Low Acceptance Rates: What did the 2021-22 College Admissions Cycle Teach Us?

This year, the Harvard University admissions rate hit a record-low of 3.19%. Even colleges outside of the Ivy League are seeing increasingly competitive application seasons year after year. Get the inside scoop on the 2021-22 College Admissions Cycle and the learnings we’ve gained from it to best support future college applicants in a 60-minute webinar, featuring former Admissions Officer Ferrell Armstrong. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 06/12/2022
Duration 49:49

Webinar Transcription

2022-06-12 Low Acceptance Rates – What did the 2021-22 College Admissions Cycle Teach Us?

[00:00:00] Hi everyone. My name is Juliana Furigay and I’m your moderator today. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Low Acceptance Rates – What did the 2021-22 College Admissions Cycle Teach Us? To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panelist. Good evening, everyone. My name is Ferrell Armstrong. I’m a former assistant director of admissions. Vanderbilt University, uh, been working in college admissions now for going on 13 years. Uh, while at Vanderbilt, I served as the chief of international admissions. And in addition to that, I was one of the five admissions committee members.

Uh, so really excited to sit down and talk you through what we’re kind of seeing from the outcome of [00:01:00] this last admission cycle and what your family may need to start considering, uh, as you progress forward to your next, uh, to the next application phase.

Now it’s time for a poll. Um, what grade are you all in? Um, so while we wait for those poll results to come in, I’d love to ask you Farrell, what drew you to college advising in the field of education? So, I mean, I think for me, the, the thing that stands out about education is just the ability to give back.

Um, I was a student that really benefited by some great leadership and some great assistance outside the normal classroom, uh, when I was younger and I, I really appreciated the, uh, the ability. You know, that gave me long term. And so I was looking for options to kind of do the same thing. Um, I didn’t wanna teach, I, I don’t, I’m not geared to be a teacher of some of my best friends are, but I, I don’t have that skillset, unfortunately.

Um, so I’m looked for other ways and, um, I had a, a unique [00:02:00] college search and it really kind of stuck with me and I decided that I wanted to help people, you know, kind of in that process and hopefully avoid the mistakes that I made in mind. So that’s, that’s what led me to college advising. Got it. Great to hear.

Thanks for sharing that with us. Um, it looks like all of our, uh, participants are actually in their senior year, so it’s great. All right. Back to the presentation. Yeah. So, I mean, starting off, I think the important thing to look at here is the numbers of what we seen seen after this last year. And the reality here is that these schools have once again, for the most part.

Experienced record numbers. There’s a few that about stayed the same, but most of them had record numbers. Uh, as the screen shows Harvard, the applications increased, uh, by right around 7%, they hit 61,220 total applicant. Uh, this year and the reality, uh, behind that is that they had the lowest acceptance rate in the history of the school.

Brown had an [00:03:00] application increase of 9%. They hit about 50,000 applications, uh, with an acceptance rate of 5%. Also the lowest in school history. Columbia didn’t really see much of a change. They held about the same application rate. And the acceptance rate was pretty much the same. Uh, but then obviously if you look down at Yale, um, they did see it at kind of a drop the lowest they’ve had in three years with their acceptance rate at 4.46.

For me, it’s important to be, you know, paying attention to these numbers historically. Um, and that’s because when, you know, we start making, you know, plans, if you will, as admissions officers, um, for who we’re gonna recruit and, and what we need to fill. In our university needs, uh, that can influence how you as an applicant should be targeting your, your, to build your application list, I should say.

So by understanding what a school’s done over the last couple of years, it allows you to influence how you should target the school, which we’ll talk about here in just a little bit. So to give some additional context, um, there’s a significant, you know, variety of reasons behind this increase that we’ve been seeing [00:04:00] first and foremost, we’re continuing to see, um, The, the test optional policy that has taken place after the pandemic.

Um, that’s really continuing to, you know, affect the outcome if you will, of admissions decisions, but it’s primarily affected by the increase in applications that these schools going test optional, uh, created. Um, so in the last two years of all schools across the United States, uh, there’s been about a 90% increase in applications.

And that’s a direct result of almost every school going test optional. Um, now a as we begin to kind of move forward outside of the pandemic, we are starting to see a variety of schools. Either return to test optional requirements or extend, I’m sorry, not return to test optional, but return to mandating test requirements, uh, or extend their test optional policies.

Uh, one example would be Vanderbilt where I used to work. Uh, they have, um, extended their optional policy through 2028. But what I find interesting is that they had about a 6% increase in students that were submitting test scores this [00:05:00] year, as opposed to last year. So this year, about 60% of applicants, one that had went in the process by submitting test scores.

Prior to the pandemic, we were sitting for the, you know, entire country. We were sitting about 84% of all applicants submitting test scores. And we dropped all the way down to about 35 or 34%. Um, so starting to see some students tick back up. They, they understand that schools would still prefer to see those test scores if possible.

So you can see that these schools are starting to see an increase again, uh, in their testing, um, submissions by students that being the case, certain schools are going back to mandating their test requirements. MIT being the biggest example, I was about six or eight weeks ago that they announced that they were going.

