As summer gets closer, high school students might be heads down in end of the year exams and finals, sports playoffs, or crossing off the days until they can sleep in. But there are a few tasks they should attend to while school is still in session that will help make college applications easier. Paying attention to these important college admissions tips for high school juniors will put them in a better position to work on applications over the summer and meet all of their fall application deadlines.
Learn How Your High School Supports College Applications
Each high school has a specific process for how they send supporting documents to colleges. This includes high school transcripts, a school profile that describes the school’s curriculum and student demographics, and counselor and teacher recommendations. In some cases students have to log into their school’s student management software and request documents weeks in advance. This information is often available on the pages for your school’s counseling center, but it might be in an email or a presentation you haven’t read yet. If you cannot explain your school’s process and timeline, this is something to find out before break. You don’t want to miss an application deadline, because you didn’t follow directions or submit your request early enough.
Ask Teachers if They Will Write Letters of Recommendation.
Many colleges require or consider letters of recommendation from teachers. You should approach teachers now and ask if they are willing to be one of your recommenders. They give them a “brag sheet” that briefly outlines your contributions and achievements in their class. The brag sheet is a starting point they can use for writing the letter of recommendation. If you want them to write about how you added to class discussions or were supportive of other students, give them examples of that. If you want the letter to focus on your academic ability, remind them of when you went above and beyond the classroom requirements. Some teachers and high schools will have a standard format for brag sheets (see the first item about knowing your school’s process). If they don’t have a form to follow, this brag sheet for letters of recommendation from Common App will get you started.
Who should write letters of recommendation for college applications?
Colleges specify in their applications if they require a recommendation from a Teacher and if they allow additional recommendations from Others like coaches and employers. Military college programs like the Naval Academy or ROTC scholarships may require recommendations from teachers of specific classes like English and Math. You probably want to approach a couple teachers from core academic areas (English, math, science, history/social sciences, and/or foreign language). But if you have a great relationship with one of your elective teachers, they could be a good option too.
Get a Copy of Your Transcript with Grades
After your final grades post, you’ll want to get a copy of your high school transcript. Most applications have a place to input your high school courses and grades. You’ll want to have the transcript so you can use the same course name in your application and correctly input each of your grades. This will also remind you of items you want to address in an additional information section.
When the last day of school arrives, celebrate knowing that you can enjoy a much needed break and also that you have what you need to work on applications and essays over the summer.
These are the biggest college admissions trends I noticed in the 2022-23 cycle. Families of younger high school students should be aware of these trends so they can make wise decisions as they approach college admissions.
Continued Increases in Applications to High Profile Colleges
Rising numbers of applications and drops in admissions rates generated headlines for prestige colleges like Harvard and Yale. But many other institutions have seen similar application increases. Most of these increases are at name brand research universities, including marquee public universities. For example, University of Tennessee reported a 40% increase in applications and subsequent drops in admissions rate.
Applications Overall and Applications Per Student Increased
The Common App reported an increases across the board. There were more individual student applicants, more total applications, and more applications per student. The average Common App user submits five college applications.
Test Optional Policies
Most colleges have kept their Covid-initiated test optional policies in place, meaning that students can complete an application without submitting test scores. Only 4% of Common App colleges required test scores from first time freshman applicants in the 2022-23 cycle. But it remains unclear how student choices regarding test scores help or hurt their applications. Very few colleges release admissions statistics that separate admissions outcomes based on test submission. Strong test scores continue to be a positive signal to most colleges. A few colleges have reinstituted testing requirements, notably MIT and Purdue. Others never dropped their score requirement, such as Tennessee, Florida, University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. I recommend students take the SAT or ACT at least once junior year and then decide if those scores add value to their applications. (See below for upcoming changes to the SAT.)
Holistic Admissions and Institutional Priorities Are Real
While grades and curriculum are the opening argument for college admissions review, that doesn’t mean colleges base admissions on GPA and test scores alone. College admissions readers weigh many factors, including the student’s academic context and personal context such as activities, family responsibilities, financial resources. Institutional priorities include academic program capacity, legislative restrictions on in-state vs out of state enrollment, and operating costs. Furthermore, colleges want to admit students who will then enroll. The ways that a student demonstrates interest in actually enrolling continues to be important, whether that is indicated through a binding Early Decision application, a visit to campus, or engagement with the admissions office.
Massive Deferrals and Wait Lists
This is the trend in college admissions I’m most dismayed by. Some colleges deferred thousands and tens of thousands of early applicants to regular decision. And at the end of the admission cycle, many colleges created record-breaking wait lists. Both deferrals and wait lists are based on college-centered business practices. To paraphrase one admission rep: they don’t want to get to the spring and be unable to enroll a full class, so they delay finalizing admissions decisions. Increases in application numbers make this even worse, since the admissions office may not have gotten any larger and may struggle to get through all of the applications in a timely manner. Students who are still interested in remaining on a wait list should follow their directions for opting into the list. But realize that it is unlikely to come off a wait list and offers of admission to wait listed students are based on entirely on institutional priorities (see previous paragraph).
