Sunday, January 26, 2014

Post-season Wrap Up, Sort of...

Now that the last RD deadline has passed, I have time to sum up what this application round was like. I worked with 63 students, from as far away as Canada, Mexico and China, on essay development and editing, and walked many students through the complexities of the new and purportedly improved Common App, a challenge all its own, as if the admissions process isn't stressful enough! I also experienced the sheer pleasure of hearing students I worked with were admitted to their first choices. One especially grateful student sent me an orchid! I also helped a lot of students find that one last likely school just to make sure every sleeps well between now and April. All in all, it was a VERY busy six months, but I loved almost every moment of it. I loved meeting so many super kids, many of whom focused their energies on writing thoughtful essays and meeting deadlines, staying on top of all the details that needed to be attended to, and never hesitating to ask a question if they just weren't sure. I was also happy to field more than a few phone calls, emails and texts from nervous parents, and help them find some measure of peace!

So, as in the past few years, the schools with the lowest admit rates were even more selective this year. ED/EA/REA/SCEA acceptance stats dropped again for the Ivies, Stanford, UChicago and their peers. Those with slightly less competitive admissions also saw increases in their numbers of ED/EA applicants, and lower admit rates. Overall, the top 50 or so schools all saw increases in the number of applications, even those that had seen slight declines last year.  As predicted, admissions are not getting any easier at the higher ranked schools and are getting even more competitive at the less competitive schools.

The Common App was a major headache for hundreds of thousands of students. I received many panicked phone calls, texts and emails asking me why PDFs were blank, why the Common App was crashing or not recognizing previously used login info, and that Naviance was not showing any recommendations or transcripts had been requested or sent! I spent hours sitting with students as they filled out the Common App, if only to assure them they were doing it right. I suggested filling everything out and setting the alarm for 4 AM to submit, hoping that less traffic on the site would enable proper submission. Almost every school that had an ED/EA/SCEA/REA deadline extended it for a week or more in recognition of the problems students were having. Many also extended their RD deadlines, aware that there is even more traffic the days before 1/1/14. Let's hope that Eric Furda, UPenn's Dean of Admissions and the incoming President of the Common App will sort out these issues before the next admissions round!

Here are the lessons learned from this round of applications:

  • Do NOT wait until the night before the deadline to submit your Common App!
  • Start thinking about and drafting your essay in August before you are overwhelmed by the start of school
  • Finish your junior year with the best grades you can muster!
  • Ask your favorite teachers, or those for whom you have produced great work, if they will write you a letter of recommendation BEFORE the end of the year, instead of in September, so they have time over the summer to think about how they can highlight what makes you an outstanding applicant. 
  • If your standardized testing outcomes are disappointing, check out and see how many great schools do not require SATs or ACTs. 
  • Take advantage of your counselor's relative free time now and make an appointment to review your plans for next year. Remember they will be writing a recommendation for you too!
  • Start visiting if you haven't already! Make a list of your possible schools and do some day trips and plan an overnight or two.
  • Create a list of your ECs so you have something to work from when completing the Common App next fall. It goes live on 8/1!