Top 3 Reasons NOT to Trust Rankings

This week the US News and World Report rankings of colleges came out. Over the years, I have written extensively  about this topic, in order to put them in perspective and point away from the list and more toward the methodology, i.e. how they are formulated.

Here is what I know.

  • Your time is limited. Between friends, school, work, practice, studying, and the basics of eating and sleeping, you are busy.
  • College- and college admission can feel overwhelming. Lots of colleges, lots of opinions, lots of money. Lots.
  • Rankings simplify things. On some level, we all desire this, right? Amidst the swirl of sources, the deluge of data, and the whirlwind of words around college, a list is refreshing. A clean, easy, simple cascading enumeration is like a healing balm.

I get it. I hear you. You’re not crazy. But it is ironic at best and hypocritical at worst to put any stock in the rankings, because it’s the opposite of how you want colleges to consider your applications—or for the overall admission process to be conducted.

In no particular order, here’s how I see it.

  1. More than a number (cue The Drifters). As a college applicant, you expect the colleges will not see you purely as a number. You don’t want them to boil your high school experience down to a cell on a spreadsheet, draw a hard cut off line on SATs, or assume your GPA absolutely defines you. Instead, you expect schools will use context and nuance as they review your application. As a senior, that’s why you are drafting, second guessing, and asking for opinions about your essay right now, isn’t it? (Yes. I see you.) You want them to see you in full. Return the favor.

When you draw hard lines and only visit or apply to schools in the Top X or Y from a list, or select a college simply because it’s ranked higher than another one to which you have been admitted, it gives way too much credit to the methodology on which these numbers are derived, and artificially distills countless qualitative factors and dynamics. As I have said before, good college applicants think like good college students and dig into any number, percentage, or statistic they find to understand the source, and determine it’s validity.

  1. Gameable. It’s been a few years since Varsity Blues (aka The Admission Scandal), and we’ve endured a global pandemic since then, so it may be fuzzy in your mind. Ultimately, what made the public so upset about this situation was that wealthy, connected parents were gaming the system in order to get their kids into particular schools. It was not fair. It was not ethical. As an applicant, you expect other students will not hack into the admission database, bribe admission officers, or influence college administrators in order to change their result in the process.

And you don’t want this to occur on a systemic level either. I know this because whether I’m in Georgia, California, abroad or anywhere in between, students and families are consistently worried “the school down the street” is inflating grades or getting an advantage because of some misperception of quality.

To put it gently, the rankings are very gameable at the micro and macro level. Check out Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, The Lord of the Rankings, in which he details the work of Dr. Kelly McConville and her team of statisticians who enumerate specific tactics colleges employ to increase their position through strategic decisions. The truth is they don’t scratch the surface of the myriad ways ways to implement slight adjustments in class sizes, course naming conventions, faculty pay, or even the way you report and categorize numbers around the fringes, i.e. clinical changes, which have no bearing on the actual student experience.

In my career, I have personally known numerous admission deans who have been hired and fired based on their willingness, or lack thereof, to organize their operations (and their actual admission decisions) to boost a university’s spot. It’s one thing to have game, my friend. Gamey and Gaming- also different. The rankings are gameable. They are actively being gamed.

  1. Opinions vs. stats. Imagine you walked into class on the first day of school and Mrs. Bertha Ormse begins passing out the course syllabus. Slowly and repeatedly pulling and pinching her chin, she announces in her gravely voice, “On page 1-2, you can see what we will be learning this fall in US History 1800-1910.”

    Anoushka Buch | Daily Trojan,https://dailytrojan.com/2021/09/24/we-should-not-fret-about-college-rankings/

Scanning quickly you pick up the high points: Western expansion, War of 1812, Missouri Compromise, Monroe Doctrine, rise of railroads, Trail of Tears, Civil War, Reconstruction, Industrial Revolutoin. Nodding in agreement you think, “Makes sense. I’ve heard of most of this.”