Uh, to mandating it. But the interesting thing about that is that prior to the announcement applications were up roughly 66%, uh, in comparison to the pre pandemic time period. So what’s gonna be interesting to see is how going back to mandating test requirements. Affects [00:06:00] the application rate at MIT, uh, this coming year.

So I’ll be very interested to see how that pans out. I would expect a dip. Um, you know, these schools suddenly going test optional, kinda removing that barrier, um, made a strategic opportunity for a lot of students who just may not be the best test takers. I, I certainly was not one. Um, and I can totally.

Remember, avoiding certain schools because of my test scores, uh, when I was going through the process. So I, I would expect to see some kind of a dip at MIT next year. Um, just because of the fact that they’re now going back to mandating S a T and a C T test score submission. I, I, I think the other thing that we are seeing is now we’re gonna be affected by the economy.

Um, one of the biggest things that we’ve looked at. In the last couple of years, uh, has obviously just been the productivity or I should say the increased application raise. I just got done talking about due to the pandemic. Um, and ironically, um, enrollment was at its absolute lowest in history. So you saw this [00:07:00] massive increase in applications.

Um, but enrollment was at its lowest with the current economic times that we are seeing history has shown us that enrollment goes. At colleges and universities around the country. So if we look back oh, 7 0 8 0 9, not only did applications spike, uh, but enrollment increased, um, because of it. And I think the thing to remember is that without sounding improper or rude, Sometimes people get concerned about maybe coming right outta high school, starting something that they’ve been planning on trying to do as an entrepreneur.

Um, and they understand that it’s for the most part, fairly easy to get an education loan. Um, so families and students are. More likely during a dip in economic times to actually take that loan because that can also provide living capabilities, um, for certain individuals. Um, so I would expect EC the economic factors that we’re seeing right now to continue to push applications.

Up. Um, but that being the case, I will [00:08:00] tell you that I, I don’t know how long that push will in, uh, will continue considering these schools have really topped out at some pretty high end, but I would expect enrollment to be coming back up. Uh, enrollment will be something that will rise as a result of these economic factors that we’re currently seeing, uh, inflation food costs, things of that nature.

You would see enrollment in come up because of that, because a student can take a loan to cover their living expense. On top of their cost of attendance at the. Now, uh, that being the case, as we kind of, you know, talk about the financial side of things that obviously changes the financial abilities of an institution today.

So the reality today is that there are a lot of different financial aid policies that are practiced by most colleges across the country. Um, obviously you many people are aware of need aware admissions or need blind a. Need blind admissions is a school that does not take into account, uh, a family’s financial need in their acceptance, um, [00:09:00] or their denying of a student.

So your mission’s decision that a need blind school will not be affected by your financial situation. A need a aware school is going to be utilizing your potential financial aid, uh, requirements in their eventual decision on your application. Um, so what’s interesting about this is that we are. Said this, we are seeing an increase of schools slowly trying to become need blind for their international applicants.

Um, historically, most universities today, if it’s an international applicant that requires financial assistance, they primarily would award a hundred percent, uh, of that need to the student. However, They would be need aware in the process. Almost every school for international students has been need aware in the process, so that could affect their outcome.

Now we are starting to slow, uh, excuse me, start to see a, a slow transition at some of the more elite ranked schools, uh, to going test, uh, not only test blind, but [00:10:00] also, uh, need blind to international applicants. Currently this being the case, it is important to. That this is gonna shape the outcome of a school’s financial ability, uh, having, you know, less income based upon certain factors that may be shaping the economy.

Maybe more people needing to take on financial aid. Um, individual schools will begin to shift what they can or cannot do from a financial perspective, which is something else that we will talk about again on the next slide. Um, I, I do think it’s important to state that you’re more mid-level to. Less popular schools, um, maybe lower enrollment schools.

These are the ones that are gonna see, um, their financial aid policies changing first, because most likely their overall endowment or their operational cash flow, um, will take a hit a lot earlier on than, than a more popular school in the top 25, top 50 top a hundred, just based upon the amount of continued interest at those schools.

Uh, seemingly not slowing. [00:11:00] So as we transition, um, what I’d also like to talk about is the other influences, uh, that will, you know, come into play here in terms of schools, making their admissions decisions. Uh, the most important thing of course, to identify are individual departmental needs. I would be.

Short, if I did not draw attention to the fact that different institutions have different needs, different days, different admission cycles. Um, so what worked at a school the last three years may not work at a school the next year. And what I mean is, you know, maybe a school’s been, you know, putting a focus on.

More female engineering enrollment, because they’re wanting to grow their female engineering, you know, uh, ratio on campus. Uh, but now maybe they’ve gotten to a point where they’ve reached that goal and now they need to shift because they have in order to do that taken perhaps less computer science applicants, cuz they’ve been more focused on mechanical and civil engineering to do that.

Um, you will see shifts like that occur and these departmental needs will be [00:12:00] given to the admissions. Uh, by the different, um, departments and those will be taken into account as they shape their class. So when I was at Vanderbilt and when I was at the university of Georgia, we would have regular update meetings with the different schools on campus and different departments, obviously a, and that would influence the final enrollment decisions that we would be making in the admissions committee.

