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How is the Test-Optional Trend Impacting American Campuses?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on June 15, 2021

 

Standardized test scores have long been a staple of the college application. Students generally start studying for the SAT or ACT well in advance and schedule multiple test dates to submit the highest scores possible. This type of testing was deemed useful to colleges and universities because it was supposed to be indicative of student performance: a direct, concrete way to evaluate academic skills. However, the reality is not exactly that.

Standardized testing has undergone quite a bit of criticism as well, bringing to light biases against race and socio-economic status, and little prediction of future academic performance. So COVID-19 has been the straw that broke the camel’s back in a struggle of universal acceptance.

It’s clear that the pandemic has changed the old ways of applying to college. With many colleges and universities giving students a break this year and adopting temporary or permanent test-optional policies, there is a whole new game to master.

According to a recent article, the test optional application has required admissions officers to take a new stance when evaluating prospective students. Whereas before, testing was a relatively simple way to classify students into ranks, without it, other factors such as GPA, essays and recommendations are gaining more weight and importance.

From an admissions standpoint, the shift away from testing shouldn’t mean that it will be more difficult and time-consuming to evaluate applications, but that applications will be approached from a different perspective. One such approach is polling, used by admissions officers to rate candidates based on their transcripts. This technique is used now at Cornell.

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Topics: College Essays, College Applications, college preparation, ACT, college admissions, SAT/ACT, SAT prep, Cornell University, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional, GPA, college essay topics

The Silver Lining of the Waitlist

Posted by Neal Schwartz on May 08, 2021

We could say that the word “wait” is the word of the year: waiting for the end of the lockdown, waiting for vaccines, waiting for the world to open again. It’s been a very long wait. 

And for some, there’s still more waiting to be had. 

This year, college planning has been completely taken over by the pandemic. Those who thought they had their plans figured out often had to change them very quickly in response to the rapidly changing restrictions. With stressed finances, the monotony of distance learning and a developing desire to stay close to home, many anxious high school students and parents have had to return to square one.

However, we’ve learned that in the context of the pandemic, those who are the most adaptable will end up succeeding. For students, that means that the waitlist will take on a whole new meaning.

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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, college counseling, college freshman, high school senior, college search, college application, college admit rates, high school graduation, high school grades, summer before college, college partying, GPA, waitlist

How Incoming First-Years Can Manage Their College Expectations

Posted by Neal Schwartz on April 29, 2021

Getting into college is a major achievement. Especially in the aftermath of pandemic drama, this years’ seniors may feel even more relief than former generations. After braving the frantic testing-drop by many colleges and being evaluated in greater depth by admissions officers, the 2021 incoming class of First-Years will prove to be resilient and diverse.

Admitted students might start getting flooded with expectations. College can be an experience quite different from high school because of the freedom in academic schedule, activities, and the fact that parents are often far away. Many students get caught up in the dilemma of “wanting to fit in.” And sometimes that equates to drinking and partying, to relieve the pressure of adjusting to a new environment with hundreds or thousands of strangers around. However, there are some common misconceptions about how many college students actually drink.

Now that a student has been admitted, it’s important to remind them that being smart always wins out over having (too much) fun. Being admitted doesn’t justify senioritis or making risky decisions; students will still have to prove that they belong in the incoming class, and will therefore need to pay attention to their behavior between now and September. Overall, the currency of the student who has just made their deposit by May 1st also has a parent who is counting the days until the student starts school. Which leads to the question of whether or not the student will test the limits of their summer independence. Students that have been building up to this moment for thirteen years often act out differently than expected.

The truth is, though, even admitted students are still vulnerable until they step foot on campus. This period can be critical for both parents and students. Students may feel that they need to celebrate, but this should be taken in moderation, because any false steps can be noticed by admissions officers and compromise admission.

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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, senioritis, college counseling, college freshman, high school senior, college search, college application, college admit rates, high school graduation, high school grades, party schools, summer before college, college partying, GPA, college drinking, summer after HS Graduation

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