The College Admission season is in full swing and it brings it usual stresses.
However in the world of intergenerational planning, it’s a unique opportunity for families to discuss their core values and the development of their kid’s personal narratives. It is chance for families to collaborate on a life changing decision around the kids future- a process in which the engaged kids have a vested interest! Finally, it’s often the first instance where kids experience the judgment of their personal narratives by the outside world.
To help us dive deeper into this concept, I’m going to speak with LINDSAY TANNE
Lindsay is the Founder and CEO of LOGICPREP.
As a leading College Admissions Advisor, Lindsay helps students around the world develop and tell their stories and identify their best-fit schools. Over the past decade, she and her team have helped thousands of families successfully navigate the college application and higher education landscape.
There’s been so much news coverage around college admissions and how last cycle was the most competitive one ever. Is it really as crazy out there as it seems?
- Yes and no…
- More applications for the same number of spots – which means lower acceptance rates are a reality
- Imagine you were applying to Columbia 2 years ago – you were one of 40,000. Well, last admissions cycle, you’re up against 60,000 other students.
- At MIT, for example, applications were up 66%
- Simply put, at highly selective schools in particular, the pond expanded
- It’s not that you’re a smaller fish
- It’s just that the pond got bigger
- But there’s one thing in particular I want to point: only 2.4% more students applied BUT applications were up 11%
- Basically, this means that the increase came from students applying to more schools rather than more students applying overall
- Less data available
- Transcripts were less reliable in this last admissions cycle as education moved online
- Additionally, during the pandemic, almost every school had to go test optional – meaning they wouldn’t require the SAT/ACT – as a temporary accommodation since the tests kept getting cancelled
- As a result, students did not feel constrained by test score ranges and more students were open to the possibility of applying to highly selective schools than ever before
- In a sense, it’s like the lock on the front gate appeared to be loosened at the most competitive universities – since test scores no longer stood as a barrier to entry -more students felt emboldened to apply
- Ultimately, not as full of surprises as people might think (90% acceptance rate for LP to 1 of top 3 schools)
- The criteria for evaluation hasn’t fundamentally changed, but the weight assigned to each category has
- More subjective, less quantifiable
- Test scores were optional
- Transcripts were less reliable – online school, pass/fail
- Plus, with limitations on extracurriculars, there were even fewer avenues to demonstrate leadership and passion
What actually counts in the college application process? How do you help your child stand out?
- Basically, the college admissions process is founded upon three pillars:
- Academic Record – transcript and its rigor, what classes you take and your grades
- Standardized Test Scores – SAT/ACT
- Personal Narrative – your activities, how you spend your summers, teacher recommendations, what it is what makes you who you are
- 2020, of course, was an unusual year – but things are changing slightly….
- These pillars still stand (though some might be shakier than others)
- However, the weight or emphasis, of each of these pillars has been challenged
- These pillars still stand (though some might be shakier than others)
So what is the impact on the test-optional trend on college admissions?
- First, let’s define: what is test optional?
- SAT/ACT not required; considered if submitted
- What is test blind?
- SAT/ACT not evaluated at all; very few schools fit into this category, though it does include the UC system
- The 2021 admissions cycle has really been an extension of 2020 – more schools offering test optional admissions a temporary adjustment to their policies
- We have to acknowledge that the past cycle and coming one are functioning as an experiment – what does it mean to not require test scores?
- We don’t know yet, but I do think the option will remain at many schools, especially those who had been contemplating this shift prior to the onset of COVID
- Despite these changes, I want to talk about why scores still matter
- At the end of the day, they’re one more component for admissions officers to evaluate – and a concrete one
- Scores contextualize grades – transcripts are variable, not all schools are known to AOs
- Especially important for international students where the schools/grading systems are less universally understood
- Also important for students from selective high schools where the local competition is especially intense
- Anecdotally, our most successful students applying to the most selective schools did have strong testing
- Most importantly: narrative is more important than ever now
- Deemphasizing testing means that other subjective factors such as your essay, teacher recommendations, and leadership matter more.