Interrupting your ruminations, she continues matter-of-factly, “Page 3 outlines how you will be graded.”

Quizzes, homework, tests, projects = 80% of final grade.

“Ok. Ormse. I see you. I mean, I may have weighted quizzes a little less, but…” And then… “No. Certainly not. Wait… the final 20% of my grade is based on… opinion of other students.” 20%?!

That’s right. Your fellow students, who have a vested interest in their own scores and ultimate position in the class, will make up 1/5 of your final grade.

You start looking around anxiously and suddenly your mind shifts into overdrive.

Who is that kid in the second row? I’ve never seen him in my life.

Oh, no. Zach. He has always hated me ever since that thing with the guy at the place back in third grade.

Crap. Sarah. Everyone loves her. She’s…she’s…she’s…all the things I’m not. But does that make her better at history? Does that make her better than me in general?

Well…when the opinion of others accounts for 20% of the grade—probably.

And that’s how it goes for colleges with the rankings. 20% is based on the opinions of others. Others in the same game. Others in the same class. Others with vested interests in their own results and position.

Raise your hand if you’d like 20% of your admission decision to be based on the other applicants opinions of you. Ok. You can put your hand back down now. Oh, and to be clear, in most cases they’ve never met you, seen you, or have anything concrete to go on except where you are from and a vague recollection that a few years ago someone they met said you were “Ok.”

Bottom line: I earnestly think you are smarter than the gamemakers at US News. And I know you know you better than they ever could.  So is it crazy to suggest you creating your own ranking system? More on that here.

Rank the Rankings

Colleges want you to apply because you have done your homework and believe you match up well academically and beyond the classroom. They send you brochures, email you invitations to come to campus, and even travel to your town or high school in hopes they can tell you a full story about their history, mission, offerings, and ethos. You apply to colleges expecting them to look beyond your name or test score. Holistic review is time intensive and deeply human. It’s not perfect, but it strives to be comprehensive. I’m just asking the same from you in your consideration of the rankings.

How to WIN College Admission

Get out your pen or phone because I’m only going to go through this once.

To get into any college in the country, you need to follow these steps exactly.

Note: It is important you complete each task in listed order. Failure to include one of these on your application negates the guarantee.

  1. Take AP Physics
  2. Volunteer as a translator at your local hospital
  3. Use either bucolic or grandiose in the opening line of your essay (ideally both)
  4. Score at least 70 points higher than your current score on the SAT

Excellent. Now, be sure you say this to yourself every day, and post it on social media more than twice but no more than four times each month, “I will only be happy if I attend (insert your top choice here).”

As you know, visualization is a powerful tool. Athletes, actors, prominent speakers, and other top performers use this strategy in preparation for achieving excellence, and you need to do the same thing in your college admission/application process. So, close your eyes and imagine yourself at your dream school. Think about walking around campus, eating in the dining hall, laughing boisterously with friends, and hashtagging #BestLifeEver on a daily basis.

You are killing this exercise. Well done. This time close your eyes and imagine yourself at any other college. Think about the disaster this would be. Tears, ruin, and utter carnage should be filling your mind and thoughts. Forget posting on social media in this place. Your fingers will be trembling, internet will be intermittent if functional at all, and all of your friends will have unfollowed you anyway.

Parents/ Supporting adults– I don’t want to leave you out of the fun. Think back on your student’s life to this point. You’ve always known success and happiness to be monolithic. That’s how  your life has played out, and it’s what you’ve seen repeatedly in your friends too. One path to success- and a specific college determines EVERYTHING.

Consider when they were little. All of the parenting books said you should only let them pretend to be one thing, and you followed that advice verbatim. One outfit, one sport, one interest to pursue. You’ve spent so long limiting them and pigeonholing them, but now everything is on the line. This is a test of your mettle. Welcome to the show. Their future- and yours hinges on this- college. Don’t falter and DO NOT relent! Keep pushing them towards one absolute outcome.

