What students need to know about the ever-changing trends in college admissions
The pressure to get into the right college escalated in recent years. Colleges and universities have not remained untouched by the evolution that technology has introduced to the world. After all, the world seems to become smaller every day and opportunities abound for students to utilize the new frontier as a way to explore countless opportunites. As a result, admissions officers are noticing a shift in the experiences students bring to the table. At the same time, many of the same qualities that enabled students to rise to the top and gain admission to elite schools still prevail: persistence and hard work will never be overshadowed by innovation.
1. How has the growth of technology and social media affected college admissions? This is one area that definitely changes the way in which admissions officers approach the admissions process. Colleges DO research students in the public sphere known as social media; 25% of colleges and universities in 2009 reported they used social media to review applicants before making a final decision regarding their admission. Even after students submit their application, it may be wise to “clean up” personal information online that they would prefer admissions officers do not see. A student’s facebook profile and twitter account may seem like fun and games among teens, but students should make sure the information found on the internet presents them well. A good rule of thumb is if a student would not openly offer to reveal the information online to an admissions officer, then it would be best to remove it from the online world.
2. It’s the overall picture that a student presents that means the most in terms of admission – Students should remember that colleges and universities still seriously consider grades in academic classes and the extent to which students challenge themselves – for example by taking AP courses. And even though some may claim it’s not true, standardized test scores, including those on the ACT and SAT, still have a significant role in the college admissions process. However, the review of applications includes more than just these factors: students are assessed based on the “overall picture” they present. In a world where opportunities to go beyond one’s own community – whether virtually or physically – enables students to identify passions, communicate with people around the globe or become young entrepreneurs, students are judged based on a complete snapshot. In some ways this change make admission to college easier for students, but we cannot deny the stress involved with not only maintaining a stellar GPA, but standing out in other ways as well.
3. Demonstrated interest – Schools want students who want them, so they seek to accept students who want to attend their institution. A student’s proven and sincere interest in attending a specific college has always played a vital role in their candidacy, but today students have the ability to show their interest through countless ways, such as contacting professors, emailing, researching information on the internet, and signing up for admissions events. College are inclined to accept students who show a genuine interest and even moreso if they identify a specific program at the school the peaks their interest. For example, perhaps a school is known for its superb engineering program that interests a student – a student should capitalize on that program and make sure to verbalize what makes them a good fit for it. By carefully researching the aspects of a college that are appealing enables students to produce much more genuine applications.
4. Recommendations from teachers do not have the same impact they once did – Many high school teachers are overwhelmed with requests from students to write their college recommendations. As a result, the recommendations tend to look very similar and “cookie-cutter” because teachers simply do not have time to adequately explain a student’s individual characteristics and accomplishments. Colleges and universities receive many vague recommendations. As a result, recommendations have become less important to a student’s profile than other factors. However, students should still be careful about the teacher recs because the really fantastic recommendations or the really damaging recommendations stand out.
5. Technology reveals a student’s true character – More colleges and universities are cracking down on fraudulent applications, including those that students did not complete themselves, essays that students “borrowed” from the internet, or manufactured leadership roles or false assertions regarding participation in activities. With measures in place to check the facts and audit essays for plagiarism, like turnitin.com, admissions officers can easily weed out students who thought they could beat the system or obtain success without effort. On the flip side, these processes enable the authentic students the opportunity to stand out among the competition.
Applying to college will always be stressful, but information about the process will only serve to help students seeking a spot at one of the nation’s institutions of higher learning. There are so the pitfalls to avoid, but the more students know, the less stressful and uncertain the process will become. When commencing the college admissions process, just remember: it’s important to be smart, but it’s more important to be yourself.