The next two are technological developments rather than college admissions trends, but they are likely to affect the 2023-25 application cycle.
Technology Trend – Digital SAT
College Board announced a shift to a computer-based Digital SAT test that would use adaptive technology to review students’ results on initial question modules and select questions for subsequent modules based on those results. This will allow them to shorten the overall test length. It also means students need to be on their best game from the beginning of the test. Rollout of the Digital SAT started with international test dates and continues for US students with the October 2023 PSAT and then the Spring 2024 SAT. Students will need to bring their own testing device (laptop or tablet) with the required testing app already installed. Students should put in solid work to get familiar with it before the fall SAT.
Technology Trend – AI Writing
ChatGPT and other AI writing software launched with a big splash this spring. There was immediate speculation that students might use it to write their college application essays. There have already been several AI writing “detectors” announced. Colleges may add these to their application review, but might not do so publicly. Colleges don’t finalize their application requirements until August. So, there is still time for them to add supplemental requirements like live writing or video responses. I’ve played around with ChatGPT and typical college application writing prompts. The results tend to be general and more than a little lifeless. Take time to go through the process of thinking, writing, and revising. Responses that are clearly individual to the student and not based on language prediction will continue to be the best option.
Final College Admissions Trend: Shock that Assumptions Were Wrong
I don’t know if this is a really a trend or just something I’m noticing in social media. I frequently see posts from families that are shocked/dismayed/angry that their student didn’t receive the offers of admission they expected. If their kid mostly applied to colleges with <10% admissions rates, they may find that their highly qualified student is among the >90% of applicants that were not offered admission. If their college list did not include colleges with a wide range of admissions percentages (including medium and high admissions percentages), they may feel they have few viable options this spring.
My advice to build a well-balanced college list that includes colleges with higher admissions percentages is not news, but remains current. Students cannot count on admission to colleges that turn down more than 90% of applications. They also shouldn’t assume that selectivity equals quality. The more open students are to colleges they are less familiar with in locations that are less fabled, the better their choices in spring of senior year will be.
If you submitted financial aid applications (FAFSA and possibly the CSS Profile) along with college applications, then acceptances may come with financial aid awards. Sometimes colleges mail an actual letter, but they might also be in a section of the student’s application portal for each college. Financial aid includes grants (gift aid that doesn’t have to be paid back), work study (money paid to a student because they work in a campus job associated with a work study program), and loans (that have to be paid back with interest after leaving college).
Understanding financial aid award letters can be tricky. Formats vary wildly from one college to another. In particular, loans which might not be clearly labeled. You might see terms like “Fed Sub,” “Unsub,” or “Parent Plus” instead.
It’s easy to get excited about a college that awards a $20,000 tuition discount, while ignoring that they are $30,000 more expensive than other colleges on your list. Compare the final net cost, not the discount amount. Here are a few resources that can help you determine if a college is a good financial fit.
Compare Financial Aid Awards
Financial Aid Shopping Sheet This fillable form allows you to input data from each financial aid offers into a standard format. This one is from the state of New Jersey. I like it because it helps you total up both direct and indirect costs that could be very different depending on the colleges you’re comparing. For example, transportation might include public transportation, a car (plus gas, insurance, and parking), or plane fare. You should fill out a sheet like this for each college you’re comparing. Remember that these are annual costs, if students at one college take 5-6 years to graduate, include that in your comparison too.
Financial Path to Graduation This government site walks families through a series of questions to determine the cost of attendance vs different types of aid offered. A couple helpful features of this tool are that it asks about other resources for paying for college, like 529 plans or state grants. It also clearly includes the cost of loans (both interest and fees) and helps you visualize student debt at graduation and the estimated total cost of student loans. It even pulls in graduation rate, average income, and loan default info to help you decide if each college is a good option.
Appealing Financial Aid Offers
Financial aid awards are not written in stone. It’s possible to appeal financial aid offers, especially if you think the FAFSA missed nuances in your family’s financial situation. Families may struggle with writing an appeal letter that is clear and compelling. Some colleges have their own appeal application or form. If yours doesn’t the Swift Student online tool has a series of prompts to help you put the facts together in way that financial aid offices will understand and consider acting on. Swift Student has many templates to cover specific situations, like a changed financial situation, unusual expenses, or emergency costs.
College financial aid offices can override financial aid awards through “professional judgement.” But what situations would be worth appealing and what documentation would be compelling. This set of Professional Judgement Tip Sheets helps college financial aid officers weigh appeal requests. They include case studies that can help you understand what might form the basis of an appeal and what information may be asked for.