And for the love of all things holy don’t let others distract you with stories of unexpected joy or alternatives to your master plan for your child’s life.  You know as well as I do that college is a zero-sum game. Winners and losers. If your kid does not go to X College, not only will their life be over, yours (which thankfully will be much shorter anyway) will be too.

Final Advice  

  • Rankings are the gospel truth. Follow them blindly as you do all other things you read online. Don’t question their methodology or buy the false narrative purporting that they are really only about clicks and marketing dollars. Think about it- if a school went up five spots or dropped three this year, it is because they are fundamentally different places than they were last year. Draw hard lines. This is war.
  • Trust YouTube, TikTok, Reddit implicitly. If a kid says she got into Yale because of the essay she wrote, that’s exactly what happened. Listen closely to her advice and subscribe to that channel for sure. Also, share it with your friends and encourage them to like it- they really will.
  • There is a direct correlation between your chances of getting into a school that admits 10% or fewer of its applicants and the number of those colleges you apply to. I mean that’s just math, folks.
  • Holistic Admission is BS. You need to make a higher score on the SAT, even if they say they’re test blind/free/optional. Go pay a lot of money, spend an exorbitant number of hours practicing, wake up each Saturday at 6 a.m. just to acclimate, and tattoo your necessary score on your wrist. We all know standardized tests are going to help you immensely as a college student. The highest scorers in the NFL combines always pan out to be the best players in the league. Same same.
  • Schools in the same athletic conference are identical. Apply to all of them.

Do all of this and you will Win in College Admission. Do it not and…

What are your admission requirements? Part II 

Our last blog was geared toward helping students applying to college keep an open mind about their choices and options, and ensure they have a solid support system around them. I am hopeful students actually read the piece and will take my advice to heart, because the only emails I received afterward were from parents. 

Their messages centered around the response I used to give students when I first started at Tech in the early 2000s when asked, “What are your admission requirements?” READ: Please just tell me clearly and plainly what I need to do/have to get in?  

My response was simple, honest, and easy, “Sure. Get a 3.7 GPA, 1300 SAT, write a few lines on your essay, do some stuff outside the classroom, and we’ll see you in the fall.” 

The blog went on to explain why a 3.7 (or 3.5 or 4.0) of twenty years ago is not uniform anymore, and as a result admission reps from competitive universities are rarely able to provide a single sentence (let alone a single number) when discussing GPAs. Parents who emailed wanted to know if SAT/ACT scores are equivalent to the early 2000s (or before I assume), and how much stock to put in the averages or ranges they hear in presentations or see published online.   

Whether these questions stemmed from innocent curiosity or an attempt to settle a household debate/competition, I am unsure. And while I did not intend to write a Part II it does provide a timely opportunity to identify admission requirements for parents as they coach and partner with their students.  

First, here is an attempt to answer the question. 

Is a 1300 (sticking with the cited example) the same as it was 20 (or 30) years ago?

As with most answers in admissions land, “It depends.” 

The Same Scale. The SAT is still comprised of two sections for a total of 1600 points (though there was a brief time period when it was comprised of three 800-point sections- totaling 2400). 

The Same Percentile. An SAT score of 1300 puts a student in the top 14% of test takers, which is roughly equivalent to where it was 20 years ago. However, there are far more students taking the SAT/ACT now, so the raw number of takers above and below any score is higher. 

Likely Different in that most colleges “super score” tests- meaning during admission review (and ultimately when they publish scores) they are on students’ highest combined total of the two sections from any test administration. Twenty years ago, colleges were generally not publishing super-scored averages or ranges, and students did not have the option of score choice- opting out of sending particular tests to colleges. The combination of these two practices has served to inflate the scores colleges include on publications, websites, etc.    

Particularly Different for anyone who took the SAT prior to 1995- the year the College Board “re-centered” the test.  

Arguably Different in that on average twenty years ago students took the test fewer times and had less access to free/low-cost/or absurdly high-cost test preparation.   

