College Counseling Report to the Roeper Board of Directors, June 2014
College Counseling for the Class of 2014 presented unique opportunities as well as challenges.
As stressful as this process is year in and year out, external forces this past year intervened to create and intensify the challenge.
The expanded use of the “Common Application”—over 500 colleges in 2013-14 with more to follow, including many public universities—has had the effect of encouraging students to apply to an increasingly large variety of colleges—1) “Let’s just send in one more, it doesn’t even have a supplement” or 2) “I’d better apply to a lot of colleges to so I can get into at least one of them”—increasing the applicant pool nation-wide, causing “selectivity” to rise/admission rates to plummet, and college admissions officers to deal with the uncertainty of who was likely to enroll. Whereas a generation ago, students may have applied to one or two colleges, giving each college a 1 in 2 chance the admitted student would attend, or 1 in 4 or 5 even a few years ago, in many cases currently colleges are facing the prospect that their admitted students are looking at 10, 15 or more other colleges.
Colleges countered by deferring (putting off decisions until second semester) or wait-listing (putting their “not quite so admissible” students on a list they would tap if not enough of their “preferred” admitted students chose to enroll.). “Demonstrated Interest” (did the student visit, be in regular email contact, request information, etc.?) came increasingly into play. Colleges that use Early Decision (applying in the fall with a guarantee to attend if admitted—the ultimate “demonstrated interest”) in many cases took larger percentages of their students ED.
Add to that the shrinking world and the growing aim to “diversify” a college campus. Students have become progressively more likely to look at the US as one region and expand their location options. One quick (and lucrative) way to diversify a campus is to grow the number/percentage of international students. A recent article (quoted in the May 13 Roeper Record) cited Harvard as having 27% fewer spots for American students than just ten years ago.
Local case in point:
When the University of Michigan began using the Common Application in fall of 2011, the headline in the Ann Arbor News (10/24/11) was University of Michigan’s switch to Common App expected to bump freshman applications over 40,000.
Two years later, when I predicted they would hit 50,000 applications, I was off by only a few hundred.
Their response: Although their reported deadline is February 1, Students applying to the U of M “Early Action” (by November 1) are guaranteed some kind of decision by December 24; this decision could be: Accepted, Denied or Deferred. Because of their exponential application growth—both in terms of numbers and quality of applicants—U of M Admissions could have filled their freshman class several times over before the post-November 1 applicants were even considered. The result? Growing numbers of students who were even recently considered to be “automatic admits” were deferred. Fall 2013 was simply the most recent product of this mushrooming trend, causing grave anxiety among students who had begun high school thinking they were doing what they needed to do to “guarantee” a spot at the University of Michigan.
Project this out: Brown University, considered by some to be “Roeper East” denied admission to nearly 92% of their applicants this year, a new record for them. Stanford, holding the record this year for the most selective college, rejected 95%. Colleges once considered “safety” schools were an uncertain, or even unattainable goal for applicants who in recent years would have been shoe-ins.
The Roeper experience, Class of 2014:
The Common Application was completely revamped this fall, the legendary year of the “Botched Rollout,” and students and recommenders spent hours at computers, waiting for applications and recommendations submissions to go through. Supplemental essays were lost in cyberspace; deadlines were extended.
And yet, it all worked!
270 applications were sent out on time to 136 separate institutions, including teacher and counselor recommendations. Students applied to a diverse list of colleges and were accepted to 94 of them (many multiples). The class of 2014 includes artists, musicians, scientists, actors, athletes, engineers, writers and scholars, and the colleges they will attend reflect the variety of interests, talents and strengths of these unique human beings. By thinking “outside the box” they found post-secondary institutions as unique as they are, including such “safety” schools as the University of Michigan. There is no question that they were faced with an unmatched amount of anxiety due to the unprecedented uncertainty in the brave new world of college admissions. The old Chinese curse: “May you live in exciting times” certainly applies to these young people, and I firmly believe they are better equipped to face this new world than even they can imagine.
It has been an honor and a privilege to intersect with Roeper staff and with students as they continue on that great marathon of life they have begun here at Roeper. I am interested in doing my part in continuing the tradition of the Roeper philosophy and how it plays out in the lives of students.
Patricia Bostwick, MA, LPC
Director of College Counseling
The Roeper School