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

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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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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