Financial Fit Matters
For most families, cost is just as important for college fit as size, location, and academic programs. Make sure you understand the financial aid award and what it would actually cost to attend each college. It’s OK to decide that a school isn’t a viable choice based on the total cost (even if it’s a popular or selective college).
For most high school students, exposure to the military is limited to books and movies. Even those from military families may wonder what it would be like to personally have the restrictions and responsibility of military life. Service academy summer programs offer high school students a chance to experience what life as a cadet or midshipman is like. This can help students know if they really want to apply to attend an academy.
These programs are relatively small and cannot accept all of the students who apply, so take the time to submit a quality application. You don’t need to apply the first morning the application is open, but don’t procrastinate either. The applications may require essays, transcripts, and recommendations that you can’t produce at the last minute. The application periods vary for each academy, but generally require applying in the winter or early spring of junior year. Check out the end of the article for additional programs, including some for younger students.
What Are Service Academies?
You might have heard of the Army-Navy Football Game, one of the longest running rivalries in college football. But you might not really understand that service academies are both military training centers and colleges.
There are five federal service academies: US Naval Academy (Navy & Marine Corps), US Military Academy (Army), US Air Force Academy (Air Force & Space Force), US Coast Guard Academy, and US Merchant Marine Academy (civilian maritime professions or a military commission). Each is a college, run by the federal government, that offers an undergraduate education and immersive military training for future officers.
Students (called cadets or midshipmen) attend college classes, gain leadership experience, and go on summer military training. At the end of four years, they earn a Bachelor of Science degree and become officers in the branch of the military associated with their academy. Students receive a 100% scholarship that covers tuition, room & board, and a monthly stipend. In return for the tuition-free education, graduates serve for several years in the military. As a result, applications are competitive and should be started in spring of junior year.
Students who are interested in applying to a service academy should also consider college ROTC programs. College ROTC programs are another pathway to becoming a military officer. ROTC scholarships can pay for tuition, fees, books, and a monthly stipend.
Benefits of Attending a Service Academy Summer Program
Students Get a Better Sense of What Attending an Academy Is Like
Service academy summer programs are packed with presentations from academy leaders, demonstrations of military gear, and tours academic facilities. But it’s not all passive watching. There is hands on training too: obstacle courses, basic squad tactics, damage control exercises, and more.
Summer Programs Are Led by Current Cadets & Midshipmen
This gives participants a chance to talk to someone currently going through the academy. Their descriptions of academy life up to date and often less filtered. They may explain why they chose their academy over other opportunities or the good and bad side of being there. There are other opportunities to meet cadets and midshipmen, like admissions information events, but service academy summer programs offer several days of interaction, not just the chance to ask one or two questions.
Students Learn if They’re Physically Ready for an Academy
Service academy summer programs often start with morning fitness training, and include other physical activities throughout the day. Just getting from one side of campus to another may involve a fair amount of marching or jogging. In addition, academies usually do a full administration of their fitness test for all participants. If your score is strong, you might not need to take the fitness assessment again. If it’s not so great, you can use this as a practice test and go home knowing what you need to work on.
Service Academy Summer High School Programs
The following Service academy summer programs are one-week orientations for rising seniors, usually held before the incoming freshman class arrives. Training is primarily led by current midshipmen and cadets, along with recent graduates. The cost includes room and board, but students are responsible for their own travel arrangements. I’ve put these in rough order by when the applications open and close. Because of the high number of applications, late applications are not usually considered. Applications are typically open in late fall to spring of junior year, but vary by program. Most applications for summer 2023 are closed, but session dates and application timelines are posted as a guideline for what to expect next year.
US Air Force Academy Summer Seminar
The US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO trains officers for the Air Force and now the Space Force. Its Summer Seminar gives seniors an opportunity to experience life as a cadet. Seminar dates are typically mid-June. The Air Force Academy Summer Seminar applications opened December 1 and close January 15. The program typically costs $300.
The US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD prepares future Navy and Marine Corps officers. It hosts the Naval Academy Summer Seminar or NASS. This is an introduction to “academic, athletic, and professional training.” There are three sessions in June.
2023 Session Dates: Session 1: June 3 – June 8, 2023 Session 2: June 10 – June 15, 2023 Session 3: June 17 – June 22, 2023
The Naval Academy Summer Seminar application opens January 4 and closes April 15, 2023. The application must be completed in one sitting. You cannot save and come back to it later. Cost: $550.
US Military Academy Summer Leaders Experience
The US Military Academy in West Point, NY holds a Summer Leaders Experience or SLE. This offers an immersion in cadet life for rising seniors. Classes, physical and military training are held in the first two weeks of June. Rolling admission application for the Summer Leadership Experience opens February 1 – March. Cost is $625 and need-based scholarships are available.