Optionally Different in that data suggests students scoring lower than published institutional averages/ranges are less likely to submit their test scores to colleges with test optional policies, thus increasing averages/ranges on profiles, common data sets, etc.  

Recently Different in that many testing centers have been closed and testing administrations canceled. Over the last few years during the pandemic, students have taken these tests in abnormal circumstances impacted and varying drastically based on their local environment.    

The truth is the testing landscape is vaster and more confusing than ever, and that’s without addressing how factors like Early Decision, financial need, residency, major, or other demographics may impact how a particular student’s SAT/ACT score is viewed in any given college’s admission review process. 

What are your admission requirements? 

Cleary, I cannot speak for every college. And unlike my early days at Tech, I cannot give you two numbers or a formula to guarantee admission. But after two decades of watching this cycle repeat itself, I can still make you a promise. If you are a parent or supporting adult who just loves your kid and wants to see them be successful in their college admission (and college) experience, I can tell you what you need to do and have. Here are your admission requirements.  

DO stay one chapter ahead. I want to urge you to talk less to parents of other high school seniors and more to parents of college students or recent college graduates. When kids are little, we looked to parents a chapter ahead for advice, solace, and perspective. Don’t forget the value they add, particularly during the college admission experience.   

Perhaps your friends and neighbors are different, but often parents of other high school seniors exaggerate, proliferate, propagate, and other ates and gates that are typically unhealthy/unhelpful. Talk to those folks about the upcoming game, play, or school event, but when conversations about where students are applying, or where they either do or do not get in, etc. try subtly changing the subject. In my experience, avoiding the speculation or hearsay and generally keeping your family’s admission process  private is not only good for your personal well-being and mental health, but for your relationship with your student too.  

HAVE early, open, and honest conversations about money. My sincere hope is you will commit to having transparent conversations with your student now- before they submit applications. Being open about how much you either can, or are willing to pay, is a gift because it sets expectations at an appropriate time.  

Does this mean you are saying they cannot apply to X college? Absolutely not. But it helps your student clearly understand the financial aid package or scholarship level they will need to receive in order to enroll. Delaying this discussion until after a student is admitted is a disservice to everyone involved, because an offer of admission will already be emotional on some level. Parents frequently underestimate their students’ ability to handle transparent conversations about finances, lifestyle, and how paying for colleges enters the equation. If you open the books and explain why you have certain conditions or limitations on paying for college, you’ll likely be surprised and proud at how they approach their applications and ultimate college selection.  

What are YOUR admission requirements? 

In Part 1 for students, I encouraged them to focus on what they need and want from a university experience, rather than on what a college seems to require of them in the admission process. I adamantly believe if they will take some time to write down and really consider this question, it will help as they think through their choices and options at every stage. It will likely also help rule out places that don’t align, and it will give them good questions to ask when they visit, talk to reps, or receive admission offers and are weighing their options.  

I hope you will do the same. For this exercise, forget the names of colleges, their ranking, or any stereotypes, biases, or attachments you may have. Instead, just think of your student. You know them better than anyone else- you’ve watched them grow, change, and learn along the way. What do you think is most important to helping them thrive academically and to be healthy outside of the classroom? Coming up with even a short list of these qualities or characteristics will enrich and balance your conversations, recommendations, questions, and support along the way.  

As parents its easy to feel pressure to have answers and solutions for our kids. But when it comes to college admission, seeking perspective, being honest and open, reflecting, listening, and walking through the experience together is perhaps the biggest gift we can give.

What Are Your Admission Requirements?

Recently, someone asked me what has changed at Georgia Tech since I started in the early 2000s. Almost everything it seems. When I arrived, our undergraduate student body was a little over 11,000—compared to almost 18,000 now. The parking lots that littered the interior of campus have been replaced by green space or pedestrian walkways, and as a result golf carts, bikes, scooters, hoverboards, longboards, unicycles, and mopeds are the predominant wheeled devices/vehicles on campus. “Online” was literal, you needed a physical key to enter buildings, and the Atlantic Coast Conference included nine teams- all of whom were close to the actual Atlantic Ocean.

