It has been a while since I last posted, but that does not mean that I have not been thinking about the admission process to schools – both boarding and university. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the application process is becoming more complex. Boarding schools are clamping down on the numbers of students and placing important steps in to the application. Universities are seeing overwhelming numbers of applications from China as well. This number, along with the SAT fiasco, is causing schools to reserve themselves in the decision process. Overall, it appears that this year will be challenging for students coming from the Mainland.
Let’s start with boarding schools. With the large numbers of students applying to boarding schools, not just Chinese students but also international school students in China, many schools are tightening the process. I have noticed that more and more schools are requiring:
1. Vericant interview before proceeding
2. A completed application before moving forward. Schools are also asking for documentation ahead of time.
3. SSAT and TOEFL scores. All of this material needs to be in place before having a formal interview or going to the school for a visit.
What are boarding schools doing? Pre-screening and potentially pre-selecting students so that by the time the applications get to the review committee, they have a stronger pool of applicants who meet their criteria to choose from. They are also (I feel graciously) letting students know whether they are qualified to move to the next phase of the application. This keeps students who are not qualified from moving forward.
Let’s be honest. Too many students are seeking places in boarding schools. There are a finite number of schools to choose from and those schools need to be honest with families who have a chance while not encouraging students who will not be admissible. While that may not seem fair, we do need to look at the process from the standpoint of the admission process. Schools like to attract a wide diversity of students. More and more schools are limiting the number of students from one country, one language, etc. Schools need to focus on creating diversity within their community: country, region, wealth, background, and so on. So, what I am beginning to see is that schools are starting to reach some limits and those limits are forcing schools to make decisions to limit the readable applications. End result, students and their families need to start the process earlier, visit schools over the summer, get materials in way before deadlines, and make sure they are appropriately selecting and researching schools.
On the university side of the application process, there are some growing issues. Without stating the obvious, the SAT mess has challenged both students and colleges. But aside from that, numbers from applicants has increased at many schools. Here is an example. Last year UCLA had a total of 86,000 applications while this year the number has increased to over 100,000 or so. Their freshman class will not get larger and UCLA will admit around 16,000 students. Many other schools have seen an increase in applicants as well, adding to the anxiety of students and families.
For students coming from the Mainland, one of the biggest hurdles is presented not only by the SAT cheating scandal, by also by the use of unethical agents. This has placed students coming from China in a tough spot. Considering all applicants this fall, not just Chinese students, many schools in their early round applications seemed to have deferred – moved to another phase of the application process – either an early round two or regular. I have spoken to a number of my colleagues and some US students who have mentioned this.
Like boarding schools, many universities are now employing IntialView or CIEE interviews to provide more information on applicants to get a better sense of overall English ability from speaking to writing. Some schools like University of Pennsylvania are in the process of attempting to interview 100 percent of their applicants. Universities are not using these methods in exactly the same sense as boarding schools, but it is apparent that schools are beginning to realize that a high TOEFL score does not mean fluency. Professors are the main reason for these additional steps as they are finding that many high scoring TOEFL students cannot survive in their lectures and discussions.
I think it is also important to restate the fact that universities, like boarding schools, are looking to create diverse vibrant communities. At universities there are many more interested parties playing a role. Schools are looking to provide more diverse classes but the numbers just keep growing. One top school mentioned the other day that in this year’s applicant pool, they have added 700 new schools from around the world. So if even one student applies from a new school, that adds new diversity to the applicant pool. Consider too that schools need to focus on their local populations, regional access, as well as economic and cultural diversity while focusing on improving the quality of the students they admit. Another school admitted that they need to add ten SAT points to their average SAT for the incoming class for each year. While ten points does not seem like much, what it means is that if they take students on the lower end of the SATs, they need to add more at the top end to recalibrate upward.
What I see is that the application process for university is getting a bit more complex but the results – decisions that will be coming in the next few months – will leave a number of students moaning. To prepare for that potential outcome, I will continue to state the following: don’t have a dream school, consider all of your options, make sure you have a Plan B and most importantly, if you don’t get into that top set of schools, remember these two things:
- Education happens everywhere, all the time.
- Smart students go everywhere – Top schools and community colleges.
What does this mean? No matter where you get in, if you apply yourself, you can get a fantastic education anywhere.
Photo: CollegeDegrees360 (flickr)