Update for March 2021

News

Common Application Adds More Colleges: The Common Application (or Common App) is an application portal that allows students to apply to multiple colleges via one login system. It simplifies the application for the student by eliminating the need for separate applications for every single college. Common App announced that over 30 new colleges were joining the platform, including University of Alabama, James Madison University, Colorado School of Mines, Portland State University, and all of the public colleges in Illinois. Over 900 colleges use Common App for undergraduate admissions. Significant colleges that do NOT use Common App include the University of California and California State University systems, Texas public colleges using Apply Texas, University of Washington, and all US service academies. Those colleges use an independent proprietary application or are part of the Coalition Application (University of Washington).

Note: In February Common App announced Personal Statement Essay Prompts for the 2021-22 application cycle.

Florida Bright Futures: Late in February, state legislation in Florida proposed significant changes to the Florida Bright Futures scholarship. The changes would have reduced the degrees eligible for scholarships by creating a list of degrees that lead to direct employment. It would also have reduced the number of college credits funded under the scholarship if the student had earned college credit in high school (such as through Advanced Placement or dual enrollment/dual credit courses). It also would have allowed the legislature to set an annual award amount for National Merit Scholars through the state budget process, rather than tying it to tuition costs. There was significant pushback from Florida residents and legislators and there have been major changes to the bill (including removing the section that would penalize students for early college credits), but it signals efforts by state governments to control over state grants for higher education through the annual budget process. (Article on original proposal.)

College May Require Covid Vaccines: Rutgers University announced they would require students in Fall 2021 to have a Covid-19 vaccine (with exceptions for medical and religious reasons and for students in fully remote or online-only programs). Rutgers is located in New Jersey, a state that experienced a heavy death toll in the early months of the pandemic.

Featured Long Article Episode

This month I suggest listening to This American Life Episode 734: The Campus Tour Has Been Cancelled. This episode looks at the ways that test optional admissions policies have opened the door for more applications to some highly sought colleges, at the same time that other student groups have seen applications drop precipitously. The second part of the episode looks specifically at The University of Texas, which admits the majority of its students based on class rank at Texas high schools.  In the absence of test scores, class rank may rise in importance for other colleges.

Meanwhile, Back at the Office

As Co-Chair of the Homeschool Affinity Group of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), I was excited to help launch a college admissions panel series focused on admissions for homeschool students. Our first panel included admissions representatives from Stetson University, Vanderbilt University, Whittier College, and University of California.

The conversation was encouraging. Each was excited about having homeschoolers apply to and enroll at their school, and none of the colleges on the panel had extra requirements for homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are admitted at rates that reflect their proportion in the respective applicant pools. Most of the schools read homeschool applications alongside other applications, while one school had an admissions rep who read all homeschool applications.

Each of the representatives mentioned that outside academic experiences, such as dual enrollment/dual credit courses or Advanced Placement coursework, are useful in determining student ability. Whittier, Stetson, and Vanderbilt all found detailed course descriptions and a school profile document helpful to put the student transcript into context.

On the other hand, University of California relies on the student-generated course and grade information that is internal to their application. They don’t review transcripts at all until after admissions offers have been made, so students need to clearly self-advocate in other parts of the application, such as Additional Comments and Other Academic History sections.

The rep from Stetson noted that the majority of their homeschool applications were from in-state students. This isn’t surprising, given that Florida has a large homeschool community and Stetson University is a small college (3,000 students) that is better known regionally.

Homeschool applicants need to understand their audience. The application expectations for a very large university that has to review 100,000 applications will be different than the expectations at a small college that hand reviews every application. It also underscores the need for patience when communicating with admissions reps, who may not be familiar with what homeschooling looks like outside their typical recruiting areas.

I’m looking forward to the next Homeschool Affinity Group college admissions panel in May. It will be interesting to see if there are new insights as we go into the 2021-22 application cycle.

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