2023 Session Dates: Session 1: June 3 – 9, 2023 Session 2: June 10 – 16, 2023
US Coast Guard Academy Academy Introduction Mission
The US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT holds the latest of the academy summer programs. The Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) runs in July. This summer program has a reputation for its realistic exposure to life at a service academy. For 2022, the Coast Guard Academy held a total of four AIM session, three on campus and one virtual session. The application for AIM is usually open February 8 – April 15. Cost is approx $750. Some need based scholarships are available.
2023 Session Dates: Session I: 2-7 July, 2023 (On Campus) Session II: 9-14 July, 2023 (On Campus) Session III: 16-21 July, 2023 (On Campus)
US Merchant Marine Academy
The US Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, NY does not hold a summer camp for high school students. Contact USMMA directly for information about touring King’s Point.
How to Apply to Service Academy Summer Programs
Applications typically ask for grades in academic courses, an activities list, an essay, and PSAT, SAT, or ACT test scores. Students should prepare to be physically active in a military setting during the summer programs. Some applications require a letter of recommendation. While academies may not require test scores for their summer programs, test scores remain a significant part of the eventual academy application. So, I encourage students to take the PSAT junior year (or earlier if offered) and consider taking the SAT or ACT in fall/winter of junior year.)
Due to limited capacity in these service academy summer programs, they sometimes prioritize students who live far from the school or in under-represented geographic areas. Students should submit a well-prepared application early in the application window. Students should not assume a turn-down letter for a summer program means a lower chance of an appointment to that academy. If you are interested in attending an academy, you should lean in to complete your application early by the fall of senior year.
In addition to the academy camps for rising seniors there are other opportunities to get exposure to a service academy or the military. Some are open to students in earlier grades.
Naval Academy STEM Camps – One-week STEM intensive camps for rising 9th-11th grade students in June. This camp focuses more on STEM experiences than military orientation. Each grade level attends during a specific week of camp. Application opens January 4 and closes April 15, 2023. Cost $800 (includes food and lodging at the Naval Academy).
2023 Session Dates: Rising 9th Graders: June 5 – 10, 2023 Rising 10th Graders: June 12 – 17, 2023 Rising 11th Graders: June 19 – 23, 2023
Note: Sessions vary by grade level. Students may only attend the session designed for their grade.
West Point STEM Camps – Week-long, hands on STEM camps for middle school (rising 7-8th grade) and high school (rising 9-10th grade) students. West Point faculty and cadets teach classes and hands on workshops. All participants must show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination. Application usually closes in March. Cost: The Center for Diversity and Leadership in STEM pays the costs of tuition, food, and housing. Participants must pay for transportation to and from West Point or Newark Airport.
Summer 2023 Cancelled. West Point hopes to resume the program in 2024.
Villanova University Navy ROTC Summer Seminar – This is a 4 day/4 night introduction to Navy ROTC on the Villanova University campus for rising seniors. 2023 is the second year for this program, which is the only ROTC specific summer program for high school students I’m aware of. Cost $625 includes food and lodging on campus. 2023 application deadline: May 13, 2023.
2023 Session Dates: June 19-23, 2023
Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) conducts STEM Summer Camps at military bases around the country. These camps focus on military construction and engineering, and are open to rising 10th-12th grade students. Applications open December – April 15,. Cost $100-800 depending on camp, but sponsorships may be available for some camps.
Year Round Military High School Programs
Students interested in deeper exposure to the military might consider a year-round program.
Many high schools have Junior ROTC units associated with a branch of the military. Students in these units usually have a Junior ROTC class as part of their school schedule, as well as associated after school and weekend training. Activities may include fitness and obstacle course training, flight familiarization, marksmanship, cyber security competitions, and ceremonial events. Students in some Junior ROTC units may also be eligible for an academy nomination through their Junior ROTC unit.
Sea Cadets – Run by the Navy League of the United States and supported by the Navy and Coast Guard, Sea Cadet units have regular meetings through the year, as well as a two-week summer training camp and additional advanced training opportunities focused on seamanship and seagoing topics.
Civil Air Patrol – Part of the Air Force Auxiliary, CAP Cadet squadrons typically meet weekly with a longer event once a month on a weekend and a one-week summer encampment.
Sea Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, and Junior ROTC do not require students to join the military. They do offer opportunities for doing hard things and being active in small group leadership experiences. 8-15% of incoming service academy freshmen participated in one of these organizations.
When I applied to the Naval Academy, the application was a packet of paper forms with space for hand-written essays and bubbled in activity listings. The format has changed over the years, but the need for organization and timeliness remains. Applying to any military academy or ROTC scholarship requires organization and attention to detail and deadlines. If you’d like guidance with this process, please schedule an inquiry meeting.
Many colleges require answers to essay prompts beyond the long personal statement. These might range from asking about a historical event you could have witnessed (Stanford) to your favorite book (University of Southern California). One type of supplemental essays that frequently stumps students are the Why Us college essay. These challenges students not just to describe themselves or list features they like about the college, but to connect their interests with the characteristics of the college to demonstrate why student and school are a good match.
