The Unbroken Cycle of College Admission

This year it seems that the articles, news stories, and headlines surrounding college admission have focused almost exclusively on how significantly things have changed—the “dramatic increase” in applications (at a small set of schools); the disturbing decrease in undergraduate enrollment, particularly in our community college sector; gap year request; no campus visits or recruitment travel, “obnoxious waitlists,” and so on.

I admit to contributing to the chorus of just how unpredictable many elements of the field have been too, including FUBAR yield models, questions about issuance of travel visas, and the eroded “demographic cliff.”

H/T: UC-Davis

So while it is true that the inputs shifted this year, more people wore hats and pajamas to meetings, and the number of cats and kids in admission committee went up exponentially, the rhythm of the job did not change: the fall was still filled with recruitment programming; the winter with application review; and the spring with releasing decisions and convincing admitted students to confirm or deposit.

Ultimately, the actual work of college admission proved to be predictably cyclical, and the comments, questions, and interactions (as well as their timing) remained constant:

  1.  Student calls weeks after application deadline to see if he can submit late.
  2.  Parent disguises voice to receive portal password day before decision release.
  3.  Alumni friend of denied family writes to complain that the admission process is totally jacked up (PG version).

For those scoring at home: The pandemic shook things up but again did not bring in some of these:

  1. You must have made a mistake. This financial package is way too generous.
  2.  I wanted to come clean. I have been emailing you pretending to be my student all year.
  3.  Please audit your process and reconsider your decisions, because it seems you admitted too many kids from our high school.
  4. YES. I’m expecting you to admit her because of her father’s accomplishments.
  5. I wouldn’t call him a late bloomer- he was just lazy as a freshman.

Back to business…

And right on cue, earlier this month we started receiving emails and calls telling us about admitted or deposited students behaving badly.

These accusations come almost exclusively from one of two sources- current college students who “heard something” from their high school or “saw something” online and wanted to report it to the admission office; or from another student or parent in the high school. They almost never come directly from the student involved writing to admit to wrongdoing, a lapse in judgment, or a blatantly immoral/illegal/indecent act.

When we receive these, we pursue them. Normally, this starts by asking the student to provide their summary and perspective. Depending on the response, we will also reach out to the school counselor, principal, or other school official. Most colleges then involve their dean of students, office of student integrity, and when necessary their police department or legal team.

If all of this sounds uncomfortable, messy, and a long way from the earlier jokes about cats and pajamas, that’s totally understandable. Frankly, it’s uncomfortable to write about and the last 17 years of experience.

However, if you’re feeling all of those emotions because you are currently involved in something that you know falls short of the expectations of the college that admitted you, I am strongly encouraging you to be proactive and reach out to your admission counselor.

Owning your mistakes and initiating the review process is not fun, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. Tip: Don’t start with: “My friends made me…” “I didn’t want to but…” “I tried to tell them it was wrong…”

If you have something to report,  own it. Arrested at 2 a.m. for re-distributing neighbors’ leaves back across their yards after they’d lined and bagged them at the street? “Borrow” the car in the middle of the night by putting it in neutral and coasting out of the driveway with the lights off?

Hard to admit? Embarrassing and regrettable and serious for sure, but trust me- it is much, much better to be honest and proactive than to have an admission counselor receive information from another source and have to contact you to provide an explanation of circumstances.

A Note to Seniors

Your final semester is supposed to be fun. You have lots to celebrate and enjoy. But I am asking you to be mature and thoughtful enough to hit pause when you find yourself in certain situations or when a “great idea” gets proposed in these next few weeks or over the summer. Each year we see incredibly smart and talented kids do indescribably dumb stuff that has lasting implications or consequences. So before you get behind the wheel; before you go to (or throw) that party; before someone brings out another bottle; when “everyone” is going to jump off that bridge naked in the dark into water at an untested depth; when cramming 12 people into a hearse to go blow up the principal’s mailbox gets suggested as a senior prank; before you post pictures or gossip or antagonizing content on social media, I hope you will thoughtfully consider your beliefs, character, and goals. (If all of that sounds too specific to be made up, well…).

