2023 Admission Predictions…and Hopes

Last week I had the opportunity to answer this prompt in a Higher Ed Dive article, along with a few friends and colleagues around the country: In 150-200 words, what is one admissions trend you expect to see in 2023?  

Here was my take: 

In the year ahead, due to the emergence and prevalence of artificial intelligence software such as ChatGPT, I expect more colleges to either drop their admission essay altogether or expand the format through which students can convey their voice and demonstrate their ability to articulate their opinions and interest. 

This could take the form of proctored writing samples, graded essays from their high school, a rise in the use of unscripted interviews, or various mediums and platforms for students and their supporters to submit information, i.e. voice recorded recommendations or video elevator pitches. 

Removing barriers to apply and simplifying the application process in general will be particularly important due to the pending Supreme Court case on affirmative action, and the desire of colleges and universities to preserve a diverse applicant pool. To that end, expect more colleges to make announcements ending legacy preferences and launching transfer pathway programs geared toward historically underrepresented students. 

The first half of my response (AI, essays, broader submission mediums) elicited a number of emails and social media messages which fell into one of two camps: A: You are wrong.  B: I hope you are wrong. The good news for those of you who disagree is that you don’t have to look far back on this very blog to see my many errant prognostications.  

Normally, I don’t mind being wrong, but in this case I hope I’m not. Here’s why- and here’s what I hope we will see. 

Ask most admission counselors what they’re looking for in an application essay and you will get some version of “we just want to hear the student’s voice.” Well, let’s solve for that? The truth is that many of these essays are already overly sanitized or professionally tailored/ tampered with already. I hope the Common Application and Coalition Application will modernize their platforms and integrate technology that allows us to more directly hear and/or see students, and the adults that support them.  

Allowing for voice recorded responses, or short video clips, is the student’s voice. Yes, I understand this would mean parameters and controls, so another cottage industry does not emerge but stick with me for a moment. Changing the medium of delivery to audio/video – or at least providing it as an option- gives a much better sense of how a student would engage in the classroom or on campus than the essay. Importantly, if these are limited to a minute or so, it does not add time to review for colleges- and could be a welcome reprieve for the tired eyes of admission readers. (Companies like Initial View are offering this for students).  

Same for school counselors or teachers. While they could still send written recommendations, if that was their preference (and use AI at will), the truth is most American students attend public schools where counselor: student ratios are an utter travesty at several hundred to one. My hope is we can make it easier for these folks by allowing them to advocate for their students in mediums they are comfortable with in 2023, i.e., voice/video. I don’t want a student’s boss from Subway having to login and submit a rec letter, but I think there would be value in hearing them say, “she’s the only person outside of my family who I allow to have the keys to the store.” 

Several folks who messaged me “could not see colleges doing away with the essay.” Maybe you are right. Maybe higher ed really moves that slowly and the essays will persist in current form a good bit longer. But AI is here, and students will be using it during their K12 and college admission experience. As a result, I agree with the notion that ChatGPT and others will move students more to editing mode than author mode. Ultimately, if a student wants to use AI to create their prompt responses, that’s their choice.  

With that said, while my prediction is some schools will drop the conventional admission essay altogether, my hope Common Application and Coalition Application will at least install software that screens for AI use and displays that result to students prior to submission. This will give students a chance to decide if they want to edit further or proceed, especially since colleges maintaining essays could very well run similar scans on their side post-submission.  

My biggest hope is the Supreme Court will not overturn decades of national precedent and will continue to allow colleges to responsibly use race as “one of many factors” to recruit students, make admission decisions, award scholarships, and more. (More on why providing more data not less is important in holistic review from my Fisher vs. Texas blog).

However, my prediction is SCOTUS will make affirmative action illegal and we will see a downturn in underrepresented undergradaute student enrollments, particularly at state flagships and selective privates- the American higher education experience will be further devalued as a result. And even with the reduced percentages of black and brown students on many college campuses, we won’t see a reduction in the number of entitled, privileged people complaining about not getting into Stanvard each April.   