A Why Us college essay prompt might look something like these:
Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (Approximately 250 words) University of Southern California
Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University. (max 800 words)
Why do you want to study your chosen major specifically at Georgia Tech? (max 300 words)
How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (max 100 words)
Why Bard? (max 250 words)
Why Do Colleges Have Why Us Essays
Before you sit down to write your response, consider how a college would use this prompt – what information do they hope to get out of it? Remember that any essay a college requires is one that they have to spend time reading. Georgia Tech is explicit about why they use this prompt (and their explanation would apply to many other colleges).
The traits of a strong essay include ones that:
Demonstrate authenticity & self-awareness
Display attention to topic, style, and grammar
Demonstrate a student has thought about why Georgia Tech, specifically, is a fit for them and how their goals align with Georgia Tech’s mission statement: The Georgia Institute of Technology is a public research university established by the state of Georgia in Atlanta in 1885 and committed to developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
One reason colleges often include this type of prompt is they want to admit students who will actually enroll. This is something they keep close track of and try to predict accurately, especially as numbers of applications increase. Yield is the ratio of students who attend to students who are accepted. So a yield of 20% would mean than 20% of the students admitted to a college chose to enroll as students. When colleges do a poor job of predicting yield, they either have a class that is smaller than desired (with lower tuition revenues) or a class that is larger than expected (causing shortages in housing and seats in classes). Asking students to directly express why they think a college is a good fit helps to distinguish between students who are likely to arrive in fall. Students who apply based on a rankings list, because their friends are applying, or because a parent said they should will often struggle to write a Why Us essay.
What to Include in a Why Us College Essay
Try to draw strong connections between your interests and the opportunities at the college. When you read about academic programs, extracurricular activities or unique opportunities at the college, which make you think, “Hey, if I were there I could…” Which opportunities light you up and what ideas do they spark?
Make a list of 10-15 reasons you would like to attend the college.
What are you looking forward to as a prospective student?
What aspects of your future academic department intrigue you?
Are there any particular classes you hope to take? Why those courses?
What clubs or teams interest you?
Are there particular outreach or networking programs that have caught your eye?
If you could choose between several colleges, why would you choose this school over other colleges?
Now connect your interests to these unique college features. These responses might follow a pattern like:
Because I’m interested in (aspect of prospective major), I’m excited by (program, way of teaching, club, opportunity), because it would (possible outcome).
Or you can flip it around:
Because I want to (achieve goal or outcome), the (program, club, opportunity, way of teaching) attracts me, since it would let me (combine parts of your identity, have access to something special, be supported in a significant way).
The depth of your explanation will depend on the word limit for the response. An 650-word response is going to need a thoughtful response with vivid detail, while a 100-word response will only allow you to explore a few ideas.
This response shouldn’t read like a laundry list of facts about the college. Instead it should connect what interests you with what the college offers, with a “so what” type explanation. If you want to study computer science but can’t decide between artificial intelligence and the internet of things AND Georgia Tech has a Threads curriculum that lets you study both, THEN what do you hope to get out of that experience. If a college is well-known for its interdisciplinary programs, coop requirement, or individualized major; why does that make you sit up and take notice.
Other Tips for Writing Why Us College Essays
If you are still struggling to write a Why Us college essay, go back to the reasons you put the school on your college list in the first place. If you come up short on reasons why this school is a good match, it may be a sign that you need to do more research. Sign up for a virtual presentation from the admissions office, explore the options for potential academic majors, read social media news streams from not only the main official account but also departments and clubs, and browse recent articles in the campus paper. Expect to spend several hours doing this type of research.
General Tips for Writing Essays
Write in a word processing program where you can easily edit, check word count, and spell check. When you are happy, paste your response into the application. Use examples that are specific and reveal who you are. Don’t use general comments that might apply to any college — or any student. Don’t wait until the last minute. Give yourself time to research and think about how you would find your place at that college.
Let’s be real. For most families, affordability is a significant factor when deciding which college to attend. Wise families realize that being able to pay college costs is just as important as being admitted. And they realize that building affordability into the college list is better than blindly hoping they can “make it work” by stringing together small outside scholarships and big parent loans. When you consider college affordability, think about your family budget, financial aid practices, and where your student is likely to receive substantial financial aid.
College Costs: What to Count
When weighing the cost of attending a college, it’s important to consider both direct costs, what you pay directly to the college, and indirect costs, other expenses that come from being a college student. Tuition and fees, housing, food, and books are examples of direct costs. Transportation, bedding and other dorm supplies, entertainment, clothing, toiletries, computers, laundry, club & activity costs, and fraternity/sorority expenses are examples of indirect costs. Housing and food may be direct or indirect costs, depending on whether the student chooses to live and eat on or off campus. When you add up direct and indirect costs, you get a total price for attending that school.