I implore you not to rationalize with phrases like “everyone else is” or “she told me to” or “someone said it was okay.” Have the vision to say no or walk away or stand up or defuse the situation by speaking calmly in frenetic moments.

I encourage you to read your offers of admission from colleges closely. They are promises of a future community. They are based on your academic potential but also upon their belief you have and will continue to enrich those around you.

My hope is you will look around you this week (and every week between now and the time you head to college). Be reminded of how much your friends, family, class and teammates love and respect you– not for what you do or don’t do (or will or won’t do) in a certain moment on a particular night– but for who you are.

Above all else, my hope is you will have the composure and confidence to lead yourself and others with the maturity and character that earned you offers of admission. Finish well.

BONUS: Other “never heards” receiving votes:

  • I hear it’s easier to get in from our school than the one down the road.
  • I understand that my child’s admission experience, and likely their actual college experience, will be almost complete different from mine.
  • I got your helpful & carefully worded email on my next steps, and I read the whole thing!
  •  I have objectively concluded that my child’s unfavorable decision is just a reflection of a competitive applicant pool and not a fundamental bias in your process perpetuated in an urban legend.

 

Nuance in the Numbers

Listen to “Nuance in the Numbers (Are All Admit Rates Created Equal?) – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

One of my 2021 resolutions is to run, ride, hike, walk, or swim over 2021 miles this year. This means I am tracking everything, because to meet that goal it will require averaging about 5.5 miles a day. In order to do this, I use a Garmin watch, which I have connected to the Strava app.  

Recently, I’ve been running with a friend once a week. He also uses Strava, but instead of using a watch, he runs with his cell phone and records directly into the app.   

Here is a run we did a few weeks ago. 

A few things to note. Same day/same route, but the pace and distance are different. If someone was looking at our two logs, they would assume he not only dusted me, but also decided to put in an extra half mile just to rub it in.  I’m not ok with that, and you should not be either. Here’s why.

Admission Application 

When it comes to college admission this kind of thing happens all of the time. People latch on to surface level numbers and assign them undue merit without really examining their credence. They assume they can compare apples to apples.  Rankings are a good example, which I’ve covered extensively.  Another place this commonly occurs is with application numbers and acceptance rates. In recent weeks, there have been a ridiculous number of articles talking about EA/ED application volume and corresponding admit rates. Notice the same schools keep coming up in those pieces, so while they draw plenty of press, they only comprise about 1%-2% of American higher education, i.e. not representative of the accurate/bigger story.   

So just to level-set, acceptance rate, aka. admit rate= number of students admitted divided by number of applicants. Example: 3500 admits/ 10,000 apps = 35% admit rate. Here is where we run into a Stravaesque situation (see what I did there?).  

Problem 1: Colleges do not count applications the same way. Here’s the thing. Some schools separate parts of their application. A student may complete the biographical information, activities, essay, etc., but never sends transcripts or test scores. One college counts that app, and another does not because it is not complete or actionable. I remember applying to a college as a high school senior that had a seven-part application. In hindsight, I see that was likely a yield strategy. As a student it just felt burdensome and annoying. I only got to the fourth part (but I’m sure they counted my application)There are other derivations and variations in counting apps, but we won’t enumerate them all. Suffice it to say, counting apps is not uniform.  

Problem 2: Colleges do not count admits the same way (for those scoring at home that means neither the numerator nor the denominator is apples: apples or apples/apples. So how do you like them apples? The fact that there are hundreds of apple varieties is an entirely different conversation altogether).

Some colleges admit the number of students they actually think will say yes to their offer based on historical models. They shoot to fill 100% on their initial round of offers knowing they will likely need to admit more students from their waitlist, due to melt in the summer 

Others will shoot closer to 90%-95%. They know they will come in well short of target, but this strategy allows them to work progressively up to 100+% to account for melt and limit admits. 

Problem 3: Colleges do not count their waitlist admits the same. At Tech for example, when we make waitlist offers, we count them all as admits. So, if we are looking for 100 students from the waitlist, we may make 200 offers knowing that typically 45%-50% will deposit. 

Some colleges, however, will first ask you if you want to accept their offer. If you say yes, and commit to depositing, only then do they count you as an admit. In other words, some colleges are basically yielding at 100% from their waitlist, thus limiting admit numbers.  

100% yield is often true for recruited/scholarship athletes, special skills or talents like musicians, and other cohorts depending on the school’s mission, i.e., military academies, etc.

So, take a college that brings in 20% of their class as athletes/special talents, 10% of their class from waitlist, and 50-60% of their class from Early Decision… well… admit rate protected, suppressed, controlled, you pick whatever adjective that makes you feel better.  

Look, I’m not throwing shade here. I’m just saying you cannot take a number like admit rate and attach too much meaning to it, because of the Seneca Crane level games-making going on out there.  

Advice from Experience

If you are a junior making a list of schools to research or possibly apply to next year, please do not correlate admit rate to quality. Please do not exclude colleges from your list because they are below a certain number of apps or above a specific admit rate…because, you know, the whole Garmin to Strava effect. 

If you are a senior, please do not unwisely stretch financially or let your ego get in the way this spring when you are deciding on a college. So have the confidence to be honest with yourself about your best match academically, socially, and financially, rather than attaching too much importance to stats that are at best not equivalent, or at worst highly manipulated.  

Instead, before applying to college or choosing one, I’d urge you to stick with the running theme and consider, “What are you Strava-ing for?”  

    

Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA

This week we welcome Katie Lloyd, Ed.D., Associate Dean, Evening and Full-time MBA Programs at the Scheller College of Business to the blog. Welcome, Katie!

Listen to “Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA – Katie Lloyd, Ed.D.” on Spreaker.

It’s never too early to think about your future. Now you might be shouting at the screen, “I just decided to attend _________! Of course, I’m thinking about my future.” Absolutely. Enjoy these noteworthy moments as well as your upcoming undergraduate experience. I hope it is only the beginning of a wonderful journey of lifelong learning.

College is an amazing time to explore new interests, activities, and relationships – and as you start to map out your future – an MBA is a great option to consider.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of jargon, myths, and misperceptions associated with an MBA degree, so let’s break it down.

First: What is an MBA? An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a graduate program for students seeking a general graduate business degree. In addition to learning the basics, MBA programs also allow you to go deeper into business subject matter. There are a variety of MBA program formats available. Let’s tackle some of the myths and misperceptions surrounding the degree.

Myths

Myth #1: I should go to graduate school right after college.

An immediate path to graduate school may be the best course of action for some degrees, however, it’s ideal to gain work experience before applying to business school. A few good reasons to wait include:

  • MBA programs are built on classroom discussion and practical application. Students with work experience can contribute more to discussions and typically make better teammates.
  • Employers want to hire MBAs who have prior experience – and some companies require a minimum number of years. The requirement varies across industries, but three to five years is typical.
  • Students who have impressive pre-MBA profiles will have more post-MBA opportunities. More experience can also mean higher salaries.

Did you know? Some MBA programs, including Georgia Tech’s, allow you to apply for deferred admission into an MBA program your final year of college. You are still required to work before starting the MBA, but the deferred application process allows you to secure an MBA as a possible future option sooner.

Myth #2: I need to be an undergraduate business major.

It’s true that a bachelor’s degree in business can demonstrate critical thinking and analytical or quantitative aptitude, but so can engineering, sciences, and economics degrees. Students who pursue majors outside of these areas may also highlight aptitude by taking statistics, accounting, and other quantitative electives. MBA programs review the difficulty of your undergraduate degree and your performance. If your coursework can’t easily affirm potential success in graduate-level business classes, strong performance on the GMAT or GRE can help.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #3: MBA programs only want applicants who are accountants, consultants, or entrepreneurs.

Absolutely untrue! While having an early career in any of these areas is great, it isn’t the only path to an MBA. Peace Corps volunteers, educators, engineers, veterans, architects, computer programmers, doctors, scientists, salespeople, journalists… they can all be qualified and compelling MBA candidates. Students who bring varied perspectives into the classroom encourage rich discussions and different approaches to problem solving.

Myth #4: MBA programs are only for Wall Street wannabes.

Just as MBA applicants bring a wide range of backgrounds into the program, MBA graduates also pursue a variety of careers afterwards. An MBA prepares you to make industry advances and significant career changes. You take a core curriculum in business fundamentals like finance, marketing, management, accounting, technology, operations, and strategy, and then can go deeper in one of them or specialize in something like real estate, sustainability, or innovation. Your classwork and projects, as well as extensive leadership and career development training, can lead to careers in almost every industry.

Did you know? Many MBA programs offer dual degree options that enable you to pursue two degrees simultaneously or consecutively. Popular options include the MD/MBA (medicine), JD/MBA (law), and MS/MBA and PhD/MBA in specific disciplines. At Georgia Tech, there are several dual degree choices. Masters or doctoral students who combine their studies can distinguish themselves in the hiring process and gain more long-term career flexibility. Also, it typically takes less time to complete the two degrees than if you were to do them independently.

Myth #5: MBAs are all about making money.

While many students return to school with the goal of increasing their salaries, MBA programs also help students build connections and do good within their communities. There are volunteering and community service opportunities, you can consult for non-profits, or even tackle environmental and social issues both during and after the program. Additionally, MBA students gain access to a new, diverse network that helps them build meaningful, often lifelong, relationships.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #6: I need to leave my job to enroll in an MBA full-time.

Traditional MBA programs took students away from the workforce for two years. Now, there are many alternative formats. There are one-year accelerated programs, part-time options, online formats, and executive MBAs. The full-time, two-year option is still popular if you want to make a career change, as it allows you to gain relevant experience during a summer internship. Do your research and talk to admission offices to figure out which program may be the best for you.

Misperceptions

There are widely held misperceptions about most MBA admission processes. A few have been addressed in this blog series previously, but bear repeating:

Misperception #1: Most admission teams look for reasons to deny you.

While we look for certain desirable characteristics on your MBA application – we really are rooting for you! We have a lot of information to use in the evaluation process: undergraduate grades, leadership, work experience, recommendations, essays, test scores (sometimes), and an interview. You control these factors to a significant degree.

Misperception #2: Test scores are the most important factor.

While a strong performance on a standardized test (the GMAT and GRE are the most common) can help establish your quantitative aptitude, MBA programs emphasize other factors, too. In the past year, many programs have made the testing process optional, so the future of MBA standardized testing is a bit fuzzy.

For now, it’s best to think about taking a standardized test in your final year of college when your test taking skills are their sharpest. It may help you compete for admission and scholarships.

Misperception #3: MBA programs are expensive.

Yes, the cost is not negligible; however, many programs offer generous scholarships. And most candidates will experience bumps in salaries during or after completing the MBA. The typical candidate sees a return on their investment in 2 to 4 years and a lifetime of increased earnings.

I hope this knowledge about common myths and misconceptions surrounding the MBA arms you with one more option to consider for your future. As you begin your college experience, I encourage you to keep your goals beyond graduation top of mind and allow those goals to drive your decision making the next few years.

Now is the best time to be open to new opportunities and explore the unfamiliar. And you never know – perhaps the future will find you at Georgia Tech, achieving your goals as an MBA.

Dr. Katie Lloyd joined Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in 2016. Bringing more than 20 years in graduate management education to Tech, Katie leads the Full-time and Evening MBA Programs as Associate Dean. She oversees all recruitment, admissions, and student experience efforts for these MBA programs. Katie is passionate about fostering a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative environment in which students and team members can reach their full potential. In addition to enjoying time with her husband and two children, Katie has been spending the last year learning how to paint.

What does being deferred mean?  

Listen to “Episode 27: What Does Being Deferred Really Mean? – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

Recently we modified the final portion of our podcast to field listener questions from Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. If you have something you want us to tackle, feel free to tag @gtadmission.

A few recent inquiries surrounded how to prepare for the various admission decisions that will be coming out from colleges and universities in the next few weeks, and how/if we think anything will be different this year due to the pandemic.

Since we know you are busy with classes and your time is limited right now, we will hit the highlights of each possible EA/ED decision (deferred, denied, admitted) over the next few weeks and put a few podcasts out on these topics as well.

Deferred

Prediction: I think more students will be deferred this year by selective schools than they have in the past. Keep in mind enrollment managers are doing exactly what their job title says: managing enrollment (you come here for the deep stuff, I know).

Colleges are closely, and quite nervously, watching their spring enrollment numbers. What will retention look like if students were disappointed with their fall experience on campus, online, or in some hybrid delivery mode? If they take an additional financial hit, they will likely be looking to build an even bigger first-year class for the summer or fall of 2021.

Additionally, they have lots of questions about how to predict this year’s admitted student behavior:

  • Will yield go down as a result of test score optional policies?
  • Will international students be able to receive visas at pre-pandemic rates?
  • Will the financial fallout of Covid-19 deteriorate yield of domestic students?

All of this means they will likely defer a higher percentage of early applicants in order to wait and see what they can learn about vaccines, infection rates, economic recovery… you know, little stuff like that.

What does being deferred mean?  

It means maybe, hold onwe’re not surewe’d like to see more. Better than No? Yes. Ideal? Nope.

Being deferred means you have more waiting to do, and that is not easy or fun. This year more than ever before, though, I want to urge you to finish the drill. More defers does not necessarily mean more admits in the spring, but in many cases I think it will. And that is likely true from the waitlist too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  

You are likely going to need to submit another application or two. If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. Look for colleges that interest you who have higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one(s) that deferred you.

What should you do?  

First, read the letter, subsequent emails, and portal instructions closely. Then do what they say.

You are going to have some more work to do. Inevitably, you will need to send in fall grades, so finish this semester strong. Colleges that defer you will want to see how you’ve done in a challenging senior schedule (especially an abnormal junior spring term), or if your upward grade trend will continue, or how you are adjusting based on responsibilities outside the classroom. You may need to write an additional essay, have an online interview, or complete a form indicating continued interest or discussing updates on your fall activities.

What does being deferred NOT mean?  

It does not mean they are questioning your ability, talent, intelligence or potential match for their school. I understand we all desire instant gratification, but don’t miss the fact that the admission process can teach you some lifelong lessons (for example, some things are worth waiting for; some things do not happen your first time out; sometimes getting put on hold gives you a chance to reflect).

While both words start with “De,” being deferred does not mean you are denied. If a school did not think you were competitive or a good fit, they would have denied you. This sounds harsh but it’s true. Disappointed? Understood. 2020 has been a clinic in disappointment, so I feel you. But 2020 has also reminded us about patience, seeing the positives, and keeping perspective. You got this.

What should you AVOID doing? 

Please do not take being deferred as code for “try harder” by sending 18 additional letters of recommendation, stalking admission counselors on social media, going to see a fortune teller, or getting a tattoo of four-leaf clovers + college logo on your back.

In my opinion, particularly based on the enrollment uncertainty I described above, you should not write off a school you have strong interest in at this point in the cycle. Hold on, send us some stuff, tell us more– you can do that. Unless you have gotten into another college that is a better match for you, then I strongly encourage you to see this through.

Want to know more about being deferred? Read on. And on. And on.

Next week we will delve into what it means to be denied admission. 

The Basics of College Admission: Part 4

The last several months have led to a lot of finger pointing. The left blaming the right, and the right giving it back to the left. School administrators have been accused of being irresponsible in how they opened, or did not open, their elementary, middle, and high schools, and college presidents have certainly been the targets of plenty of ire and consternation as well.

Photo credit: The Raleigh News & Observer (file photo)

As we head into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I’m hopeful for a different kind of finger pointing. This is the stuff of the great Dean Smith coached UNC basketball teams—when someone helps you score, win, or succeed, and you acknowledge them by pointing to them in recognition.