From an enrollment and admission standpoint this is also true. At that time, Tech’s first- year class was just over 2,000. In 2022, our transfer class alone will push 1,400 with another 3,700 students beginning as first-years. Our application count was lower, our admit rate was higher, and as a result our review process, admission timeline, and staff structure all looked radically different than today.

What has not changed is the fundamental question students ask—”What are your admission requirements?” READ: Please just tell me clearly and plainly what I need to do/have to get in?

There was a time when I could (and did) answer, “Sure. Get a 3.7 GPA, 1300 SAT, write a few lines on your essay, do some stuff outside the classroom, and we’ll see you in the fall.”

Now, you simply cannot give a purely quantitative answer, because GPAs are not uniform across schools, states, etc. With an applicant pool of 50,000+, it is the very rare applicant who has below a 3.7 GPA. Certainly, a big part of this is due to rampant grade inflation in our state and beyond. But it is also because the traditional 4.0 scale (extremely common two decades ago) is the exception now. At that time, 4.0 was perfect and you could not exceed it. Now, due to the weighting of courses and the proliferation of grading scales, providing any specific number as a minimum or requirement is misleading at best.

For instance, we recently looked at the 256 students who applied last year from a large public Atlanta Metro high school. 192 (75%) had above a 4.0 GPA. I have visited schools with GPAs evaluated on scales of 5.0, 6.0, 13.0, as well as others abandoning numbers entirely for narratives, graphics, or emojis. Tell a student with a 10.2 GPA they need a 3.7, and they’re thinking, “Yes! My Cs are really paying off now.”

This is why, when you ask what seems like a very simple and logical question, “What do I need to do/have to get in?” (especially of colleges receiving far more applications than they have spots available in their class), you’ll inevitably get long-winded answers, passionate hand motions, and at least two mentions of “holistic.”

What are your admission requirements?

Unlike my early days at Tech, I cannot give you two numbers or a formula. But I can still make you a promise. I can still tell you what you will need to do/have in your college admission experience (and your future college career) to be successful.

 DO Keep an Open Mind

As a senior, especially one reading this blog, you are inevitably receiving an absolute crap-ton (forgive the highly technical language) of information from colleges. Emails, brochures, postcards, and increasingly more invasive modes of communication (ads in your feed, text messages, pop ups of varying kinds) on a daily or weekly basis. I completely understand how this deluge of marketing material could seem annoying, but I’m imploring you see it instead as encouraging and broadening.

Even if you have never heard of a college that mails you something in the weeks ahead, take the time to open it. Be willing to examine what you see, read, hear- and consider what interests you or does not resonate. Ultimately, the willingness and openness to new ideas, and the earnest consideration of places, people, ideas, that are not familiar is not only the sign of a good college applicant, but a great college student too.

In my experience, the students who end up the most disappointed by the college admission experience are those with a fixed and limited mindset- those who are trapped and myopic about the idea of one place, one kind of place, or one definition of “good” or “best.” Conversely, students who finish their senior year satisfied, gratified, and confident in their college choice are often not the ones who got into their top choice or had a completely smooth experience. Instead, they acted like students in the college admission experience—they thought deeply, committed to a dynamic mindset, and were willing to question and test assumptions or information they acquired along the way.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? An open mind.

HAVE a Support System

Go to almost any admission information session or listen to a panel of admission deans/directors talk for five minutes and you’ll hear a lot of focus on YOU.

They will say: YOU need to own this process.

They will say: We want to hear YOUR voice in your essay (not your mom’s, your best friend’s, or the one you paid for from some purported expert online or down the street).

They will say: Do you own work, think for yourself, and figure out why you care about going to college, pursuing a particular major, or anything else a college advertises or touts as a selling point.