Total Cost of Attendance = Direct Costs + Indirect Costs
Some colleges make a reasonable effort to estimate the overall cost of attendance, but it pays to look at the assumptions. James Madison University, for example, includes transportation, personal costs, and even loan fees in their cost of attendance estimate. But students who live far from Virginia might find the estimated travel costs too low, and students with more expensive entertainment and recreation habits may find they have to boost their personal expenses costs at most of their colleges.
College Costs: In State vs Out of State Tuition
You might notice a difference in the tuition costs based on the student’s state residency. This tuition difference recognizes the fact that public colleges receive some financial support from state governments. In essence, residents of the state are already supporting the college through their tax dollars. Some colleges list two separate tuition rates. Other colleges list one tuition rate, but charge an additional non-resident supplement or surcharge. According to the College Board, the 2022-23 average price of tuition and fees for a public four-year college in-state was $10,940, while the average cost for a public college out-of-state was $28,240.
Residency for College Tuition
States set their own policies about what qualifies a student as a resident for the purpose of tuition. Requirements vary, but typical considerations include where the student lives or graduated from high school, what state of residence the parents claim, and administrative evidence of residency such as paying income tax or registering to vote. Military families, expat families, and students who split their time between divorced parents may need to provide additional information in support of state residency claims.
It can be difficult to establish residency after starting as a student at the college (most states don’t count a move for educational purposes as grounds to change residency classifications for tuition). I recommend finding the college or state guidelines for residency and reading them carefully. What worked for your neighbor a decade ago or your cousin in another state might not prove useful for your family’s situation. Don’t be afraid of asking questions of the college or requesting an appeal based on additional information. Usually the registrar or bursar’s office handles this type of question, but military families may also want to reach out to the veterans’ service office on campus. (These can have different names, but are the office where the School Certifying Official for VA educational benefits like GI Bill works.)
In State Tuition for Military Families
Military families may have residency in one state, but live somewhere else because of military orders. This can create challenges in qualifying for in state tuition, but they may also find that their kids are eligible for in state tuition rates both where they live on military orders and in the state where the parents maintain residency. But a college may require annual verification of status and revert to out of state tuition rates if the military parent takes orders to another location.
Federal law requires colleges to charge no more than in state tuition to students using VA educational benefits such as Post 9/11 GI Bill, Fry Scholarship, or Chapter 35. But colleges are also allowed to require additional documentation of an intent to establish residency in the state where the college is located. This might include a state driver’s license, proof of address in the state, or other documents. Federal law addresses what happens when the student is using VA educational benefits, but does not require the college to continue charging in state rates if the student stops using GI Bill or other VA funding. Some colleges keep the student at in state rates, and others will immediately revert back to the higher out of state tuition rate. I’ve found the veterans’ service office is the best first stop for these questions.
College Costs at Private Institutions
What about private colleges? The average cost of tuition and fees at a private non-profit college was $39,400 for the 2022-23 school year. But this figure is too general to mean much for most families. There can be huge differences between actual net costs at individual private colleges, depending on how they award financial aid. So don’t assume that a private college would always be more expensive than a public college (especially a public college where the student would be a non-resident). In other words, try to compare estimated costs rather than lumping all private colleges and all public colleges into the same baskets.
Types of Financial Aid
There are two main categories of financial aid and several ways that aid can be provided. How a college determines eligibility for financial aid and how they package it depends on a combination of the college’s resources and institutional priorities and the family’s financial resources.
Assistance can be in the form of grants (money that does not have to be paid back), work study (money earned through specific campus jobs), and loans (money that will have to be paid back — with interest). This aid might come from the Federal government (ex, Pell Grants, Federal Work Study, or Federal Student Loans) or from the college itself.
Need-Based Aid is financial aid that is offered because the college has determined the student and their family have fewer financial resources that could be used to pay for college costs. This determination is made through a review of financial aid applications, specifically the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS Profile (a separate financial aid application used by about 300 colleges).
The FAFSA is required if students wish to use Federal Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Work Study, or Pell Grants. There is no cost to submit the FAFSA, which opens the October before the school year in which financial aid would be used and considers income from the “prior-prior” tax year. In other words, students who are seeking federal aid for the 2024-25 school year would submit the FAFSA that opens in October 2023 and would use income data from the 2022 tax year.
The CSS Profile is used by a smaller number of colleges, that are usually private or highly selective, and that often give large amounts of need based aid to help pay for heftier costs of attendance. This form is administered by College Board, and there is a charge to submit each application (there is no charge to families earning up to $100,000). The CSS Profile asks more questions in order to create a picture of family financial resources that goes beyond income and savings. The colleges that are most generous with need-based aid, tend to require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. [List of CSS Profile colleges and programs.]
Merit Aid and Scholarships
Non-Need Based Aid, sometimes called Merit Aid is financial aid that is not tied to the student’s family financial status. This aid might be labeled as scholarships and could be automatic, based on grades and test scores, or be competitive, with additional application requirements. Sometimes colleges will discount tuition for students in order to encourage them to enroll. These colleges might find that families think better of a college that offers a $20,000 discount labeled a “scholarship” than another college that simply prices its tuition $20,000 lower.