Agree, disagree, forward, or delete—I appreciate you reading. An exchange with people from various backgrounds showing up to listen, respect, and learn from one another is how we add value and make progress…. I just hope the Supreme Court agrees.  

Juniors, College Admission is a Stereogram

On Saturday night I was at a party. In these settings, when I am talking to people I don’t know very well, I find they generally broach a few central topics with me- sports/running, my kids/their school, and college/college admission- not always in that order.  

While it may surprise you based on this blog or our podcast, my goal is always to move as quickly away from the college admission discussion as possible, especially when people start breaking out their daughter’s transcript. I’m still working on my segways to different subjects, and admittedly, some are smoother than others. To this point, I’ve only had to resort to my nuclear options (pretend like my phone is ringing or fake a coughing fit) twice.  

Saturday night I pulled an amazing transition that took us from a spiraling commentary on standardized test scores to reminiscing about the prevalence of “stereogram” posters in college dorm rooms in the 90s. For those of you born after I graduated college, a stereogram is an image that gives a three-dimensional representation of another object. While I do not have the sales data for my time at UNC, I’d put stereogram posters just below Air Jordan, but decidedly ahead of album covers or motivational quotes on landscapes.  

The trick to seeing the hidden 3D objects is not to focus on the poster itself, but instead to allow your eyes to see “into” the colors and let the real image take shape. In some cases, you need to close your eyes and reset, change positions, or step away momentarily to see beyond what your eyes are naturally trained to recognize. Try a few for yourself here. 

Admission as Stereogram 

January and February are extremely common times for high schools to host programs for juniors.  “College Kick Off,” “Starting the College Conversation,” and “Admission 101” are a few of the panel titles I’ve seen recently. Often, the moderator will ask, “What is one thing you would like to leave folks with before we conclude?” Over the years, I’ve had a variety of responses, but one of the most important is- focus on what really matters to you, rather than being distracted by many of the initial or obvious components of the college admission search. Like a stereogram, look into what you see. And more importantly, look beyond what you see.  

Applications are not the REAL picture. Many colleges around the country had final deadlines in early January. Invariably, they will produce a myriad of press releases, infographics, and social media posts about “record numbers” of applications or comparisons to prior years; journalists write articles about application increases and decreases by sector or geographic region; educational companies create tables to compare app numbers across universities; and university boards will either tout or bemoan this specific metric. As a student considering colleges, I’m encouraging you not to focus on application numbers- and definitely not to use this as a comparative tool between schools.   

Why? Because application counts are not apples: apples. Many people will equate the number of applications a school receives as some barometer for popularity or value. The truth is colleges often count and publicize their total applications even if they are not “actionable.” As an example, this year Georgia Tech received over 52,000 applications. That is a lot. And it’s a lot more than last year or five years ago. It’s also more than some schools and less than others (I know. You are here for the mind-blowing data). Georgia Tech, however, at the direction of our state system, requires test scores. Currently, 4500 of our applicants have not submitted a test score. Still, when asked about app totals we will report over 52,000 received, because some portion of that 4500 will ultimately become “complete.” Other schools have multiple steps and stages in their application process. If you only complete Part One of four, the odds are they are counting you in their reports, even though you were not ultimately a viable candidate for admission.  

Admit rates are blurry. I get it. They seem straightforward. You see an admit rate in a column on some online table or presentation and think, “Got it.” Nope. See, that’s exactly how people felt back in the day walking into college dorm rooms. “Nice poster, man. I like all the random colors and swirling lines.”  