- First, students are applying to more schools – since it seems the gates have been loosened – so demonstrating interest matters
- Really about creating a thoughtful and intentional list and defining the “why” in a way that hasn’t mattered as much in the past
- At the end of the day, with more applicants, colleges are even more invested in managing their yield – they want to know who is going to say yes to their offer
- This is where the idea of impact comes in – how have you demonstrated depth of commitment and made a difference?
- So much of the selective process is tied to the idea of narrative now
- We encourage our students to deeply pursue their interests in creative ways, take classes online – the whole world has become more accessible – and brainstorm projects that reflect their passions and strengths
What is the value of a college education? How do I know what the right fit is for my child – from a financial perspective, a career one, etc.?
- Genuinely believe that where a student feels engaged and happy – they will thrive
- It’s about the people you meet, the relationships you develop as much as what happens in the classroom – so, what environments will be most conducive to that?
- Think about whether grad school is part of the plan (what is the matriculation? grades matter more)
- When it comes to the job search, what firms recruit?
- It’s all about fit!
Well, then, how does my child educate him/herself about fit?
- Virtual tours
- Visit college campuses – sit in on a class, read the school newspaper
- Reach out to your network – talk to current students and recent alums
- Partner with a team who can help students not only evaluate the schools themselves but get to know themselves more deeply
- Should be able to answer the questions of what motivates them, what kind of environments they thrive in, what they hope to gain out of their education so that they can develop an appropriate list
If a student thinks they want to go into business, is an undergraduate business degree the only path? The best one?
- Many of the most selective colleges – say Harvard or Brown or Pomona – don’t even offer undergraduate business
- The idea at a liberal arts curriculum – which these schools offer – is the following:
- Hands on
- Teaches you to ask questions and differentiate opinion from fact
- How to connect with different kinds of people – diversity of thinking – learn how to make decisions based on different points of view
- Better problem solving
- These are all things employers value
- Skills can be learned on the job, but not how to think
- So if an MBA is likely to be part of the ultimate plan, worth taking a real pause before diving into an undergraduate business program
- For example:
- Reed Hastings
- CEO of Netflix
- Bowdoin College, Math Major
- Susan Wojcicki
- CEO of YouTube
- Harvard, History & Literature
- Howard Schultz
- CEO of Starbucks
- Communications, Northern Michigan University
- Bob Igyer
- CEO of The Walt Disney Company
- Communications, Ithaca College
- Reed Hastings
The college process is so fraught with anxiety and stress – what can families do to mitigate that?
- Start early
- Remember your education is happening now
- Rely on experts
- Beyond guiding the process, i alleviates the burden on parents to push teh student along – and therefore removes some of the stress from the family
- Plus, teenagers are much more likely to listen to people who aren’t their parents (even if we’re all saying the same thing!)
Beyond that, rather than succumbing to the stress, Is there a way to turn the application process into a way to actually instill values?
- Social impact projects – give examples of students utilizing their families’ resources to make a difference
- Tell all students who are interested in studying business to get a job (and it doesn’t have to be a fancy internship either)
- Ideally, the college process should be an exploratory one – and a right of passage
- Helping students identify all of their accomplishments & goals should build confidence and help them establish his identify/wants/dreams/etc
- It’s also an opportunity for them to really make decisions and own them – including the consequences – when it comes to weighing risk around strategy (early decision, etc.)
What does personal branding look like in the college application process?
- For me, it’s about narrative building
- Not just about finding a “brand” but about following your curiosity and connecting the dots
- We encourage our students to think about what sparks their genuine interest – and then to seek opportunities that cultivate it (in the form of internships, after school activities, personal projects, etc.)
- Online image matters too – have helped students create websites to demonstrate their impact, encourage them to think now about what happens when people Google their names
- Also a potential danger zone – know that admissions officers can and will check social media so operate accordingly! Not going to be an immediate “go to” (they’re reading through so so much paper) but if there’s a reason to check they will