Both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile produce a number that represents how much each formula thinks a family should contribute EACH YEAR towards the cost of attendance. This is labeled the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC isn’t all that a college might expect a family to pay annually. Very few colleges meet 100% of demonstrated need. Instead, students may find that after federal and institutional aid is subtracted from the cost of attendance, there is a difference between the EFC and what the family has to pay. This is often called gapping.
The EFC will be renamed the Student Aid Index (SAI) in 2023 along with other changes to the FAFSA. More about these changes will be coming out in 2023, but for now, Jeff Levy has a good overview.
Paying for College with Outside Scholarships
Another factor to be aware of is Scholarship Displacement. This is when colleges reduce financial aid offers in response to outside scholarships. Students may find that there is no real reduction in what they have to pay to a college even though they earned outside scholarships, from local organizations or support groups.
There are a few states where legislation banned scholarship displacement at public colleges. But it’s still widely practiced, so students should ask colleges about their policy for “stacking” outside scholarships and institutional aid.
3 Ways to Estimate College Costs
So, how do you come up with an estimate of how much your family would have to pay?
Net Price Calculators Estimate College Costs for Individual Students
Net Price Calculators (NPC)are available on most college websites*. They ask for some of the same information required by the FAFSA or CSS Profile and usually produce an estimate that includes federal aid (including Federal Student Loans!), applicable state grants, and typical discounts from the college. The more detail an NPC asks for, the more accurate its results are likely to be. However, they are only an estimate and are not binding on future offers from the financial aid office.
Colleges usually update their NPCs shortly before the new application cycle begins in August. The easiest way to find them is to do an internet search for the name of the college and “Net Price Calculator”.
*Federal law requires colleges that accept federal aid to have a Net Price Calculator. Some colleges that do not accept federal aid will not have this tool on their website. If that is the case with a school you are considering, contact the college financial aid office for more information about expected costs and institutional aid.
Common Data Set Records Need Based and Non-Need Based Aid
The Common Data Set (CDS) is a set of questions and responses that use a common format across all participating colleges. This provides information about admissions, costs, class size, number of degrees in each major, and financial aid.
Section H reports Financial Aid data. It lists how many students requested need-based aid; how many were determined to have need; how many received need-based grants, self-help (work study), or other grants; and what percentage of need was met. Another set of responses shows how much non-need based aid was awarded the same year. Pay attention to both the percentage of students awarded aid and the size of the award.
Question H5 shows how many students took out loans and the average size of the loans. Be aware that this may not include all loans taken out by parents, such as home equity loans used to pay for college costs. You can find a CDS by searching for the college name and Common Data Set, then selecting the most recent year available.
Need Based and Merit Aid Spreadsheet
Another valuable resource is an annual Need Based and Merit Aid spreadsheet compiled by Jeff Levy and Jenny Kent of Big J Consulting. They pull data on need-based aid and non-need based aid from several hundred colleges and put it into a spreadsheet that you can sorted by field. If your family has high need, look for colleges that has a high number in “Average Percent of Need Met.” If your family has a high EFC but wants to control college costs, look for colleges that have a high number in “Percentage of Non-Need Undergraduates Receiving Merit Aid.” But keep a close eye on the amount of “Average Merit Aid Award” and remember that it might discount a higher cost of attendance, leaving a total cost of attendance that is still higher than you might want to pay.
College Fit Includes Affordability
I know this can feel both confusing and overwhelming. It might seem like a lot of alphabet soup and looking at the costs can trigger strong emotions. But denial isn’t a great coping strategy. Some families ignore the cost of attendance. Others tell their children “just get into the best college and we’ll make it work.” Spring of senior year comes around and they realize that only a few of the colleges that offered admissions are actually affordable. One of the best resources on college affordability is The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber, a financial columnist for the New York Times. I recommend this book to the families I work with.
It’s better to have an awareness of cost and affordability earlier in the process. When I am supporting client families through this process, I ask them to make an honest assessment of their college budget and estimated need. Then when we create a student’s college list, we work hard to include colleges that are affordable and likely to admit the student. If this is an area where you’d like help, use the Contact page to schedule an appointment.
The ROTC scholarship boards for the 2022-223 have concluded. Most students should know by now if they were selected for a scholarship. I’ll update this page when dates for the ROTC scholarship boards for 2023-24 are available. Students who are applying in 2023-24 who would like help with their applications may be interested in working with me. You can read about how I support students with their military college program applications on the Services page or you can reach out to schedule an initial meeting.
