Who wouldn't want to receive a new puppy to go with their decision notification? For seniors, college admissions decisions may come with banners, t-shirts, or thin envelopes. Receiving a consolation puppy in the mail is unlikely, but the good news is that preparing for what to expect can help you respond, plan next steps, and embrace news in a way that honors your unique educational journey and keeps you focused on your path to college. We already know about some of the trends that are surfacing this application season. One expected trend is that many students are submitting applications without test scores, and some colleges are reporting many strong applicants without scores. For qualified students with rigorous academics, their course work speaks volumes about their ability to master college-level work. The second noteworthy trend is an uptick in the number of deferrals into the regular decision pool from Early Application EA path. This rise in deferrals seems to indicate that schools are making further efforts to assess which students will indeed attend if they receive an offer. This year, colleges are being even more explicit regarding what they want from deferred applicants, including additional essays, updated information since the date an application was submitted, and 1st-semester grades. This should be a strong reminder to Seniors that Fall/1st-semester grades matter. The other trend worth tracking is Early Decision ED acceptance rates.
While we won't have the full picture until later this year, tracking how many schools will be increasing acceptances through their EDI and EDII cycles is something to keep on the radar. Some of these factors can be considered for students finalizing applications, but the question of whether to jump into the EDII pool or not may require additional research before hitting "submit." An enormous challenge for the class of 2021 has been the inability to visit colleges. Until this year, campus visits have been a critical element in deciding to apply ED. The "due diligence" required may be taking another form through virtual information sessions, ambassador chats, and virtual campus tours. Knowing how much it will cost to attend college whether you're applying ED, EA, or Regular Decision RD is always an essential question to answer and this year is no different. Learning how a college approaches students' financial need when reviewing applicants is especially important when applying ED and including any school on a college list. Understanding if a school is need-aware, need-blind, or offering merit scholarships when reviewing applicants should be included in a student's decision-making process. Students who have done thorough research on academic culture, social environment, programs, costs, and curriculum will recognize that there are multiple schools where they can succeed. They likely will also learn that there is no one "perfect" school and that there are many paths that lead to a successful college experience. The road to college involves many decisions along the way. As much as we often think that it is about colleges deciding or choosing, it is equally, if not more, about students choosing what to study and where to study. Developing decision-making skills during their college journey help prepare students for not just finding the right college but for navigating life's big and small cross-roads.