Takeaways From the 2020 Application Season, Part 2

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Here are a few more thoughts on the college admissions process as the 2020 application cycle comes to an end:

Test Optional-Two state university systems have been in the national news with regard to standardized testing. The University of Indiana is considering a test-optional policy where each campus could decide whether or not to require standardized tests. Before you get excited about the possibility of applying to IU Bloomington and skipping the ACT or the SAT, the likely change is that their satellite campuses will be the schools that do not require testing, but you never know, maybe IU will follow suit.

There is an article here about a lawsuit filed against the University of California, alleging that the use of standardized testing in admissions is biased and unconstitutional. If the UC system drops the use of the SAT and the ACT for admission to their campuses, there may be a sea change in regard to how other schools use the tests.

Wildcards-There are some schools that I classify as wildcards when I am working with a student and trying to gauge their chance of admission. If a college has had a meaningful change in the past few years in the application structure that they employ, it is difficult to know how they will evaluate students in the current pool. What am I talking about? Schools that adopt binding early decision plans are an example. In the 2018 application cycle, Villanova added a binding early decision choice for their applicants. Their admit rate decreased from 36% in 2017 to 29% in 2018. (And they took 41% of the class in the ED round) Their test scores jumped too; in 2017, 30% of admitted students that took the SAT submitted an EBRW above 700 and 42% submitted a Math score above 700. The year that they implemented early decision, the percentages jumped to 36% and 58% respectively. My guess is that these numbers will continue to grow and the admit rate will decrease.

Boston College announced that this year they will have two rounds of early decision for the first time. I would guess that the BC numbers will have dramatic shifts, much like the statistics from Villanova. Another example of a wildcard situation is if a school adds a test-optional policy, like the University of New Hampshire did this year. It is impossible to know how the number of applications might grow. Or if a school that previously used a proprietary application opts to become a Common Application school. The University of South Carolina joined the Common App this year and it is a safe guess that the number of applications that they receive will increase, making the school more selective. When there is a shift in how colleges structure their application process, the data from previous years does not reflect the change and it is impossible to gauge how a student might fare in the new dynamic.

What the What?-I heard a whole new scenario in the admissions world that left me shaking my head. The University of Chicago now gives three options to the students that they defer in the first round of early decision. Option 1 is to pull their application. Option 2 is to apply in the regular decision round. Option 3, wait for it…have their application considered in the ED2 round?!? If you were just deferred from the ED1 pool in December, why would the school ask you if you want to be in the ED2 category in January? I am not even sure what to say about this. But this is not even the craziest thing I have heard. I will leave the best (craziest) for last.

#notevensurewhattocallthisnewlevelofnonsense- The takeaway from this application season that I cannot even categorize properly is brought to you courtesy of the University of Michigan Wolverines. The students that were deferred in the early action pool were told that the university had “postponed” the decision on their application. This sent many a student into a tailspin since they thought that their application was incomplete, but no, that was not the case. They are using the word postpone in lieu of the word deferral. I suppose it has a gentler tone and if that is all that they did, I would probably not be writing about them. The reason why I am writing about the Wolverines is because they want an expression of continued interest to remain in the regular decision round. This means that you have to write ANOTHER ESSAY if you want to be under consideration for admission! As if that wasn’t bad enough, it is an essay that is similar to the one that they already asked applicants to write. I will put the two essay prompts here, in no particular order and you tell me if you see how you could write two distinct essays from these prompts:

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Describe how your personal educational goals connect to the University of Michigan’s mission and values.

Can you even tell which one is the initial prompt and which one is to express continued interest? I am torn between having my students boycott this nonsense and having them  write for Michigan, just so they can turn them down in April.

Apologies for my rant. The level of irritation that I feel about this is a sign that I need to step back and go enjoy the holidays. I am signing off for a few days of R&R. I will be back after Christmas. (Probably working on the expression of continued interest for Michigan.) If you have a senior in your life, enjoy your last holiday with them at home as a high school student. If they are still working on applications, good luck. In 131 days, deposits are due, so hang in there, it will be over before you know it. Peace and love to all in 2020.

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