Updated: Mar 24, 2021
I pay attention to trends and I'm excited to share three that will impact juniors preparing for college.
The first? Unpredictability. Okay...I can see the eye-roll but this can work in your favor. COVID has upended college admissions. Colleges have been forced to rely upon, more heavily, evaluating a student's transcript for admissions. While the student transcript has always been the best predictor of a student's success in college, and, for most colleges, the first thing that they evaluate in an application, many colleges are now being forced to evaluate transcripts a bit more closely in the absence of standardized test scores. Grades matter, too. But there is a recognition that COVID placed unprecedented challenges on many schools, students and families. You, the student, are being given the opportunity to explain. Choose your senior year classes wisely, ideally classes that you are interested in. Don't take the easy path. And be thoughtful of how you spend your time outside of class.
The second trend is less reliance, for most colleges, on standardized test scores. Insert smiley face. College Board has eliminated the dismal Subject Tests. The SAT "optional" essay is gone as well. The vast majority of colleges, many highly selective, went test optional for Class of 2020 due to COVID testing challenges. And students who did not submit their scores are being admitted. It's looking like that trend will continue for the Class of 2022, as Brennan Barnard, education contributor for Forbes, explains in a recent article 2021 College Admissions Predictions. We'll have better clarity at the end of this admissions cycle but there are strong predictors that test optional, for most colleges, will continue. COVID has pushed what Higher Ed has known for quite some time: test scores align with family income, the quality of the high school attended and access to prep resources. They are not the best predictor of success in college.
So what does that mean for you? I recommend that juniors do some prep for their ACT or SAT test. The College Board website has a test prep (free) partnership with Khan Academy. ACT has a partnership with Kaplan (again, some free options.) This will benefit students. Take it seriously, take it once, and see where you land. If you do not feel that your standardized test score is a predictor of your potential and aligns with your transcript, then there will be plenty of schools that you can apply to that may have not been realistic in years' past. Disclaimer: a balanced list of colleges is key, analysis is needed before you completely walk away from test prep. Contact me for advice specific to your goals.
And, third? College cost...tuition at many colleges is stabilizing or going down. COVID has pushed colleges to reckon with cost and has forced them to find efficiencies: invest in quality online learning models, eliminate some majors and place an emphasis on affordability, to name a few. Affordability equals access and colleges are being forced to recognize that as many families have less to spend on college as enrollment is declining. The list of colleges freezing or reducing tuition is growing. There is talk that the Biden Administration may increase the amount of Pell Grants (federal, need-based aid for college that you don't pay back) although that may not be a factor in time for the Class of 2021.
Equity, Simplicity and Joy are words used by Forbes contributor Brennan Barnard to describe a future in the college application process. I like it: Equity, Simplicity and Joy. Insert smiley face.