College Admissions

Archive for May, 2016

Big Changes in College Admission

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

There are changes in the world of college admission every year. But in 14 years as an independent college counselor, I have never seen more changes coming at the same time.

In standardized testing, we have the new SAT, which debuted last month. While the exam is now much more similar to the ACT, there are still differences. Test planning has been complicated by the fact that the College Board did not release scores from the March administration until May 10 and the May test scores will not be available until mid-June.

The good news is that more colleges join the test-optional list each year. Skidmore College announced a new test-optional policy a few weeks ago, and there will certainly be more announcements from colleges in the coming months. Students who are anxious about testing should include at least one test-optional college on their college list.

The financial aid application timeline is also changing. High school seniors applying for financial aid will no longer need to wait until January 1 to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Students can apply beginning October 1, using prior-prior year (PPY) tax data. Seniors who will be applying to college in the fall will be using 2015 rather than 2016 tax information. The new policy should enable colleges to provide earlier and more accurate information about what kind of financial aid a student will receive from a college.

There are also changes in college applications. Several popular schools that previously required their own applications have joined the Common Application, including Indiana University and University of Wisconsin. This will make it easier for students to apply to those schools.

But the biggest change will be the new Coalition Application. The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success was started by a group of colleges to enhance access to an affordable education and provide early engagement to help under-resourced students. Coalition members are required to meet several criteria, including a minimum 70% six year graduation rate. Private schools must meet all demonstrated financial need for each domestic student they admit. Public schools must have affordable tuition and provide need-based financial aid for in-state students. More than 90 institutions have joined the Coalition. The list includes the Ivies, Stanford and other highly selective schools, as well as more than 35 public schools including University of Florida, University of Maryland and University of Washington.

The additions to the Common Application and the introduction of the Coalition Application mean that students who apply to a number of public universities outside of California may find they will have to complete fewer applications. But new systems usually have glitches, and students should not be surprised if the Coalition Application tests their patience during this first year. In fact, concerns about the new technology have led some Coalition members to delay using the Coalition Application for a year.

The UC has its own changes, and will no longer have a personal statement where students respond to two required prompts with a total of 1,000 words. Instead, students will choose four of eight personal insight questions, and can write up to 350 words for each question. While students may end up doing more writing for the new UC application, the more targeted questions will provide flexibility, and should enable students to provide a more complete picture for UC application readers.

The Coalition has released essay prompts, but not all member institutions will be requiring essays. Prompts for the Common Application essay will be the same as last year. Supplemental essays required by many colleges may change and will become available over the summer. Students who are eager to get started on application essays should verify that they have the correct prompts before writing their essays.