Last Thursday was ‘Decision Day’ for the Class of 2014. Let’s just say it can be an anxiety-inducing week for many, me included, as final offers got weighed, appealed and weighed again. And despite facing some VERY long odds (several universities have reported admission rates that were less than half of those a decade ago), when the dust settled at about 5:30 pm on Thursday, the vast majority of our students were proudly enrolled at one of their top choices. You can see a full list of where they were accepted (excluding those still waitlisted) at the end of this email.
There were some very bright spots financially-speaking, at quite literally the 11th hour — including one award that more than doubled (from 15k to 34k), after a final appeal. Another that increased from 18k to 35k, a third student who was granted an additional $16,000.00, and I just learned of a fourth student who was given an additional $13,200 scholarship. From an admissions standpoint, please understand that all of this is taking place during a time when the competition for spots at competitive universities is more cutthroat then ever. Early data confirms what the anecdotal reports suggested: though overall college enrollment will be down from its 2011 peak, the more competitive (more widely known) schools were deluged by more applicants than ever and rejected legions of qualified applicants — many of whom would have been admitted just a few years back. In fact, back when most of today’s parents were applying to college, it was rare for a school (even the Ivies) to accept fewer than 20% of its applicants. Today, there are a dozen schools with admit rates below 10%! And many, many more that admit between 10 and 20% of applicants, including schools you might not expect, like Bowdoin, Swarthmore and Vanderbilt, among others.
Frankly, nearly every school saw an uptick in the sheer number of applicants. And even those that didn’t, with very few exceptions, admitted fewer students as a percentage of applicants than they did last year. The results shouldn’t surprise – especially as college admissions becomes far less regional. Technology has given students access to schools that they may have never considered (and vice versa) — not just in the U.S, but across the globe.
More than anything else, what I continue to see is that despite increasingly sophisticated technology or perhaps because of it, college admissions — which includes not just who gets in, but what price they’ll pay (list v. net) –remains a very ‘personal’ process, managed by real people who are moved by emotion and subtleties that are not reflected in scores, GPA or class rank. What separates two seemingly identical students on paper are intangibles like the student’s demonstrated interest in a school, expressed career aspirations, potential contributions on campus, their ability to move the needle on the school’s competitiveness, etc. In nearly every case that I was involved in, the students who received the best results (admissions and financial awards) were those whose families were able to have a targeted Admissions strategy that effectively and sufficiently demonstrate three things (not necessarily in equal measure): Need, Value AND Desire. In a crowded field, the importance of niche positioning when it comes to Admissions cannot be underestimated. What I mean is that instead of defensively submitting more applications to ‘cover your bases’, even if technology makes it enticing to do so, it’s far more efficient to build a targeted list of 8-10 schools that you know in advance will consider the value in your student (be it academically, socially or even geographically), be capable of meeting your family’s demonstrated financial need, and meet your student’s academic, social and aspirational desires.
The irony is that while there is now more information available than ever – including various school rankings, net cost calculators, ROI estimates, etc., the process is becoming more daunting and confusing than ever. The best advice I can offer is to go for depth over breadth, look beyond the obvious to identify great schools where you’ll be able to leverage your student’s strengths, and have an integrated admissions strategy that is driven by both the scholarly and the financial by the time your student is in 11th grade.
I’m holding my last free college planning classes of the school year in the next two weeks (next week in Miami and the following week in Pembroke Pines). I’ll be discussing these trends as well as how to make a great college both accessible and affordable during the program. If you have a child in high school who plans to apply to college in the next few years – or know of someone who does – please consider joining me at one of these classes.
And now, I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to my seniors and their families. It has been an honor and a pleasure working with you. Congratulations and my best wishes for your continued success at the ‘next level’. The following schools will be lucky to have you!
|Case Western Reserve|
|FAU – Wilkes Honors College|
|Florida State University|
|George Washington University|
|Savannah College of Art & Design|
|UMass – Amherst|
|UNC – Chapel Hill|
|UNC – Greensboro|
|Univ. of San Francisco|
|University of Central Florida|
|University of Colorado – Boulder|
|Wheaton College (IL)|
Please note that some of these acceptances reflect more than one acceptance per student (and vice versa) — a student, for example, who got into UF might have also been accepted at Elon and FSU, and/or more than one student was accepted to a particular college i.e., Stanford (we had two this year). And while, the vast majority of our students received some financial inducement, the amounts varied from school to school and family to family… The same student, for example, might have received $43,000 from GWU and nothing from FSU.Also, I am still compiling the financial data — early returns are that the scholarship and grant offers exceeded $1.5 million (exclusive of Bright Futures and other FL state merit incentives), with approximately $30,000 average per offer.