Emerging College Application Trends

During the past few college application seasons, new trends have begun to emerge. Some of these trends are part of the evolution of the college application while others are simply gaining more popularity with colleges. It also seems that as one college amends their application, other comparable colleges oftentimes implement similar changes.

Self Reporting Grades

As paper applications are retired and applications are completed online, a few extra mouse clicks mean applying to multiples colleges (see Common Application below). To prevent an abundance of paperwork, colleges are allowing ‘Self Reporting Grades.’ Colleges empower students to report their academic grades. As students apply to an increased number of schools, the number of applications per school grows, creating less time to review applications. Allowing students to report their own grades creates a more efficient process for all involved. Of course, the student’s honesty is expected as transcripts are eventually sent prior to final admission. Yet, schools have seen few circumstances of students falsifying grades.

Holistic Review

A Holistic Review is when an admissions office reviews a candidate’s entire application to determine acceptance. Many factors are considered, such as: grades, standardized test schools, rigor of high school courses attempted, Advance Placement courses, extracurricular activities and leadership positions held.

An increasing number of colleges are turning to holistic review, especially smaller, more competitive schools, in order to hand pick an ideal freshmen class. This allows colleges to diversify their student body and ensure the needs of the school are met. This could mean anything from selecting conservative students on a liberal campus, admitting students from underrepresented states to a sousaphone player for the band. This method controls the creation of the ideal freshmen class, while not restricting itself to standardized test scores and grades.

Common Application

One large reason colleges review applicants holistically is due to the Common Application. This application is used by 548 college and universities worldwide. Schools who agree to use this application agree to review a student holistically, not simply through academics.
Students complete a ‘common’ core of questions regarding their academic background, along with their extracurricular activities. Students will also upload documents such as letters of recommendation and transcripts. Lastly, applicants are expected to answer one of the five essay prompts. Once complete, students can submit an application to numerous colleges at once. Colleges may add additional questions, or even a supplemental essay to the application, ranging from one to seven questions. An increasing number of schools are using this application system, as it is growing in size (31 new schools added in 2014). For more information on the Common App, read this blog post.

Test Optional

As schools are moving to holistically reviewing student applications, an increasing number of colleges are moving away from ‘gross’ numbers by becoming test optional. This means, for various reasons, students may choose to report their standardized test results to the school. If a student chooses not to report their ACT or SAT scores, colleges have less information to review. This creates a stronger emphasis on information such as grade point average, rigorous course work outstanding extracurricular activities and a dynamic college essay to showcase the entire student’s body of work.

If you are interested in any of these topics or have other questions, please leave a comment for discussion. If you would like to know more information regarding any of these points, please contact us.

Thomas Jaworski is the lead consultant of Quest College Consulting. He is an Independent College Counselor with over ten years experience in the college admission process as an Certified Illinois Teacher (Type 09) and Counselor (Type 73) while also a member of IECA and NACAC. For more information, you can visit his website at QuestCollegeConsulting.com or email him at tjaworski@QuestCollegeConsulting.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_QuestCC or on Facebook at Facebook.com/QuestCollegeConsulting

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *