College Admissions in 2016: What Families Should Know

U Chicago

Too often there is a disconnect between what families and colleges understand to be important in college admissions. In the absence of information from colleges about what makes their institutions unique and what they really focus on in the determination of admissions decisions, families too often find themselves reacting to all the noise and unknowns out there rather than acting to identify and pursue what is in the student’s individual best interest.

Various aspects of the current college admissions landscape are contributing to the stress and confusion that families, who are simply trying to make sense of how to proceed, are understandably experiencing. There is a market place dynamic at play. Partly in the name of chasing after rankings and in what has been referred to as an “arms race,” colleges are using enrollment management strategies to recruit a broad range of applicants from which to choose. There are also many different stake holders in the college admission process. While they should work in concert, their agendas often conflict. Confusion for students and families trying to understand and consider the opportunities for an education, the student’s needs and interests, and the differences between colleges too often ensues.

Students and parents often think that admissions decisions are based primarily on assessment of the qualifications of the applicant. They are unaware of the institutional imperatives and objectives that must be realized and that may supersede the review of individual applications. Little do they understand how hard colleges work to enroll a full class and how deeply they worry about yield.

Families don’t know that early decision plans are advantageous to institutions since they enable them to increase their yield and control enrollment. Families don’t always know the importance of “demonstrated interest” and that visiting a campus can be interpreted by the college as a proxy for “likely to enroll” if admitted. They also don’t necessarily know about the impact of ability to pay or what “need sensitive” means.

Families mistakenly conclude that the marketing materials that may fill their email and mail boxes are signs of colleges’ targeted and informed interest in the student. And students and their parents worry incessantly about whether another 50 points on a standardized test or a different phrase on an admissions essay will render a completely different admissions decision.

Families are also unaware of the counseling role that good college admissions representatives play and often do not understand how available college representatives are to serve as resources. Students often don’t know that they can enter into a dialog, pose questions and expect to receive informed and enlightening responses. Students also often don’t know about the importance of their regional representative as a key resource to them and potential advocate of their application.

I encourage students and parents to become well informed, recognize what they have control over, and focus on educational values, the student’s needs and finding the best college for the student. And I encourage colleges to more fully consider the perspective of students and families who are trying to make sense of the myriad opportunities for an education and the differences between colleges. That would do a lot to relieve some of the stress students experience and that too often defines and clouds the college search and application process.

The CEP is the Certified Educational Planner which Jane holds, and is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors.

Jane Hoffman is a Certified Educational Planner (CEP). The CEP is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors. It reflects the highest level of professional achievement and signifies extensive knowledge and commitment to the profession and to providing the highest quality of service to students and families. It is conferred only after demonstration of expanded institutional and professional knowledge.

CEPIECANACACJane Hoffman is an active member of a number of professional associations in college admissions and counseling, including the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Jane is a graduate of IECA’s Practices and Principles Training Institute and adheres to IECA’s Principles of Good Practice. Since it is important to remain current, Jane frequently attends national conferences and participate in professional exchanges that provide the latest information on admission policies, practices, trends and developments. Jane regularly visit colleges and meets with admissions officers to learn about each school’s culture, educational programs, institutional priorities and admissions practices. Ongoing professional development activities also include taking courses online, completing webinars and consulting with colleagues.