Um, after every applicant had been reviewed and discussed, uh, we would go back over and, and make decisions and selection based upon. Those individual departmental needs. Hey, maybe we were a little aggressive last year and the human and organizational development major. And we shorted the education department on actual teaching applicants.

So those are things that would be influencing our decisions. Um, and that will also affect, you know, your likelihood admission. The other thing that’ll affect, this are relationships. And I think this is something that does not get a lot of play time, if you will, um, by schools when they’re talking about their admissions practices.

But the reality [00:13:00] here is that every school has their own relationships, whether that be with high schools, whether that be with third party programs, such as QuestBridge. Because of certain relationships, certain organizations by that mean institutions are held to certain requirements that they may or may not have to meet, uh, depending upon contractual, um, obligation, for example, The QuestBridge process, if a student matches with the school and the school likes to take ’em, uh, they’re, they’re going to enroll that student based upon the match of the QuestBridge process, which will then affect what a school can do later on in the regular decision process, or maybe the early decision to process because of what they did early on.

With the QuestBridge selection. Um, if you’re a QuestBridge applicant, those, uh, those students get their decisions even before early decision one’s released by a school. Um, so those typically will kind of set the tone of early on of what a school can do later on in the process, uh, because of how early they have to release those decisions back to QuestBridge.

The other piece would be high school influence. One of the things that we would always [00:14:00] make sure of is that we were maintaining relationships, keeping good working connection. Uh, so we could. Information from these school counselors, perhaps we haven’t, you know, taken, but one student over the last four years from a certain high school, because we just haven’t really seen, uh, their best quality students.

Or we just, haven’t seen a very qualified student in mass. We’ve just seen one or two here and there because we wanna maintain those relationships. Perhaps sometimes we’ll. Maybe it meant a second, third or even fourth student that might be a little bit lower than what we were wanting. Um, just to continue to maintain that working relationship with that high school.

So we can always have an open line of communication if we were to have a question about a student. So those types of things are taken into account to kind of keep, um, different institutions, um, relationships in check and in place with what I would call feeder schools, schools that have historically sent a lot of applicants to a particular university.

Of course smaller factor, but one to be discussed, if you’re an out-of-state applicant would be geographic [00:15:00] representation. Um, many families will go look at a lot of schools based upon their rank and they just assume it. Hey, you know, university of Georgia is a target school. It’s not a reach school for me.

And what’ll influence someone on that is, they’ll say, Hey, university of Georgia’s acceptance. Rate’s about 46%. So it’s kind of closer to a target school than anything. I’m fine. Well, the reality here is that. The state of Georgia limits its out of state enrollment at the university of Georgia. So the moment that you are an out-of-state applicant to UGA, you have a sub 18% admissions rate, which makes it a reach school for anybody outside the state of Georgia, no matter how qualified you are academically.

So these types of things will influence whether or not you have a shot at being admitted to that school. And what I will tell you. Is that even when I was in high school and it feels painful to admit this to you, but I’m 34 now. I know I look 75, uh, but at the time that I was in high school, I had several friends that were going to university of Georgia and I was born and raised in [00:16:00] Nashville.

Every single student that graduated from a high school that was accepted to UGA had above a 4.0. Um, that is obviously still the case today. Uh, so that being, you know, the historical trend, that’s not gonna change because those limited slots for out state students, It’s only gonna get worse based upon this, the institution being controlled by its state legislature, telling them what they can or cannot accept in state versus out state.

We see the same thing with university of California schools. Um, we see the same thing across a variety of different states. So it’s something that you need to be very aware of in contextualizing and application list. So you put your plan together and then kind of circling back to finances. One more time.

Uh, you know, I, I talked about, you know, the current economic situation affecting family’s ability to pay. A lot of your smaller regional schools can be very affected by economic situations. Um, there’re also whether it’s an economic situation or not. Uh, there are a lot of schools out there today that are at [00:17:00] risk.

Um, in other words, when I say at risk, they are tuition dependent. In other words, if they do not hit a particular number, they will not be able to keep the lights on and keep their faculty employed. So they would actually have to shut down their. There are a variety of schools out there, well known regional schools that exist like that today.

And of course this is not publicized. They keep it very hush hush because that getting out would affect their enrollment possibility. Uh, but the reality here is that as an economic situation, perhaps gets worse family ability to pay perhaps gets more limited, which then puts additional strain on financial aid applications.

And smaller schools in a lot of cases, don’t have the financial aid capability as some of those more popular schools or some of the more large public institutions. So you will see a school that is tuition dependent, really have to start making some tough decisions on who they can or cannot admit based upon the given years financial.

[00:18:00] Needs of the school, let alone the economical influence, economical, excuse me, the economic influence to that. It’s something to be paying attention to. Um, you know, I won’t name the school cause I, I don’t believe in, in outing schools. Um, but you know, there’s a very popular school in the Southeast, uh, that has had a long tradition of high enrollment that in 12 years time lost over a hundred million from its endow.

Uh, and, and essentially, um, is at risk and has been at risk the last eight or nine years of closing its stores, every single admission cycle, just in, because they don’t hit enrollment numbers so easily. Uh, they typically don’t even complete their enrollment class until August. So when a school’s dealing with something like that, um, and then you add in the, the current, you know, inflation and family’s ability to pay, that’s gonna stress their ability toward financial.

