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Focusing on helping my seniors--and juniors too

While there is never a guarantee that any student will be admitted to any school, the class of 2021 is experiencing even less predictability. The situation begs insight beyond what we already know about yield protection, test-optional admissions, and college’s financial fears.

That’s why I was excited to share stories with 30+ colleagues on Friday afternoon.

Here’s what I discovered: Several consultants’ students applied to many more colleges because of test-optional admissions. (My line is that too many schools add too much stress.) Few of my students chose not to test, but those who did not reached for colleges that would have been sure denials had test scores been required. Two were successful, but only after switching to ED after colleges recommended that. Some colleges have asked us to call if we have deferred students who will commit.

The scoop on highly-selective colleges: However, others had students without scores who were admitted to highly-selective colleges like Tufts (Tufts admitted 50% test-optional ED applicants) on the basis of high rigor, GPA’s, strong recommendations, and essays. The consensus was that standardized testing is still a valuable part of an application at the most competitive colleges, but it disturbed us that scores of 1550+ on the SAT and 35+ on the ACT seemed to be better predictors of success. That represents only the top 1% of test-takers, and there’s no guarantee (there never is) that students who earn these scores will be admitted.

An honest conversation: Admissions offices at UT Austin, UVA, and UNC Chapel Hill confirmed that their out-of-state admissions rates are generally below 10%. Students and families need to understand that denials from these colleges have no reflection on the quality of their applications. My California colleagues, who work with many Texas applicants, underscored that. My twelve years as a consultant bears this out, even as more students choose to add these schools to their lists each year.

Good news for many: All of our students who applied to colleges below the top tiers, with or without scores, were accepted nearly everywhere they applied. More selective colleges that received large numbers of applications and deferred many students, including Northeastern, UMiami, and Tulane, were eager to admit students who switched from EA to ED II, and we all had stories about students admitted to the University of Michigan with lower profiles than those who had been deferred. One deferred student was admitted to Stanford, another to Georgetown. All this attests to yield protection. Remember that deferrals are not denials!

Next steps: We will be calling admissions offices for accurate data to help us build our juniors’ first lists, then reconvening in May when all the acceptances are in. We will also pool all our personal data anonymously.

Testing: I participated in a webinar with Compass Test Prep and have a call in to them regarding how to best advise 2022 and 2023 grads as they navigate another year or two of test-optional admissions. Yes, they should definitely test! College Board is planning on an electronic option for the SAT by 2022 and ACT will finally offer the section testing originally planned for fall 2021. Will keep you posted with updates.

Let’s think spring: It’s the usual time for college notifications! Congratulations to my students who have committed to colleges and will be heading off to CU Boulder, Hamilton College, University of Miami, University of Michigan, University of Richmond, Sacred Heart University (merit and athletic scholarships), University of Tennessee, Tulane University, UVA, and University of Wisconsin. Most are still waiting, but all have excellent options.


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