Look closer. Step away if you need to. Admit rates vary within the same institution. Where you are applying from, when you are applying, and sometimes what you are applying to study all enhance the swirl and blur of the stereogram. For instance, if you are applying to a school with Early Decision, it’s important to ask questions and do your homework to determine any gaps or variance between applying under that plan vs. Early Action or Regular Decision or some other acronym, date, or plan they may offer. If you are applying to a public school, ask about admit rates for students from in-state or out-of-state, or even students from “my state” or region of the country.  

For far too long colleges have boasted about (and people have assigned disproportionate value to) the number of students a school turns away. My hope is you will be more interested in determining the type of people who are actually on campus, rather than who or how many did not end up there. 

The Real Image 

Rankings, number of benches on campus, student: squirrel/deer ratio…. I could list many other numbers that people tout or hold up as signs of quality or importance. As this new year begins, I am hopeful you will treat your college admission experience like a stereogram. Numbers, percentages, and many of the other statistics are where people too often start and focus. I’m not saying you should completely ignore all admission data, but beginning by quantifying, especially now knowing how jacked up some of this data really is, can prevent you from seeing all of your choices and options. And they often create a blurry, swirling, initial picture that distracts you from focusing on the true image—YOU.  

As a junior, start by asking yourself questions that have nothing to do with numbers. Why do I want to go to college? What type of people bring out my best? What environments bring out my best as a person and a learner? What are my short- and long-term goals? If you will invest your time honestly considering what you really care about and what you want; if you will periodically step back, close your eyes, and re-focus, then you’ll find plenty of colleges that align with your answers. College admission is a stereogram– have the patience and perspective to allow it to emerge and take shape like a 3D image.  

The Role of Parents/Caregivers in College Admission

My daughter’s birthday party was last Friday. Long story short, it involved a frenzied and surprisingly competitive neighborhood- wide scavenger hunt, copious amounts of half- eaten pizza slices, a sugar fueled late-night living room dance party, and periodic tween screaming that hit notes any soprano would commend. Good times were had and only one slight injury occurred. I mainly just supplied food, cleaned up, and sought refuge when the music started.

Somewhere amidst the generally controlled chaos, Elizabeth opened presents from her friends, which I discovered based on the strewn pieces of wrapping paper and gift receipts I found in corners of the living room the next day. “So, what did you get?” She rattled off a few of the gifts and proudly displayed her new “cozy Christmas socks,” which she’d apparently slept in.

“But you know what I’m most excited about, right?!” she asked breaking into a grin.

Yep! When are y’all going?

“TODAY! I can’t wait!” eyes brightening, smile widening.

Me: What are you going to get?

“I HAVE NO IDEA!” a smile seeming to reach full capacity.

Why are you yelling?

Same response. Same exuberance.

Each year after Christmas, my aunt has a tradition of taking Elizabeth out for lunch and shopping for something she wanted but did not get, or later realized she was interested in. This year my mom decided a similar experience would be the best birthday gift she could give.

These two are like peas in a pod. Despite a 60-year age difference, they have a ton in common. They just get each other. “Get each other” as in Elizabeth regularly says, “I want to go live with Oma.” It’s sweet on most days, moderately offensive on others, and tempting to look into occasionally.

What Elizabeth loves about these shopping trips is that she gets to choose the music they play in the car, select the restaurant they go to for lunch, where to shop, and what item she ultimately wants. In the end, neither the meal nor the gift end up being extravagant- Moe’s and a sweatshirt to give you a recent example. But it’s the freedom. The choices. And the time together. She LOVES it!

Shopping!!

When Oma showed up, her first question was, “So, where do you want to go?” She was open and excited about their time together. On that particular day, Elizabeth knew exactly where she wanted to go to lunch, and she had a few stores in mind to check out, but generally she was just looking for “jeans.”

Jeans. Especially right now this is a broad category- “Mom” jeans, skinny jeans, tailored fit, athletic fit, I’m sure Google and Instagram would provide another five categories easily. And then you have length, color, material, buttons, zippers, rips, location of rips, size of rips, and that’s before you talk about cost, brand, etc. Ultimately, they went to two or three stores and Elizabeth scanned the racks, tried on a variety of jeans, and weighed her options. Ultimately, she was torn between a few options and wanted my mom’s opinion to make help her final decision.