That could affect enrollment at a school and perhaps shut them down. Uh, so they’re gonna be having to make those decisions based upon who can afford to pay more versus who can afford to pay less. Okay. [00:19:00] So putting this all together, I, I think is the key to this conversation. Um, what does this all mean? Uh, well, the reality of this is that things are only gonna get a little bit crazier.

Uh, and I would argue that things are gonna become less predictable. Demand is not going to stop the popularities, you know, popularity, excuse me, of these top, you know, 150 schools across the country. Um, isn’t going. Um, applications might slow a little bit, uh, just because you’re gonna start to see, uh, schools go back to mandating test requirements in a lot of cases, um, others that aren’t going to you’ll still see decent numbers, but you will see case by case school, by school, the number of applications starting to ease, I would still expect an increase over the next year.

To two years, I would argue maybe another, you know, 15% increase, um, at these schools over the next two to three years. Um, but to that end, it, it’s not gonna be, uh, the dramatic increase that we’ve seen, you know, over the last two years alone, this is naturally gonna lead to some independent, uh, [00:20:00] movement by different schools.

Um, you’re gonna see schools making different, um, you know, decisions on how they’re. And move forward into the future. Um, and so a, a, a great example of that is going back to MIT, mandating their test requirements and, and Harvard remaining tests blind until 2027. Um, this being the case, I, I, I think you’re gonna.

Find something interesting that’s gonna happen. I do believe there’s gonna be a new focus on mid-tier schools, um, that remain test optional. As some of these more elite schools go back to main dating test requirements. I think you’re gonna start to see a fair amount of families that have been impressed by, you know, what they found at some other mid-tier schools that have great reputations, um, maybe in their engineering programs.

Um, Of, you know, everyone having to explore these different options over these last couple of years, they’re what a school’s known for and what a school can do is getting, you know, I can, I think more distributed, you’re gonna start seeing applications shift or at least increase down to more mid-level [00:21:00] and mid rank schools.

Not saying you’re gonna say necessarily a, a drop, a significant drop in applications from the top. I’m saying that in addition to those applications, You’re probably gonna see it increase in applications at your more target schools and a growing popularity for target schools. Um, so with that being the case, I would expect a lot of target schools over the next two to three years to start seeing a higher, you know, selection rate.

You’re gonna start seeing those schools become more selective overall because a new popularity knows as people shift their attention from more top 30 schools to maybe top 180 schools. But I think all of this said. There there’s only one thing that comes out of that, and that is numbers are still gonna be high they’re they’re not gonna shrink.

And in order for you to stand out, you still have to be the one unique applicant schools want you for the unique individual that you are. Uh, they are not looking for 15 and 20 people to have the same story. Um, you know, one of the things that kind of makes me. Tick a little [00:22:00] bit is there’s been this growing trend.

Everybody thinks they have to use the SA topic. Tell us about something or experience you’ve gone through. Right? Someone thinks they had to go through some horrible experience. It’s been this very popular topic. The last couple of years and, and common application has elected to retain that topic next year.

That being the case, um, when you’re. Telling a story that a lot of other people are trying to tell that’s that’s not making you any more significant in the process. That’s already ultra competitive. So I wanna encourage everyone that’s listening to this tonight, or listening to this in the future, make sure that your unique story is being presented.

So the unique individual that you are stands out and is heard. That’s why I would admit you when I was at Vanderbilt in Georgia, because you had something to bring to the table that perhaps I hadn’t seen a lot of, I, I could tell that you were gonna bring a new type of conversation to our C. And I think the last point there is make sure that you are revealing yourself.

You don’t wanna be just a test score in a GPA. You need to be personifying yourself through your application. The whole goal of this [00:23:00] process is to reveal who you are to these schools. I don’t admit strangers. My job is to be a gatekeeper in a way I’m supposed to get to know applicants to determine if they’re gonna be the right fit for our community needs, how we’re gonna benefit by the presence.

It, I think now with this increase that we’re. Over the last couple years, and probably gonna slowly continue that, you know, growth over the next couple years, it continues to put emphasis on you, really making sure that you’re putting unique pieces about yourself out there and you’re comfortable doing so that will be creating the difference for you and giving you the edge that so many students don’t present themselves because they’re copying and pasting and reusing their essays, um, and telling the same story to every school that they apply.

So, how do you start planning for this? I, I, I think time I is something that, um, most people team to team, excuse me, tend to overlook and not place a great emphasis on no matter where you are in the timeline, whether you’re a junior, a sophomore, [00:24:00] freshman, uh, or an eighth grader, you need to start doing your research.

Now, um, I tell students that I want them starting to write their essays, uh, by January of 11th grade and a lot of students and, and parents will, you know, have some pretty unique reactions to that. But the reality here is if you apply to 12 or so schools today, you’re looking at 35 to 40 essays on average.

So why would we not try to get out in front? Of that essay development and spread them out over time so that they’re more robust and better developed. So they have a better impact for you. More importantly, that’s gonna take pressure off of you. The more that you can be doing upfront in your high school career, there’s less that you have to do at the very end.