I agree wholeheartedly. However, all of the talk about YOU can dilute how imperative it is as a college applicant to surround yourself with people you know and trust.

Over the course of the next year, the likelihood is you are going to face some disappointments, dark days, and bad news when it comes to comes to your college admission experience.

Perhaps this will be as minor as angst over your essay topic, having to wait months for decisions, or being deferred or waitlisted by colleges. For some this comes in the form of an admission denial, or not receiving adequate financial aid/scholarships to afford a school you want to attend.

The truth is college will bring more of the same. Inevitably, you will have classes, relationships, internships, exams, or situations that will force you to question yourself, your decisions, and your abilities. Good times, right?

There is no panacea here. But when it comes to keeping perspective; when you need to be reminded of who you are and the value you bring; when you need encouraging words to help you bounce back or try again, your support system will be critical. True as a college applicant- true as a college student.

So, I want to encourage you to highly limit what you share on social media about your college admission experience. Instead identify two or three people you can consistently talk to and walk with through applications, decisions, consternations, and celebrations.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? A solid support system.

What are YOUR requirements?

Let me flip the question. Instead of asking what a college requires of you, ask what you require of them. Take time to write down and consider the types of programs, environment, support systems, etc. that you really want or need. Clarifying your requirements will be far more valuable than obsessing about admit rates, rankings, number of benches, or squirrel/deer to student ratio.

My hope is you will resist the prevailing urge to quantify and distill college admission into simple numbers. Instead, DO keep an open mind, HAVE a support system around you, ASK what you require of colleges, and I promise your college admission (and actual college experience) will be far more rich, meaningful, satisfying, and transformative.

What you need to know about Admission Deadlines

Listen to the Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Apple | Spotify | Spreaker

Yes. I understand it’s summer and just hearing the word “deadline” is annoying at best. Congrats on just opening this one up.

Yes. I have heard you are supposed to title articles “Top 5 Things…” or “Do’s and Don’ts about…” in order to get clicks, improve shares, and entice readers and drive analytics.

Yes. I realize an entire blog about “deadlines” likely falls into the same bucket for most teens as texts or reminders about cleaning bathrooms, writing physical thank you notes, and getting up early for no particular reason on a Saturday.

So, if you happen to be reading this by a pool or ocean or in some other lovely setting, feel free to stop now and simply bookmark this one, or put it into a subfolder titled “college admission,” “crap someone forwarded me,” or “stuff I’ll read later.”

But a few promises since you are still with me. First, I promise I’m not asking you to do anything specifically right now. Second…actually, there is no second. Let’s just boil this down to the basics.

Here is what you need to know about admission deadlines.

  1. Deadlines are about Institutional Priorities.  If the term Institutional Priorities sounds familiar, it is because we have covered these talking about mission statements and admission decisions. Colleges have goals for their size of class, shape of class, and profile of class (academically and financially).

The truth is application deadlines are driven by the same philosophy- how and when students apply is 100% about helping schools achieve their mission.

Example: The University of California System, which includes some of the nation’s best public universities, has an application window between November 1 and November 30. Is that time period the most student- friendly for kids from some parts of the country or world in which November is the most academically intense? Nope. But the deadline exists because it works for the California System schools. Period.

As my friend and colleague Pam Ambler from Pace Academy here in Atlanta says, “The way admission decisions feel (read: emotional and personal) is not how they are made (read: all about a college’s goals and priorities).” You can put deadlines in the same bucket.

2. Deadlines are about competition.

I’m guessing when you are considering colleges, your focus is on distinguishing one from another and determining if you are a good match or fit for that place- and it should be.

Colleges, however, are very concerned about one another. They compare size of class, academic and geographic profile of class, as well as admit rates, yield rates, and so on.

We are not going to go down a rankings rabbit hole today, but suffice it to say boards, presidents, and systems are extremely cognizant of what the others are doing in the higher education ecosystem, and the decisions of one often impact many. You’ve seen this play out in the test optional conversation very publicly in recent years.