I’ll admit I find it moderately disturbing that as they were relaying their day to me the first thing I thought about was this blog, which is clearly a me problem. But it is true. Over the years, on panels or webinars, I’ve heard countless responses from colleagues to the question, “What is the role of parents in the college admission experience?” Inevitably, you’ll hear analogies about driver and passenger or pilot and co-pilot. But the longer I do this work, and the older my own kids get, the more convinced I am that the role of a parent/caregiver is a lot like my mom’s trip to lunch and shopping with my daughter for her birthday. And it all centers around choices and options.

Openness, Excitement, and Curiosity

My daughter knew my mom was excited about the adventure of driving around, seeing what they might discover, giving her opinion but honoring Elizabeth’s unique style and interests, and asking questions so they could ultimately find the jeans that “fit” her best. As a parent, especially while your student is in the sophomore and junior year, my hope is you will commit to a similar posture. Vigilantly ask questions, consistently observe, and really listen to what they are saying they want/need. Help them research and learn about the many schools where they could thrive and be open to visiting a wide variety of campuses. Let go of any stereotypes or dated reputations you may be holding onto. You know them best as a person and a learner, so trust your gut rather than rankings or the opinions of others when it comes to creating a list of schools to visit or apply to.

Don’t miss the final part of the story. Ultimately, Elizabeth wanted my mom’s opinion because she had been given the freedom to choose. As parents, of course we want to be consulted and weigh in. But the ability to provide that final input starts by holding back and in the beginning.

Your Presence is the Gift

Does that section heading sound a little cheesy? In this season of gift giving, hope, and thankfulness, I’m good with that because it is true. As I’ve said directly and have proven through my errant predictions on this blog over the years, there are many things I don’t know or understand. But what two decades of working in education and having two kids of my own has taught me is that parents and caregivers love their kids. We want to provide for them and see them happy. Often, we convince ourselves that revolves around a particular outcome, i.e., something they need to get/do/be, so we attempt to control the outcome or steer things in a particular direction.

On the shopping trip, in contrast, the adventure together was as much of the gift as the jeans they ultimately purchased. When Elizabeth and my mom came home that day, they were giddy—laughing, talking about what they had done and seen, and as excited about their time as they were about the purchase.

All metaphors break down eventually, and while I thought this one was pretty good, I also acknowledge that college admission can be stressful or tense because it combines money, deadlines, periods of uncertainty, and the inevitable beginning of a new chapter for everyone. But it also provides families an opportunity to grow closer through the shared experience.

Lots of admission decisions have recently come out, or soon will be in the weeks and months ahead. If your student is deferred, denied, or waitlisted, you are not going to have all the answers or be able to guarantee how everything will resolve. But you do have an opportunity to remind them that you love them, you are proud of them, you are for them, and you are there for them. Your presence is the gift. In the end, how they end up going to college, and the way you build your relationship with them this year, is far more important than where they ultimately go to school.

The Role of Parents/Caregivers in College Admission

As a parent, the good news is you have been down this road before. So many of the decisions and sacrifices you have made over time have been to set your child up for having short- and long-term choices and options. The truth is that this is just one more chapter in that relationship story. Stay open, curious, excited, and most importantly- simply present.

So, the next time I’m on a panel or webinar and the question about the role of a parent/caregiver comes up, be assured I’m refencing this blog series. I am convinced that what colleges want, the blueprint for students, and the ultimate focus of parents is the same—Choices and Options.

Choices and Options- A Blueprint for College Admission

Would you rather eat a bowl of worms or drink a gallon of sour milk? 

Would you rather walk to school naked one day or walk to school backwards every day? 

Would you rather sit on a nail or stand on a push pin? 

