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

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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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Brown, Penn, Amherst, Cornell, Swathmore, Vandy, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Rice all with between 43-63% of their class filled through ED!

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That’s huge, IMO. We knew that ED filled a portion of the class, I had NO idea that it was more than 50%. I don’t think a lot of students know that. Really makes ED more strategic, if at all possible. My own kid didn’t have any ED choices (wasn’t decided). But for those who are, I think it’s a no brainer to go ED. RD has minuscule acceptance rates (ED’s are great but even if they are twice as high or slightly higher, it’s a better option assuming you can do it).

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Colleges have been using ED to fill more than 50% of their classes for some time now, so that’s not new this year. Also, RD applicant pool tends to be much less uniform than the ED pool, so the average RD acceptance rate is even less meaningful.

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The era of Big Data is here. The schools send out feeler emails embedded with tracking cookies. They know who clicked on a link in their email, and those who deleted it right away. CWRU was caught red handed this year in an embarassment.

To turn the tide, setup a separate account on a new browser. Open every single email and click every single link. Some unscrupulous colleges use this as a way to determine level of interest. Same for parents.

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Tracking how students interact with emails and other communication strategies is not new, and has been going on for at least a decade.

Applicants have to pay attention as to whether schools consider demonstrated interest in their admissions decisions (noted in the CDS). It’s possible to completely ignore those schools where DI is important, should one not want to play that game.

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Yes, agree. My take-away from my two kids’ recent/current college searches so far is not to be afraid to come up with your own unique criteria for your college application lists. Avoid making perceived prestige a major criteria, but don’t be afraid to prioritize the stuff that’s important to you/your kid even if it’s more “quirky.” That could be a wanting a school that has an equestrian team, nice weather, proximity to the ocean, a linguistics major, a policy that allows students to bring their pets, or a strong honor code system. Any of these criteria, if prioritized alone or in combination, could result in a list that looks externally to be pretty random but if it reflects multiple things that the student wants, it’s a good list. And by prioritizing the quirky stuff, it will hopefully open up some interest in schools that are not in the T30, which have seen such an increased focus in the last couple of admissions cycles.

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You can add Johns Hopkins to this list. Their AOs have been super open about that for years. We toured in '17 and they point blank said you need to apply ED to have any real shot.

I’ll point out to those reading that some schools give a leg up to their deferred ED students because they statistically have higher yields than students who just applied in RD.

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In order (in retrospect):

  • Check your ego…completely. The results here are your childrens’, not yours. No matter how much work you put into it, it is their process, not yours. If you catch yourself saying “we” too often, do a gut check.
  • Realize that what schools are “prestigious” has changed in the past 30 years.
  • What have you saved? truly? what is the dollar amount? pull out the statement. Divide it by 4- you now have a a budget. Kid’s have very low borrowing limits (something like 27K), and you do them no favors putting yourself in dire financial straights.
  • Start with your in-state options. By far they will be the most economical, and almost all will have excellent options for almost all majors. This can’t be repeated enough times. These should be your first option- and the focus of most of your effort application and research-wise. Unless they are not within your budget- then CC+State should be an option.
  • Onto OOS- some will be close to your in-state (Alabama, U of SC, Arizona, ASU, UVM) in terms of costs, after incentives used to attract high stat OOS kids. Worth looking into if kid wants OOS experience- and many will be equivalent to your in state options in terms of quality- some slightly better or not quite as good. If stats aren’t high, the costs gets pretty high pretty quickly.
  • Now some other OOS are approaching private school costs, and will NOT give any significant merit. UC, UVA, UT, UNC, Michigan- these schools are big bucks. The better ones will tend to be the more expensive ones and don’t need to court OOS. There are also exceedingly selective- think public Ivy.
  • Privates known for merit: there is a long list. Its about what you’d expect- they will often get cost down to that of your in-state option if they really want your kid, but it might not be the place a high stat kid wants to go. They won’t offer these incentives for kids with lesser stats. (See Selingo buyers/sellers list).
  • Top 50- a lottery to get in even if your are a 1% applicant, and if you win this lottery, you get a bill for $85K if your income is over $150,000. For many majors (accounting, nursing, arguably engineering) the costs simply cannot be justified. The premium being paid, if you choose to, is simple for prestige. Don’t underestimate the power of the sticker on the back of the minivan though. It drives billion dollar industries.

If you screen schools in a similar way, thinking about money up front, you will save yourself alot of pain and time. I didn’t say some pain won’t be involved. Telling your kid that the school you yourself attended is not in the cards is a very tough thing to do- but better done in August that January.

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Is that real? I remember schools who emailed my daughter specifically said they don’t track emails etc.

Of course the only ones we clicked on were the best schools who sent us emails so maybe they don’t really care while other schools do.

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Just depends on the school. Some track DI and that info becomes part of the admissions decision and/or yield calculation. Some track things like emails for marketing purposes, but DI is not part of the admissions decision. Other schools don’t track DI.

DI also goes beyond email, including visits (virtual and in person), interactions with AOs, and even how often they open their portal after applying.

Policies do change as well, partially because there’s a lot of turnover in admissions departments. WashU used to be a big tracker of DI, used it in the admissions decision, but discontinued that practice this cycle, as just one example.

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This is not the place to diminish other users’ takeaways or to “explain” to a user the admission policies of a college; that violates ToS and is just inconsiderate.

So move on from analyzing ED percentages or demonstrated interest, as but 2 examples.

Some great points here. One of the ones we hadn’t thought about much until decisions were out, was cost. We had to ask as a family was the “public” top tier school worth as much as the top tier school? Why was the cost 20-40K more for OOS for public schools?

Had I known which schools kids was applying to in later Summer, the list would have shown that these top publics give no merit ( or very very little). We’re not eligible for FA, so we should have stuck to that knowledge. Also, we look for value so the $ should have been front and center and schools which didn’t give merit and were very costly and public should have been eliminated for us. We also should have weighed if we were willing to pay the same price for a public. as a private. ( We weren’t). But the cold weather had taken it off the table.

Also, my kid added schools that had criteria which had originally limited the school. Kid didn’t want cold state. So when acceptances came in for great schools in cold states like IL and MI, it came up again. Once you eliminate a school for a good reason (like weather, cost, program) don’t add it in back to get the requisite number of schools. The weather in MI is always going to be cold.

Learned a lot for the next round. It’s a crazy process. You just have to do lots of research. Trust your gut in terms of fit. Look at costs as value. For us, ROI is really important so some programs seemed to be worth more than others. Every family has to weigh all of the factors. They’ll come up with different conclusions. It’s hard.

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