So by using your time effectively, you don’t have to feel the burden that so many students and families describe this process as being, they’re saying that in most cases, because they started the process. In junior year or tail end to sophomore year. Um, if you can start with a plan before going into your senior year, I’m sorry.

Before going into your freshman year, you’re gonna create the biggest difference for yourself. The sooner that you get a [00:25:00] game plan in place and start to act by it. The better off you’re gonna be to that end. I really want families to pay attention to data. What I will argue is not as well known is that college emissions is actually a data science.

It’s called enrollment management. Uh, and there are multiple graduate programs offered across the country today. Uh, this is my background. So these schools are utilizing predictive modeling and, and data analytics and making their final decisions on a family. Or excuse me, on an applicant on who they’re going to enroll or not.

In order for you to have the best plan of attack, you should be following the statistical standards or practices that these schools have shown by releasing their data each year. Now, when I say each year, that’s also not true. Some schools are gonna hold back on their data and be a little bit more coy, uh, with their application practices.

And a great example of that this year is about half of the Ivy league. Half of the Ivy league is still not released their admissions data. Uh, for this most recent cycle. Um, and so to that regard, some data may be a year and a half, you know, [00:26:00] old before they release it, but you need to be paying attention to admission standards based upon, you know, major of interest, GPA, test score, class, rank, gender, um, to that in race, all these things influence your outcome as an applicant, and you should be looking at how each school.

Viewing students of different indicating factors that I just went through and then comparing yourself to that. So you have a better understanding of which process you should follow. To that end in saying that I, I think that brings up a, a great transition into the fact that so many people will talk about early action versus regular decision.

And when I was just saying which path you should follow, I was referencing the, the type of application you should submit. Um, there are horrible rumors today that every school wants you to go early action, because by getting your application sooner, they prefer it more and they’re gonna be more preferential.

That that’s junk. Um, it is a case by case basis. It is a school by school basis and you need to remember that school needs change in a given year. So just because you heard early [00:27:00] action is the best way to apply from a friend that went through the process last year, or, you know, a cousin or a friend, a friend’s aunt doesn’t matter.

Um, they’re telling you something that worked for them four years ago, four years ago is. What we’re seeing now, cuz that was pre pandemic. Um, and even two years ago we’re seeing changes again. So you need to verify anything that you’re being told before you act on it. Um, I, I, I think a lot of families are hesitant to pick up the phone and call a school, do exactly that they are gonna be truthful with you.

They, they’re not gonna lie to you. So I would pick up the phone and if you hear something that you don’t know or is true or not, and you question it, it sounds a little fish. Check on it. Even if something sounds legit, I would still encourage you to get with an expert and check on it, to make sure that you’re putting the right foot forward and not perhaps taking two steps back.

Uh, the last thing here for me to really talk about that you can begin building and you can begin building it. As early as seventh and eighth grade is brand. These schools need to understand what you’re in pursuit of what, [00:28:00] what you’re about. Right. If these schools know, you know, what defines you, what you’re in pursuit of, um, what your pathway is now, they’re much more likely to accept you because you throughout high school are able to really share your passion for what it is you’re targeting and going after with your admissions application.

Building a brand is not something that can be done in three weeks or eight weeks over the summertime. Uh, like a lot of families think it can be done between junior and senior year, uh, building a brand to really have it represented fully to where you can have letters of recommendation that eloquently back up what you’re saying about yourself and your own essays and activity descriptions that takes years.

So the sooner that you can start kind of trying to define what it is that you earned in pursuit of which you. You are interested in pursuing and starting taking steps to see if that really is for you or perhaps after you’ve done a couple of things and you find out it’s not for you, you’ve tried something else instead that is gonna help you start to identify your brand, cuz your brand is not only.

What you do. It’s also what people say about you in this situation. So that takes time. It’s [00:29:00] definitely not something that should be, um, rushed because one of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen in common college admissions today is a student will say that they’re passionate about something going down route a and then they’ll have somebody in the letter of recommendations.

Say that that student was actually in pursuit of something down route Z. Now we have conflicting messages coming from the applicant and supposedly someone that’s giving them a strong letter recommendation. Well, now those are butting heads and it, and the stories don’t add up. So the sooner that you can kind of get this pathway identified for yourself and.

Make those around, you know, that so they can start helping you with it. That’s gonna weaponize you. And what they’re also gonna be able to say about you later on with those letters of recommendation. And of course the big piece here is finding help. This process is overwhelming. It’s something that should not be put off because it’s gonna be arguably one of the biggest influences of your life, where you go to school.

And, and so it, it’s not something that you can. You know, place of the back burner of the stove and, and just get to when it feels right. Um, this needs to [00:30:00] be a priority and it needs to be a priority from day one freshman year of high school. Um, and it, the reality here is that it’s overwhelming. You know, it’s, it’s difficult to get all this and it’s difficult to, you know, do it in a, a short timeframe.

It puts a lot of UN unnecessary pressure and strain on both the applicant and the family. Uh, so the easiest thing that you can do is to start getting answers early on to simplify the process. So for us, what’s important for you to know is that nearly half of all applicants are, are getting third party assistance today.

