Who’s The Most Selective Of Them All?

Chron: “College ranking site Niche just released its ranking of America’s most selective colleges. The study looks primarily — about 60 percent — at each school’s acceptance rate, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education. The other factors are SAT/ACT scores in the 75th and 25 percentile. Niche compiles this data based on the department of education as well as self-reported data from Niche readers. On the list are some familiar Ivy League campuses, as well as some lesser-known schools. Claremont, California reigns supreme as the town with the highest concentration of most selective universities.”

Not surprising, the top five are: Harvard, Stanford, Caltech, Yale and Princeton. You can review the complete list here.

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UMass: ‘ZooMass’ No More?

The Boston Globe: “In boosting its academic profile, UMass is following the path previously taken by several local private colleges, notably Boston College, Tufts University, Boston University, and, most recently, Northeastern University … Still, there are different implications when the state’s flagship public university becomes less accessible. For starters, there are lots of parents who are dumbfounded — and furious — when their kids get rejection letters from UMass. After all, they grew up when the place was known as ‘ZooMass,’ a safety school more associated with call-the-cops ragers than academic rigor.”

“The acceptance rate for UMass Amherst hasn’t changed much — it’s 60 percent, down just a couple of points from when he arrived. But the pool has grown stronger. UMass is now attracting many more students who have the credentials to get into selective private colleges but go public because their families make too much money to qualify for significant financial aid, yet not enough to cover private tuition without signing on for lots of loans. UMass isn’t cheap — about $30,000 per year for in-state tuition, fees, and room and board — but that is less than half of the going rate at most privates.”

Meanwhile: “UMass Amherst bought a campus in Newton after Mount Ida, a small college drowning in debt, suddenly shuttered last spring … having a presence in the humming east will allow UMass students to spend a semester or two in the Mount Ida dorms, pursuing the internships they need to graduate with work experience.” The Mount Ida campus may also serve as “a tool to recruit rising-star faculty who have the potential to leave their mark in the life sciences and technology fields — and can bring in large grants — but who are too attracted to the vibrant scene radiating from MIT in Cambridge to consider moving to Western Massachusetts.”

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Round 1: Early Applications Jump Again

The Washington Post: “At the University of Virginia, most applications arrive by Nov. 1 for the first round of freshman admissions. There were about 25,000 early hopefuls for the public flagship university’s Class of 2023, up 17 percent from the previous year. They will learn this month whether they got in. Those who applied in the second round, ahead of the regular Jan. 1 deadline, will receive decisions by the end of March. Everyone admitted has until May 1 to decide whether to enroll.”

“U-Va. is hardly alone. Many schools, public and private, report significant increases in early applications.” For example, compared to a year ago, the percentage increase in early applications jumped 19% at Duke, 21% at Brown, 39% at Rice, and 42% at New York University. “At the University of Rochester, about 1,200 applied for fall early decision. That was up 35 percent from the year before.” Jonathan Burdick, Rochester’s dean of admissions and financial aid comments: “The numbers keep growing rapidly. We’ve had double-digit increases each year for as long as I can remember.”

“Occasionally, Burdick said, students admitted through early decision will try to break the rules and keep shopping. Such students run ‘a genuine risk’ of having their offers revoked, he said, if schools learn a contract has been broken. Burdick said he tells prospective students: ‘Please don’t apply early unless you love Rochester and it’s definitely where you want to be’.”

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How Many APs Is AP-propriate?

US News: “Advanced Placement classes can set applicants apart in a competitive college admissions environment, demonstrating the ability to perform well on more challenging coursework. Experts say performing well in AP courses often signals readiness for college. But for students looking to land at a top college, the question of how many AP courses to take persists … for those academically unprepared for the challenge, struggling in AP courses can backfire, with low grades and exam scores reflecting negatively on college applications.”

“A 2013 study conducted by admissions officials at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill found almost no difference in the first year GPA for students who took five college-level classes during high school compared with those who took six or more. Based on these findings, UNC officials remarked in the study they will encourage students ‘to pursue at least five college-level courses’ during high school.”

“Jack Whelan, director of college guidance at Providence Day School in North Carolina, says he generally sees students taking too many AP classes in high school rather than too few … While experts say AP courses are viewed favorably by admissions officers, Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling and outreach at The Derryfield School in New Hampshire, notes colleges will consider a student’s application in the context of the curriculum offered at his or her high school, meaning the applicant won’t be penalized if few or no AP classes are available.”

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Admissions Tip: Making the Grade with GPA

Jeffrey J. Selingo: “A recent survey of college admissions officers found that nothing carries more weight in deciding which applicants to accept than high school grades. Why? Research shows that a student’s high school grade-point average is consistently a better predictor than test scores of a student’s likely performance in college. It’s not just about whether those students will get good grades in college.”

“Grades matter in college admissions because they are a signal of a student’s effort, grit and determination … But it’s not only applications with all A’s that rise to the top of a pile in an admissions office. Officers look for students who challenge themselves by taking courses outside academic areas where they are strongest. They want applicants who are interested in studying engineering to also have taken a full slate of English courses in high school, even if they struggled at times.”

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Tell The Truth: They Know When You are Lying

The New York Times: “The Common Application asks students to certify that they are telling the truth, but does not try to independently confirm that they are. It is up to colleges to take that extra step … Some universities require students to sign a sworn statement that they are telling the truth, under pain of prosecution. But officials admit they are not seeking to be law enforcement. Mainly, officials and counselors said, they look for inconsistencies. Do standardized test scores and grades match? Do certain words and phrases in an essay jump out as being in the vocabulary of an adult rather than a teenager? Are a student’s extracurricular activities too good to be true?”