These are just a few of the queries I overheard recently at a sixth-grade girls spend the night party. Hold on. Let me clarify- I have a sixth-grade daughter and I was washing dishes while they were playing this game in the adjoining room. (Just didn’t want you canceling this blog based on the wrong idea.) Anyway… none of these or the other options sounded great to me. And I thought about them. Really, I’m still thinking about them. I mean worms or sour milk? Just not sure. It’s the gallon that gets me. If it were a pint, I’d go milk without question. The quantity was a brilliant add. 

 I actually find would you rather instructive for college admission, because ultimately, (just like the colleges I wrote about last time) having choices and options is the goal for students and applicants. Unless you get into a college under an Early Decision plan, the ideal situation is to be able to sit down in the spring of your senior year with multiple offers of admission- and financial aid packages from those places that make it affordable and enticing for you to attend. Unlike sixth-grade girls who clearly only incorporate embarrassing or painful options, you want to have to make a tough decision because the options are so good. And in my experience, the college students who are the most satisfied with their choice are the ones who know they intentionally picked that school over other viable options.  

So how do you end up with choices and options?  

As a freshman and sophomore this starts with doing well in high school classes, and doing good outside of them. In other words, challenge yourself academically to the point where you can learn, enjoy, and still have capacity to contribute to your school, family, and community beyond school hours. At the end of the day, colleges want good high school students. They want kids who are well prepared academically and ones who will add to their campus life and ethos too. Your goal in 9th and 10th grade is simply to set a foundation. Work hard academically, learn to study, focus on time management, advocate for yourself, and get involved in things where you can really have an impact or influence.  

When colleges review transcripts, they start with the ninth grade and work from there. They are asking questions around what you could have taken, what you chose to take, and how you did in each class during each grade. On the Common Application, you’ll also be asked to indicate which years in high school you participated in various activities.  Your goal is to be kind to your current self by getting sleep and not overloading and be kind to your future self by investing now inside and outside the classroom. Having choices and options for college as a senior, comes from making good choices throughout high school. 

As a junior starting to explore colleges (and likely starting to receive lots of mail and email from schools), you should be thinking honestly and earnestly about what you really want and need in an academic environment, and the type of setting in which you can thrive. Does 30,000 students sound exciting and dynamic or terrifying? Does snow from October to March bring about visions of skiing or crying? Does the college you root for or know best have the major you really want?  

Honing in on places that focus on what you are focused on will help you eliminate colleges that don’t match your interests and invest time, money, or other resources visiting and exploring the places that do. This is not easy. It demands keeping an open mind when brochures from places you have never heard from land on your desk or kitchen table. This means being confident enough to tune out unhelpful voices (sometimes the loudest and closest in proximity) and humble enough to seek out information, perspectives, and details that may be less familiar or easy to attain. 

Ask your high school senior self this: Would you rather end up at your state’s flagship or your parents’ alma mater or the closest college to your house or know that you eliminated other options, thought seriously about what you really wanted in a college experience, and intentionally chose your state’s flagship or your parents’ alma mater or the closest college to your house?

To have choices and options as a senior, you have to do your college homework as a junior.

As a senior in the fall, please do not apply anywhere you don’t actually want to go. That’s just dumb. And please do not let anyone convince you that you need to apply to “a few more places” justso you have some arbitrary number they have conceived for you. Instead, be realistic about your grades, your profile outside the classroom, and the competition you will be facing. Again, don’t forget that the end goal is to be able to afford to go. Do your homework by talking to your school counselor, using net price calculators, and consulting sites such as MyIntuition or BigFuture. Be reminded that your chances of being admitted to a school with an admit rate below 20% do not go up 20% by applying to 20% more of those schools. Trade out “dream school” for IRL colleges. Apply to a group of schools (you figure out the number but generally more than 2 and less than 10) where you know you will be thrilled to get in and excited to go. People, there are 4000 higher education options in America and many more around the world. When you eliminate 99.9% of them, it should only leave you with places you are fired up to attend.