Uh, it’s roughly 42%. Of all us applicants are getting third party assistance today. So we at CollegeAdvisor are, are ready, enabled to start working with students. As early as seventh grade, we have over 300 team members, uh, that are ready to sit down with you and establish these plans that I’ve talked about this evening, understand the data, navigate around the obstacles that are seemingly popping up about every two to three years.

Um, so that you stand out for your own unique story. Um, but that’s gonna help you increase only [00:31:00] your chances of admission, but it’s also gonna increase your chances of scholarship. In starting early, you’re also gonna be saving yourself a significant portion of stress and anxiety. Instead of putting off to the last second.

Now you’re able to spread this out early and really just walk through this at a casual pace and actually enjoy it. Learn something about yourself and your family. It should be a growth experience. Um, it should not be something that’s stressful. So I wanna encourage you to start today, no matter where you are in the process, even if you’re a senior, right.

And, uh, maybe you just didn’t really have a plan early on in the fall. You were just kind of unsure what you wanted to do. Start getting a plan in place right now for, you know, next fall or next spring. Um, and that’s, what’s gonna be giving you the opportunity to stand out and have success that you’re looking for.

It simply said that the more time that we have to work with the. The more success that we’re gonna experience with the family, because we can develop everything to be unique to your pathway. So if you’d be interested in getting some assistance with this, I would be more than willing to sit down and chat with you.

My email is listed at the bottom of that slide, and you can send me an email [00:32:00] directly, uh, and we can schedule a time to talk and kind of walk through what your areas of need might be and, and how CollegeAdvisor might be able to assist you.

So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. Um, I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a. I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, and then read them out loud before our panelist gives you an answer as a heads up.

If your Q and a tab, isn’t allowing you to submit questions, just double track that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. Our first question is how do I become aware of shifting departmental needs in order to tailor my application to those needs?

So I think the biggest answer there is you’re gonna have to be working with somebody. Uh, you’re gonna have be working with somebody that’s maintaining relationships with these schools, um, understanding, you know, how things are shifting by having [00:33:00] ongoing conversations. Uh, I, I recently had a conversation with one of my former colleagues that I traveled with at U Chicago.

So even though I was at Vanderbilt, I traveled extensively with U Chicago, rice, Dartmouth, uh, and Johns Hopkins. And so I had to question just most, uh, just last week actually, and, and picked up the phone and called Danny. And we had a wonderful conversation about, you know, a certain practice that they’re taking forward, uh, going into the next admission cycle.

So getting help is a, is a great way to do that. Um, what I will tell you is that you can pick up the phone and, and try to call an admissions office, but in that kind of a conversation, they’re not gonna have as much context for you. Um, they’re gonna reveal that to more education affiliated colleagues, uh, that would look at it from a data driven perspective.

All right. And the next question that we have here is what is the largest change you’ve seen in admissions due to COVID 19? Are these changes P. So it, it are, they, permanent is a unique question. [00:34:00] Um, I, I, I don’t think anything is ever permanent. Um, technically the UCS claim that they’re moved to being test blind is permanent, but that was the result of the lawsuit that they settled.

Um, is, is it permanent? No, I, I do not believe things are permanent. I mean, we’re, we’re starting to see a shift, um, with the new, uh, sat T ACTTS that are being develop. To where you’re gonna be able to do ’em from your own home computer. Uh, so to that end, it’s gonna be unique to see as those get released, how much, how much weight is placed on those.

Now that you’re taking it from a home environment, how much schools now appreciate that new test score by that new test design? So, no, I, I would not say that anything is permanent. I, I would say that we are in an evolving situation. Um, and I would say that it’s going to. It’s not gonna get worse. It’s just gonna be providing more reason for you to start double checking everything you’re being told because of the constant shifts that are happening in the marketplace currently.

All righty. [00:35:00] Um, the next question here is from a student who’s wondering, am I at a disadvantage? If I apply test optional to these schools with low acceptance rates. So it, it’s hard to say that you’re gonna be test optional. Uh, what, what I will tell you is it’s hard to say that you’re gonna be the disadvantage of being test optional, but what I will tell you is this, if you go test optional, now, everything else is, is now everything else is valued and weighed two to three times more.

So now your essays, which are already probably the most influential factor of your application are valued two to three X more your activities that you’ve been involved. Now they’re weighted two to three X more. So if you’re lacking in your activities, that relate to what you’re applying for. Um, if you’re maybe in that, I mean, this respectfully, if you’re not the best at, you know, promoting yourself within your own written word within your own written word and drawing attention to yourself that way so that you stand out with your essays.

Yeah. Those, if those are areas of need for you and you’re going [00:36:00] test optional. Yes. That could be a disadvantage.

Got it. Um, and we have a student that’s wondering earlier back in the presentation, you’ve talked about ed and EA admissions rates. And they’re wondering why are ed EA admissions rates higher for colleges if applying early, does it improve my chances at being accepted? So, again, it it’s a case by case basis.

So, uh, the reality here is that ed is a contractually binding agreement. Um, and you’re only allowed to apply to one early decision one school. And if you want to apply early decision two, there are very few schools that offer early decision two. Um, you could apply to one of those, if you wanted to. Now, the advantage by going early decision is because of that contractually bonding agreement.

