It helps to be done with SAT/ACT junior year.
  2. There’s no need to think about college admissions (other than standardized testing) before April of junior year. D22 changed her field of study about 10 times during 9th-11th grades.
  3. It helps to work on the college list and main essay during the summer. It’s much harder to do everything while school & extracurriculars are going on.
  4. Keep the whole process student centric. Don’t take over as a parent. But do help with time management.
  5. Any schools your student is considering for ED should definitely be visited. And researched a lot. Attend as many virtual sessions as they can. We debated ED schools and whether to do it for a couple of months in late summer/early fall. ED is a commitment more than it’s a strategy. Make sure your kid (or you) won’t have buyer’s remorse. Figure out what your child will do if they get deferred from ED.
  6. Always apply to a couple of in-state publics even if you want to go out of state. Better chances of getting in and usually cheaper. Also finances, health (as it did for me), etc can change a lot and you should keep options open.
  7. Applying to a few EA or rolling admissions who can give you a decision in November or December can take some of the pressure off. You can also take some schools off your RD list as a result.
  8. In fact, D22 applied EA to every school in her list that offered it.
  9. We realized in October that some colleges had earlier deadlines or priority dates for scholarships. Do your research on time for that.
  10. If every application requires 1-3 supplemental essays, about 10 colleges is when your child might start feeling like it is too much. I don’t recommend applying to more than 10-12.
  11. I asked D22 to prioritize her college list once it had been narrowed down. Then she updated it regularly based on visits and more research/virtual events. This list should not focus on rankings or reach/target/likely but on how much the student would like to enroll there.
  12. I am mentioning finances now but that research should happen before you start working on a broad college list. While in the end you can cash flow or borrow money short term for paying for college, you should be sure that your current finances can handle the cost of attendance. Communicate well with your kid about what you can afford and how.
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Or if your top choice is an affordable college that you are “overqualified” for but which tends to reject or waitlist “overqualified” applicants for yield protection (e.g. American University, which says that level of interest is very important), applying ED is the strongest possible way to show a high level of interest to reduce the risk of this kind of outcome.

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I’m not sure there’s anything new or novel this admissions cycle. The trend has been around for years, perhaps just accelerated due to the pandemic. As a rising senior, if you’re doing what your other classmates are doing and hoping for better outcomes at highly selective/rejective colleges, you’ll be more likely disappointed in the next cycle, unless you’re strongly hooked or an academic superstar (which isn’t defined by 4.0/36/1580+).

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My top takeaways from the most recent admissions cycle:

  1. Have a discussion about finances up front with your child and let them know how much you can (and will) contribute to college and make sure they apply to schools that are in within that budget (that can be through a combo of parent contribution/need based aid/merit aid).
  2. Make sure you have safeties on the list that your child would be happy to attend - not a list of 10 reaches with a safety your child thinks is beneath them.
  3. Be realistic if you have a high stats kiddo who is aiming for T20s - just because their gpa/SAT is at the 75th percentile doesn’t make them a likely admit - unless they are hooked, rejection is the most likely outcome.
  4. Apply EA to as many of your schools as offer it – many schools now fill the majority of their class this way
  5. Start your essays the summer between junior and senior year - it will save a lot of time and stress
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Not according to many actual statements from various colleges this year. Many said they filled a huge portion of the class with ED. Guess it matters which colleges. But the post states T20 and I tend to agree that a huge number of acceptances are made then. I’d advise any student to apply EA/ED if at all possible. And I agree if a kid is unhooked, they are going to be in a tough spot in RD even if they are stellar.

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This really seems true now more than ever, and many have not yet come to accept it yet because it really complicates things.

IMHO some schools have gotten scary good at what I’ve seen called “yield prediction” on CC — waitlisting students who they know will end up being admitted to the Ivy’s and will attend.

Northwestern, Northeastern and BU come to mind off the top of my head.

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