 

As a senior in the winter, if you are deferred, please do not write these places off if you are still legitimately interested. Julie Andrews lists raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/ Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/ Brown paper packages tied up with strings/ but I note she doesn’t include being deferred and having to wait during college admission as one of her favorite things. Still, if we agree your goal is choices and options, then be reminded a deferral is not a closed door. Ego bruise? Perhaps. Annoying? Sure. But you applied in their admission process not for one round. Stay the course. Send in fall grades, complete the essay, fill out the form, do the interview, or whatever else they may ask. Don’t lose sight of the end goal. Ask yourself if you would rather see it through or wonder later what might have happened?

To recap- how do you end up with Choices and Options? 

  • Do well – and do good. 
  • Do your college homework. 
  • Only apply to places that excite you.  
  •  Stay on Target.  

Spring of senior year. Voila- CHOICES & OPTIONS. You got this! 

 

What do colleges want?

My wife has celiac disease. While many people do not know exactly what that is, they have at least heard of “gluten” and are familiar with the GF or grain symbol on food labels in the grocery store or at restaurants. 20 years ago, however, when she was first diagnosed, that was definitely not the case. In fact, going out to eat was an incredible hassle. “Can you tell me if this is gluten free?” inevitably resulted in a bemused and moderately annoyed manager emerging from the back. Most of the time, despite our best efforts to provide examples, there was more head scratching (disturbing around food) and eyebrow furrowing than recognition or appreciation of the issue. In many cases, to be safe, Amy would just order a salad- sometimes bringing her own dressing to be sure.

One Saturday a month we went to a “Gluten-sensitive support group,” aka GSSG, which was 20 miles from our house in Atlanta. In a city of several million people, there was only one group- giving you an idea of how little known the issue was at that time. During those meetings, people shared advice on which doctors to see, where they had been able to find gluten free products in health food stores (never regular grocery stores), and also exchanged recipes. At the end of each meeting, people shared their latest baked good product or casserole. I looked forward to those meetings the way you look forward to taking an SAT- that is to say- not at all. At best the food tasted like salty cardboard and at worst… well, let’s just say twice in my recollection I had to quickly walk to the bathroom sink to spit out whatever half masticated delicacy I’d partially ingested.

Bottom line is if you had celiac disease, or a significant gluten allergy at that time, there were extremely few choices and options. Even as a spouse, it felt limiting.

Choice and Options

Along with my staff, we have written extensively in the past about “what colleges are looking for.” We’ve covered GPA, rigor of curriculum, activities and involvement, essays, more about essays, plenty of ink spilled and callouses grown writing about writing, teacher recs, interviews, etc. And all of that is accurate, helpful, and worth checking out. But what do colleges really want? Regardless of their size, geographic location, or athletic conference, they want the same thing– Choices and Options. They don’t want to have to “just have a salad” and bring their own dressing. They want a full menu. And their desire- or hunger as it were (really just wrote this entire blog to use that phrase)- for choices and options explains a lot about your college admission experience.

College Search (mail, email, etc.) – If you are a sophomore or junior, you have started to receive more and more email, postcards, and other glossy, shiny solicitations from colleges. Maybe this sounds familiar:

“Dear <<insert name here>>” check out our campus.” Notice all these kids of different ethnicities hanging out together snacking while studying on our super green grass. It just so happens when we took this picture that there were three benches in the background occupied by students engrossed in important discussions about today’s issues.

They say they want you to visit, check out their website, fill out this card, or ultimately apply for admission. Does this mean you will get in? Absolutely not. Does it mean you are competitive for admission at their school? No. So why did they buy your name, spend money on bulk rate postage, or invest copious time debating whether to include a picture of the kid studying abroad in Spain or the one of the students looking closely at a colored liquid in a campus laboratory? Two words (ok, technically three): Choices and Options.

