College Admissions: Then and Now

Parents, you are in for a surprise if you think college admissions is anything like you experienced it.  The whole process has changed.  Colleges are more selective and students are more competitive.  Unsurprisingly, the Internet has led to big changes in the approach.

To fill you in, these are the issues we find ourselves addressing most with the students we work with at International College Counselors.

  1. More applications. Students are applying to more schools. While we recommend that students apply to 6-8 well-chosen schools, many decide to apply to 12 or more.  Applying to a larger number of schools likely means students have more options if they aren’t accepted into their top choices.  The Common Application also allows students to apply to more schools much more easily.  (It was a lot harder to manually type on the given page).

  2. Longer time to degree. The four-year college degree has largely faded. Now students commonly attend college for five, six, or even seven years. Some reasons: more onerous requirements, weak advising, students working while at college, and students taking more semesters off. Students planning to spend more than four years in college need to keep in mind that states may place caps on the number of semesters students can attend while paying in-state tuition.

  3. Social media considerations. College admissions has been greatly affected by social media. The vast majority of schools use some form of social media as a means of recruiting applicants and communicating with them. Students can also use social media to showcase their talents with blogs, video and more.  On the flip side, schools are known to look at an applicant’s online presence as they make their admissions decision, so be aware of this.

  4. Independent college advisors. Many families from all over world hire independent college advisors. Families realize that to eliminate family stress, and to navigate the confusing process, an advisor is essential. Students have been using private college advisors to help choose colleges, review essays and applications, give advice on interviews, refine extracurricular activities and more. Students should seek the services of an independent college advisor like those of International College Counselors.

  5. Obsession about majors. Many schools encourage students to declare majors right when they come in. Many parents discourage students from considering majors in which there isn’t a clear path to a high-paying (or, at least, some kind of) job. And many students think it’s a point of special pride to do a double (or sometimes even triple) major. Not to mention picking up a minor or two on the side.

  6. SAT / ACT (and other standardized test) Seriousness. SAT / ACT review classes and private tutoring sessions are much better attended than in decades before. Many new test prep strategies and products exist to help students increase their scores.

  7. Community college explosion. Community colleges are flourishing. They are attracting students who are interested in getting associate degrees or some college experience before transferring to four-year colleges. But in a new twist, some students at four-year colleges now are picking up courses at community colleges from time to time–when they want to be closer to home, need less expensive credits, want to take classes with a professor rather than a TA, or can’t get into classes they need at their own school.

  8. New online opportunities. Distance-learning institutions, such as the University of Phoenix, Kaplan University, and Devry University are no longer the only colleges that offer students a chance to get a degree online. A diverse range of schools including Oregon State, Florida State University, University of South Florida, Penn State, Drexel, and the State University of New York (SUNY) system all offer undergraduate online degrees.A number of big-name schools are also offering massive open online courses (MOOC). This is something great: top-notch professors in your own living room at no charge! Check out Coursera, Udacity, edX and others for classes from universities that include Stanford, MIT and Harvard.

  9. Information flooding. It has been said that there is almost too much information available for current applicants and their families. Students can learn about schools in hundreds of ways from websites and student reviews to virtual college fairs and numerous rankings from different sources that all give weight to different criteria. Students can also discover many schools they may never have known about back in the days of the 10 pound college guidebook, the primary (and in some cases only) college search resource of the “old days”.

It may not be as easy as before, but it’s not impossible to navigate.  If you feel you need help, contact an expert college advisor at International College Counselors, or call 954 414-9986. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.