Most schools are, are gonna be fairly rewarding through that process. Fairly rewarding through that process, like when I was at Vanderbilt, the early decision acceptance rate was 28%, uh, compared to I’m sorry, the early [00:37:00] decision acceptance rate was 28% compared to the 11% acceptance rate. During regular decision.

So it was substantial, but if you go look at the numbers early action versus regular decision, you don’t see that same kind of spread because there’s nothing holding that school, uh, to holding you to that school essentially. Um, and so now it really becomes a case by case basis, uh, based upon individual institution needs things of that nature.

What they’re processing, you know, early may change than what they do during regular. You could. You could be applying to one major, um, that they went a little heavy on last year during the, uh, early action process. So they maybe wanna wait and admit those students in the following year in regular decisions for that particular major, uh, just because they don’t necessarily wanna over enroll.

So you could be, you know, at a lower advantage going early action. One. You’d be better advantaged by going regular decision. That’s what having these ongoing conversations allows [00:38:00] us to be able to do. We’re able to, as former missions officers leverage that form, you know, those contacts and kind of find out what a market is doing for an individual school, uh, to be better advising those who we work with.

got it. Um, and that brings us to the end of the first half of the Q and a, um, make sure to get those questions in for the second half. Um, for now here’s this quick CollegeAdvisor plug, um, for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming the admissions process can be for parents and students alike.

Um, as Farrell stated earlier, Our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions, you can take charge of your family’s college admissions journey by setting up for a free 15 minute strategy session with an admissions expert using the QR code on the screen.[00:39:00]

All right now, back to the Q and a. Um, so we have some more specific questions here. Uh, we have an international student who’s wondering, they’re applying with significant financial need. Should I focus my efforts on need blind schools rather than need aware schools? You, you can’t just limit yourself to need blind schools because there’s, there’s so few of them.

Um, and, and so you, you are gonna have to diversify your list. You know, you’re a student and I don’t know what year you are in school. Um, but you’re a student that I wouldn’t encourage really to start as soon as possible in planning for this. Because instead of only applying to maybe 10 to 12 schools, like I normally would advise, I might advise you to apply to 15 or 16 schools.

Um, but that’s obviously gonna bring a lot more work with it. So you need to provide yourself the time, um, to get all of that done effectively. Um, but I, I would not say to only focus on need blind schools, just because there’s just not that many of them out there. Got it. Um, and there’s another specific question from a student here.[00:40:00]

Um, so it’s a Caucasian male student who isn’t a first generation applicant and they’re concerned about differentiating themselves in the applicant pool. What advice would you give to this student? Did you say is not a first generation student? Yes. They said they’re not first generation and they’re Caucasian male applying, um, as a prospective stem student.

So the reality comes down to what are you doing within your stem interest to set yourself aside from your competition? Right? Internships, research, job, shadowing experiences, passion projects, have, have you pursued that? Have you created extensive, you know, credit, if you will, um, historical, you know, relation to what you wanna study.

If I can go look at you and see, you know, a significant contribution to the field that you’re telling me, you’re wanting to come, you know, and study. Then I, I take you with a lot more value, uh, than most other applicants, because most other applicants are coming in with maybe one connection to what they’re wanting to, you know, come here and major in two at the best you come in with four or five [00:41:00] and six things that connect you to that over, you know, the history of your high school career, you are way more likely for me to take you and stand out just because of that, cuz you’ve already achieved what most kids don’t even come to the table.

Very good advice. Um, so this student is wondering where can I find the data or keep myself updated on admissions trends, any resource recommendations. So that, that is the, the, the $5 million question. Right? So schools. Are not well, private institutions are not required to release their data, um, as evidenced by half of the Ivy league schools this year.

Um, and so public schools are a lot of times though, they’ll release it within, you know, a year to a year and a half after some will try to do it within six months. But, uh, technical standard is they have to release it within a year. Uh, for the public schools, the private schools may or may not release it at all.

There is no one hub for it. [00:42:00] Right. Um, it’s difficult to kind of, you know, track it all. So the sooner that you can start getting your school list in place, you know, freshman year, sophomore year, you can now start, you know, researching and targeting those schools for when they do release that data over sophomore and junior year.

So you can use that information to be, you know, giving you more direct guidance. Uh, but that means again, you have to start getting your schools in place at the earliest part of this process. It’s definitely great advice. Um, the students also wondering for more advice on applying to schools with low admissions rates, how do I make by application competitive?

What advice do you have there? So first and foremost, I mean, academically, you have to be qualified, right? So I, I, I think a lot of students and famous that come and talk to are, are still very much under the, you know, the impression that that was in college missions of 20 years ago, that it’s just GPA test score.

Uh, that is completely false. Um, GPA and test score just determined if we even open your application or not, if you are not qualified, they will auto deny you there. And then, uh, and, and I hate to say it so directly, but it [00:43:00] needs to be said. Um, I think a lot of people are, are holding on to wishes and not facts.

So your academic standards first and foremost, if you’re not academically qualified, they will not review you. Um, number two, Are you allowing these schools to get to know you via what you are submitting about yourself, uh, in your application, are you personifying yourself through your essays? Are you essentially becoming vulnerable?