The truth right now is we are all doing our absolute best in a time of great ambiguity. That’s draining and often lonely. My hope is you’ll look around you today and point your finger to (not at) someone who makes your life better—the people who help you learn, grow, and thrive. Finger points during Covid include texts, calls, distanced high fives, long-sleeved elbow bumps, and a variety of other mediums. Be creative and let the folks you love and appreciate know that today.

I’ll go first: This blog and podcast would never be possible without the incredible team I have the honor to work with at Georgia Tech. To Becky Tankersley, editor extraordinaire—THANK YOU! Your patience, attention to detail, and friendship are huge blessings in my life. To Samantha Rose- Sinclair, aka. SAMMY!! who edits our podcasts and cleans up all of my stumbles, mumbles, and bumbles—THANK YOU!

To each and everyone one of my colleagues featured below—Finger point, finger point, finger point! I appreciate y’all and consider it a true privilege to call you friends and colleagues.

Our mini-series “The Basics of College Admission” has been a great success. Thanks to those of you who have downloaded, subscribed, and listened over the last few weeks. If you are just tuning in or catching up, here is a quick look at some recent episodes on very timely topics.

Admission and Scholarship Interviews

Chelsea Scoffone (Associate Director, Special Scholarships) provides key tips and insight into how to prepare and practice for interviews, answer questions well, relax and actually enjoy the experience.

Listen to “Basics of College Admission: Interviews for Admission & Scholarship Programs – Chelsea Scoffone” on Spreaker.

Top Tips: Take advantage of “optional interviews.” Use interviews to learn more about the school and communicate aspects about your background that may not come out as clearly in your application. The best interviews are really a conversation. Translation: Don’t memorize answers!

Listen For: Key questions to ask yourself in preparation. The three biggest misconceptions students have about interviews.

Key Quote: “Don’t restate your resume…we are trying to learn those things that cannot be captured on your application.”

Further Reading: Big Future and US News

Transfer Admission

Chad Bryant (Associate Director, Undergraduate Admission) helps students understand ways students can research, prepare, and successfully transfer between colleges. He provides great tips into how students should learn about course requirements, transfer credit, deadlines, and more.

Listen to “Basics of College Admission: Transfer Admission – Chad Bryant” on Spreaker.

Top Tips: Take time to stop, reflect, and consider your goals for your college experience. Reach out to schools early to understand their specific process—they’re all different by design, which is both beautiful and maddening.

Listen For: An explanation of articulation and transfer programs or pathways.

Key Quote: “More than 1/3 of college students transfer colleges, and nearly half of those transfer more than once.”

Further Reading: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, American Association of Community Colleges, NACAC.

The Basics of Financial Aid

Larry Stokes (Customer Service Manager, Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid) explains the “alphabet soup” of Financial Aid. He walks students through FAFSA, CSS Profile, NPC (Net Price Calculator), COA (Cost of Attendance), and EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) and gives critical tips for students and families about deadlines, questions to ask, timeline of submitting documents, and other helpful tips and advice.

Listen to “Basics of College Admission: Financial Aid – Larry Stokes” on Spreaker.

Top Tips: Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines! Each school is different. Research each college and their requirements.

Listen For: How to use Net Price Calculators and how to locate “outside scholarships.”

Key Quote: “Schools are not going to be chasing you down to throw money at you.”

Further Reading:  FastWeb, College Affordability and Transparency Center,  and Federal Student Aid

Who is Reading Your Application?

Katie Faussemagne (Senior Assistant Director) gives you a look into the admission committee room. Who are admission counselors? What are their backgrounds and interests? And exactly what are they looking for when they open your application or interview you for their college?

Listen to “Basics of College Admission: Who’s Reading Your Application? – Katie Faussemagne” on Spreaker.

Top Tips: Don’t try to figure out what an admission counselor “wants to hear” in an essay or an interview.

Listen For: “The hidden rubric.”

Key Quote: “The biggest misconception students have is we all wear navy blazers and have a deny stamp in our hand.”

Further Reading: Our five-part blog series on The Admission Team.

Have a great week! Remember, give your fingers a break from the keyboard. Lift them up, extend them out, and encourage someone around you now.

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