“And they depend on high school counselors to give them honest appraisals of students who are applying. ‘If each component is not all pulling in the same direction, it becomes a kind of red flag,’ said Katharine Harrington, vice president of admissions and planning at the University of Southern California.”

“Scott Burke, the undergraduate admissions director at Georgia State University, knew something was amiss when the birth date on an application was far too old to belong to the high school student who supposedly filled it out. With a little sleuthing, his office discovered that it was a parent’s birth date … ‘All of us sitting here looking at those applications came to that thinking that the parent likely filled out the whole application,’ Mr. Burke said. But they could not say for sure whether that was the case, and after contacting the student, they gave the family the benefit of the doubt.”

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What to Do When You Are Deferred?

Yale: “Students who apply early will receive one of three decisions in mid-December: Accept, Defer, or Deny … Here’s the deal. A deferral means one thing and one thing only: We need more time to consider your application. It’s important to understand this. You were not deferred because there is something wrong with your application. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: if you were deferred it means your application is strong enough to continue to be seriously considered by the admissions committee.”

“You should not inundate your admissions officer with weekly emails and cards. More often than not it is the required pieces of the applications, like the essays and teacher recommendations that we already have, that make a student stand out for us. For the most part, we have what we need. We’ll get your mid-year grades from your school counselor to see how you’re doing in your senior year classes, and if you want you can send us one letter of update to let us know what you’ve been up to since November 1st.”

“The bottom line is that ‘deferral’ does not mean ‘we need more information’ or ‘something wasn’t good enough.’ It means we see a lot of great potential in you and we just need a little more time to sit in that committee room and mull things over … We appreciate your patience, and you’ll be hearing from us again soon.”

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Will Algorithms Change Admissions?

USA Today: “Relax, the robots aren’t coming for college admissions quite yet. Real people will still be deciding on applicants for quite some time, and in all likelihood will always have the final say on admissions. Yet, just as artificial intelligence is in the relatively early stages of impacting practically every business, AI will almost certainly assume a bigger role across college campuses, too, and perhaps help university staffers decide whether you ultimately make the cut.”

“While University of Texas at Austin isn’t currently using or planning to use AI in its admissions process, UT-’s executive director of admissions Miguel Wasielewski told USA TODAY in an emailed statement that AI could become a useful tool. He wrote that, in conjunction with a robust ‘holistic review,’ AI ‘could have potential to reveal additional perspectives that might inform the admissions review process and … could support some of our practices around determining, based on a student’s application materials, what student success interventions might be important for timely graduation’.”

“That holistic review, Wasielewski makes clear, is still a ‘human endeavor,” and it is people, not machines, that will pore through and evaluate an applicant’s written responses to essay and short answer questions, transcripts, test scores and letters of recommendation.”

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Grade Inflation: Putting the ‘Grit’ Back in GPA

Mitch Daniels: “In many cases, the GPA proves to be a reliable indicator of discipline, persistence and resilience — characteristics necessary to succeed at the college level (to say nothing of adult life). In the current vernacular, these traits are often collectively called ‘grit.’ Enrollment experts agree on its significance. The problem is in knowing when a high GPA reflects it and when it doesn’t. The challenge for today’s college admissions officer is like the one faced by corporate recruiters: In an era of rampant grade inflation, which grades can you believe?”

“Last year, researchers reported that nearly half of high school seniors in 2016 — 47 percent — graduated with an A average. That’s up from 38.9 percent in 1998. As ordinary students increasingly ‘earn’ higher marks, teachers help top students stand out by granting them extra credit of various kinds. The result: It is now not unusual for colleges to see high-school GPAs above a ‘perfect’ 4.0 … It is increasingly clear that, though a strong high-school GPA may indicate grit, it can also just be a sign of lax grading — producing not resilience but its opposite.”

“Of course, one easy solution for colleges is just to go with the grade-inflation flow, and obviously many institutions of higher education have chosen that route. Places determined instead to stretch and challenge students, aiming to help them achieve their full potential, will have to take on the trickier task of identifying and fostering true grit, providing quality counseling everywhere it’s needed … Meanwhile, let’s hope the College Board comes up with a new GPA — Grit Potential Assessment. I guarantee you, our university will be the first customer.” (Mitch Daniels is President of Purdue University)

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Aw, Snap: Admissions Interest in Social Media Drops

Adweek: “The emergence of social platforms and features where content disappears or is not easily available for viewing by people who are not friends or contacts, such as the Stories format on Snapchat and Instagram, has reduced college admissions officers’ focus on applicants’ social media profiles, according to the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep.”

“Kaplan surveyed 364 admissions officers from national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities in the U.S., and it found that only 25 percent visit applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, down from 40 percent in 2015, prior to the emergence of the Stories format and similar features on other social platforms. Indeed, 52 percent of college admissions officers that did visit applicants’ social media profiles said those applicants have become more savvy about hiding their social media presence or using platforms where their content is not easily found by the public.”

“In Kaplan’s 2017 survey, 68 percent of admissions officers felt that it was ‘fair game’ for them to visit applicants’ social media profiles, but that number dropped to 57 percent this year. Meanwhile, 70 percent of students in a separate study conducted by Kaplan earlier this year felt that the practice was fair game.”

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