So they truly understand what makes you tick and what gets you excited? Right. Um, through there, have you, you know, been represented well by, you know, letters, recommendation that can truly speak to your individualism, but also the, the persons you are within. Current school community, um, that really allows us to feel that you are gonna be the right addition to this culture, to this community.

And, and I, I think circling back one more time to, to essays. One of the biggest ways is you need to make us feel that you are the right fit. And I, and I, I hate using the word fit, cuz that’s what everybody wants to run with. It’s been around [00:44:00] since my first year in college admissions. And since before then, but my, my point is is that your essays are probably your best opportunity to really prove that you’re the right.

And what I mean by that is that if you can genuinely tailor each individual essay to the school that it’s going to, by incorporating your knowledge of that school’s culture and community within it, while also authenticating yourself within that school culture, why wouldn’t we accept you as long as you’re academically qualified it it’s, it’s pretty difficult to walk away from a student that can.

Um, this student is wondering about essays. How do I approach the common app essay? How do I figure out a topic that will make me stand. So first and foremost, talk about something that you actually can talk about. And, and I say that not to be a smart LIC or anything like that. Um, but you know, I, I don’t want you to become, if you’re not an expert on something, don’t make this new topic that you have no real history knowledge of, you know, what you suddenly wanna discuss [00:45:00] in your college application.

Talk about things that make you comfortable, uh, talk about personal experiences. If, if that’s a topic that you choose, that’ll allow you to kind of highlight some of your own personal experiences. Maybe you wanna share kinda your motivations behind a certain pathway, that’s fine, but whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you have evidence to support.

You can provide plenty of examples of, um, plenty of examples within your a four, um, and, and make sure that in some way, shape or form that it’s illustrating you. Um, you know, I, I hate it when, and I don’t wanna tell students not to select any particular topic, but I, I, I do hate it when a student takes a topic.

And they don’t provide me any context that, of who they really are. Um, I want you to try to be circling a topic back to revealing you to me because you may be a really talented writer, but if I still don’t think that you’re gonna be, you know, best served by being here in my institution specifically, I’m gonna probably pass.[00:46:00]

Got it. Um, this student is wondering about passion projects is a passion project necessary. How do I start a passion project? Yeah. So I wouldn’t say that they’re necessary, but I, I think they’re phenomenal. And, um, you know, I, I think a passion project can substitute for some research or, uh, something like that, but yeah, I mean, I, I would definitely have job shadowing.

Um, For sure. I would try to have, if you’re doing a science based program, um, you know, I would, or an engineering based program, I would try to. Internships research, if you can. Uh, and then passion projects can be used for anything, which is the beautiful thing about them. And yet it’s one of the most thrown around terms right now in college admissions.

And yet the minority students do them. It’s not the majority. Um, so when you can start something from the ground up and build it over time and, and show your long term commitment to it, that always impressed me more than just going and joining some preexisting club, especially when it was related to [00:47:00] what you were applying.

Right. Uh, not taking away anything from preexisting clubs or anything like that at a school. Um, those are great, but just the grit that it takes to stay with something that you’ve built from the ground up long term. I, I have a significant appreciation for that. Um, so that’s why passion projects, I think, are such a great option for students, especially students that live, you know, in, in states where maybe they’re a little bit more remote, uh, or maybe they’re mistake currently that still.

Longstanding COVID protocols in place. So certain types of like medical internships are almost nonexistence, still passion projects are a wonderful way to demonstrate that connection to what it is you’re applying for. Got it. And would you say that students that hail from more competitive high schools or those feeder schools that you refer to earlier have a more difficult time applying to colleges?

Ooh, that it’s a loaded question because not all those kids are applying to the same school. So it’s a loaded question. Um, so I, I [00:48:00] can’t effectively give you an answer to that because there’s not gonna be any significant data to prove it, uh, to, to suggest one way or the other. I, I would say it’s, uh, an and I’m not attempting to be disrespectful here.

I would say that is something I’m not concerned about at all. Um, you’re gonna be as long as you’re academically. Qualified then you’re gonna be discussed if you’re coming out of that same high school and you’re not academically qualified, it doesn’t matter. Right. Uh, so it all, it all comes down to your achievement, your ability.

Um, and then it’s obviously from there influenced by all the different schools that kids are applying to. You know, I, I, I talk to kids all the time that are at the number one public school, their state, um, you know, or a top private school, you know, in their state and they don’t wanna go. Top 50 schools, you know, they’re maybe number five in their class and they, they wanna stay a little bit closer to home.

They wanna stay regional maybe within an hour from home. And you know, those other, you know, highly ranked schools. Aren’t what they’re looking for. Maybe there’s a very particular program at a, at a regional school that they’ve just really [00:49:00] become, you know, impassioned by. Uh, and, and that’s why they wanna be right.

So it’s, every student is different and just because they go to a, you know, some of those quote unquote feeders, it doesn’t make them any less competitive. Got it. Um, that seems to be the last question of our Q and a. Um, thank you so much to everyone for coming out tonight and thank you to our panelists.

Um, Yes, that’s the end of our webinar. We had a really great time telling you about low acceptance rates and here’s our June series. Um, we have finding college community as an LGBTQ plus student tomorrow evening and building your college list to round out the month on the 29th. Have a great evening everyone.

And thank you.