Colleges cast a very wide net to encourage students to check out their school, but they have limited information about you when doing that. Perhaps they have your test score or a sense of what classes you have taken. Maybe they are trying to attract more students from your state or city, or they saw you (or your mom) indicated an interest in Chemistry on a survey or test registration form (hence the lab pic).

Post- Covid (I’m just going to keep saying that ‘til it’s truly a thing) it is tougher to visit high schools during the school day. Traveling is also time intensive and expensive. Sending hundreds of thousands of emails and mailing broadly prospective students- what schools refer to as “student search”- is a big part of their enrollment strategy. Build a big funnel of students, see who is really interested, see who applies, admit those they want, and voila- a class.

What does this mean for you? The good news is contact from a variety of schools helps you see a bigger picture. At times, we all have a tendency to be too narrowly focused. Receiving information from places you have never heard of challenges you to ask bigger questions about what you really want or need- not just default to what you recognize.  On the flipside, too many students believe that the number of times a college contacts them correlates to their odds of being admitted. Nope. Just because a school sends you pithy emails or a lovely fold out poster of their gothic campus nestled just south of the city does not mean the wind is ultimately going to blow you into the admit pool. Take these mailings with a big grain of salt (or a sodium laced circa 2003 gluten-free experiment).

Admission DecisionsIf you are a senior, unless you applied to a college who explicitly stated they are using a formula to make admission decisions, they are not using a formula to make admission decisions. Holistic admission means they draw circles more than lines. When you hear admission reps say, “We are looking for a well-rounded class…” they mean they want choices and options. It’s not just going to be about your test score or number of AP classes. This means a few things.

First, it means you are likely to see a student with lower grades or fewer activities get into a school that denies you. Their decisions are based on goals and mission. They want choices and options. They are trying to “build a class” not just hit ENTER on an Excel sheet to figure out who gets in. Is this fair? NO. But they don’t call it Fair Admissions. They call it Holistic Admission- probably because “Choices and Options Admission” rolls off the tongue like Debbie’s gluten free casserole in the GSSG bathroom.

Second, it means if you are deferred admission, they are not saying you are not smart, or they don’t like you, or that you should have joined the French Club back in sophomore year and that would have done the trick. Instead, they are saying we’d like to see our full set of choices and options. Send us your fall grades or maybe write another supplemental essay (good times!) about why you really want to come.

Fun to wait? Absolutely not. I polled 100 humans recently about their five favorite things to do in life and surprisingly nobody listed “Waiting.” But understanding the WHY matters. Too many students take a deferral as an ego hit. Or they are mad, confused, and feel wronged. Deferrals- and ultimately waitlist decisions- are part of the process. What do colleges want? Choices and Options, people. Choices AND Options.

Lastly, it means you may get into a school with a higher ranking or a lower admit rate than another school that denies or defers you. Each year after we release admission decisions, we get calls or notes starting, “With all due respect… (Note: This is the southern equivalent of “Bless your heart…” and basically should be interpreted as “I’m about to tell you why you are wrong or clueless.”) I think you have made a mistake. See, I was admitted to/ got a scholarship from (insert supposedly better college here), so I’d like you to re-review my application.” First, that’s not a valid appeal. Second, what led to the decision was that particular school’s choices and options based fulfilling their distinct institutional priorities.

As I said earlier, colleges often look the same on their websites or brochures. A picture is worth 1000 words, but when all the pictures are the same, it can seem like all colleges are too. Thankfully, they are not. At the end of the day, they all have different goals, different priorities, and different processes for enrolling our students. What they are “looking for” varies widely, but the one thing all colleges want is Choices and Options.

The good news is you can learn a lot about how to approach your college search and selection experience from understanding how colleges approach building their class. And we’ll cover that next time. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving Break. Eat well, take a nap, read something that’s not been assigned, and as always- Hug your mama.