The bottom line is colleges set their deadlines with a keen eye toward who they currently are, or aspire to compete against.  If you are a sports fan of any kind, none of these actions or thought processes surprise you.

Example: If a school provides students the opportunity to apply in the summer before senior year, or well before most schools set their deadlines in October and November, you can be assured they have traditionally been losing students to other colleges and their deadline/timeline to apply is now set in response to the desire to win more. How? Because if you apply early and that school begins doing interviews or ultimately gets an admission decision out well in advance of other colleges, they can court you earlier and longer than their competition.

There is nothing wrong or nefarious about this. And there are benefits to getting an admission decision back early and knowing you have options. But where does that deadline come from? A direct competition strategy to increase academic profile, likely financial profile (less needy students tend to apply earlier), and potentially also decrease admit rate while increasing yield—because if they get earlier commits, they can admit fewer students later in the cycle.

3. Deadlines are about Financial Aid

Most people don’t think about how admission deadlines directly relate to financial aid and the cost of enrolling a class. Instead, most articles center on Early Decision and whether it is abusive, ethical, or how to strategize around it. (But most articles don’t start by acknowledging their titles suck either now do they?) The timing of admission applications absolutely impacts the way schools dole out aid, as well as the amount they have at various times of year to enroll their class.

Example: If a school has an Early Decision deadline, as well as multiple additional deadlines (ED I and II, plus EA; or EDI and then months later another ED opportunity; or ED, EA, another oddly titled deadline, etc.), you can be sure they are both need and profile aware. In other words, they are attempting to receive early commits from students who have the financial ability to pay, even if they forego later applicants who have a higher academic profile.

1+2+3= Admission Deadlines, A Case Study

This is fresh on my mind right now because at Georgia Tech, we recently set our first-year admission deadlines for next year.

  1. Institutional Priorities: As you can see, our Early Action I deadline is established for Georgia students. Why? Because as a public school, Georgia students are a priority for Georgia Tech. Although only 20% of the students who apply to Tech are from our state, 60% of undergraduates hail from the Peach State.
  2. Competition: Our number one overlap for in-state students is the University of Georgia. As a result of increasing application volume, the size of our admission team, and the holistic review process we use, we were releasing admission decisions in mid- January. This not only put us behind UGA, but also several weeks after most of our Top 10 overlap schools as well. Adjusting our EA1 deadline allows us to release Georgia student decisions prior to the Winter Break.
  3. Financial Aid: Our Regular Decision deadline is in early January. Is this the most optimal time for students? No. For many reasons late January or even early February would be my preference. However, due to application volume, staff size, and a holistic review process, we set our deadline in order to be able financially package students in a timeline more closely aligned with other colleges.

What does this mean for you?

First, deadlines matter to colleges, so they need to matter to you. As we have just established, they are set for a reason– and that reason involves money and competition. Hopefully that gets your attention.

Second, they allow you to plan. Again, as promised, I’m not asking anything from you right now. But if you are going to need teacher recommendations submitted, or a transcript sent, or test scores delivered by a certain point in the cycle, you need to get the deadlines for admission and financial aid of the colleges you are applying to on a spreadsheet or some other workable document– because deadlines breed deadlines.

Third, the timing and names of schools’ deadlines, i.e., ED, Priority, Restrictive, etc., are reflective and indicative of their goals and priorities. You could do some deep digging into Common Data Sets or look over the history of particular schools and how the timing and naming of their deadlines have shifted, or you can just trust me. Take some time (not now, not now) to understand your options and think/ask/read about how those deadlines will ultimately impact admission review and decisions.

So, there you have it- a blog about deadlines. Never thought I’d write one and would be curious to hear what you think about this and other topics. We are beginning to plan out our blog and podcast schedule for the fall, so reach out @gtadmission or in the comments section of our podcast with suggestions and feedback.