Students often ask when they should submit their ROTC scholarship applications. The short answer is to submit a strong and application early enough to be competitive when there are still many scholarships available. For many students, that means they need to be ready to submit complete packages by the beginning of October senior year. For some students, it may be better to wait to improve standardized test or fitness test scores or have first semester grades in hand, even if that means waiting until a later board. But be diligent about making the deadlines, because late applications are not considered.
In the sections below, I’ve listed most of the ROTC high school scholarship board dates for the 2022-23 academic year. These are the scholarships for high school seniors in the Class of 2023 (or students who have graduated from high school, but not enrolled in college).
Current juniors in the Class of 2024 should expect ROTC scholarship applications to open in spring/summer before year. (I’ll update this post as soon as the information for the new application cycle is available.) College students interested in ROTC scholarships should contact the staff of the ROTC units at their college or nearby colleges that have a crosstown agreement with their school.
How Do ROTC Scholarship Boards and Deadlines Work?
You definitely don’t want to miss the application deadlines. Usually, applications that are not complete when the application closes do not go before a review board at all. Some services allow interviews to occur after the scholarship deadline, as long as the interview is completed before the final board of review. Because ROTC scholarship applications are more complicated than the average college application, you should start early and work diligently through the process. Keep reading for info on deadlines and when you should submit your application.
Some services score each package submitted by the document deadline. Others, like Navy ROTC, review a set number of packages at each board. Usually, students who are offered scholarships will hear results 2-3 weeks after the end of a board. Applications for Space Force scholarships have a two part review process, so those notifications occur around 40 days after the review board. Notifications can be made by email, through the scholarship portal, or from the student’s recruiter. However, final turn down notification may not occur until after the final board for the selection cycle.
Army ROTC 4-Year Scholarship Board Dates
The application portal for the Army ROTC scholarship for high school students opened on June 12, 2022.
Deadline to create an online application for a High School Scholarship
February 4, 2023
Deadline to Submit Documents for Final Board (Missing Items)
March 6, 2023
Final (Third) Selection Board
March 13, 2023
FY23 Army ROTC Scholarship Board Dates
Students who are not selected for a scholarship on one board may be considered at subsequent boards, but aren’t completely reevaluated. The candidate score from their board review carries over to later boards. Students can update their SAT or ACT test scores, which may improve their overall chance of being selected for a scholarship.
Air Force ROTC & Space Force ROTC High School Scholarship Program Board Dates
The application for the Air Force and Space Force FY23 scholarship for high school students opened on July 1, 2022. The Initial Online Application was due no later than December 31, 2022 and Completed Applications (including fitness tests) were due no later than January 12, 2023.
The application for the next High School Scholarship Program for students starting college in Fall 2024 opens July 1, 2023.
Deadline to Submit Documents for Second Board (Interviews)
November 30, 2022
Last Day to Submit Initial Online Application
December 31, 2022
Last Day to Submit Completed Application
January 12, 2023
Second Selection Board (23HS02)
January 3 – February 3, 2023
Deadline to Submit Documents for Third Board (Interviews)
March 10, 2023
Third Selection Board (23HS03) [Only convened if needed]
March 13-17, 2023
FY23 Air Force ROTC HSSP Board Dates
Navy ROTC Marine Option
Marine Option boards are coordinated by each Marine Corps Recruiting District. Typically there is a board in in November and February. Board results are usually announced a month after the end of the board.
The Navy holds frequent review boards for Navy Option and Navy Nursing applicants from September through April. One issue with the Navy ROTC scholarship board schedule is that results from later boards may come out after May 1, the date most colleges use as an enrollment deadline. This can leave students in the position of choosing which college to attend without knowing if they would have a scholarship. This is a good reason not to wait for the last minute to submit a scholarship package.
If the application opens in July and the first board is in October, submitting an application in August that was rushed and has a weak score on the fitness test doesn’t present a strong case. The board isn’t going to give a pass on a slow run time just because the student submitted their package early. On the other hand, don’t wait until the last minute. If the board receives strong applications on earlier boards, they may select fewer scholarships on the later boards or cancel them altogether. Note for example that the third Air Force board will only convene if needed.
Too often later applications reflect procrastination, not time spent working hard improving the application. My general suggestion is to work on your application over the summer, so you are ready to submit in the fall, but consider if another test sitting or targeted fitness training would improve your package. You may also want to skip the first board if your application would not stand out in a highly competitive group (see notes in the Army ROTC section).
ROTC scholarships can pay for tuition, fees, books, and a monthly stipend at civilian colleges that have a ROTC unit on campus or a crosstown agreement with another college. Also, some services allow scholarship selectees to use the scholarship to pay for food and housing instead of tuition. Graduates become officers in the military and have a 4-10 year military service obligation as “payback” for the scholarship.
There have been several big changes to the Air Force ROTC scholarship program that affect who will be offered scholarships and how much money they will receive. These changes affect:
Current high school students applying for Air Force ROTC scholarships in 2022-23 (for scholarships that start in Fall 2023) and future applicants to the HSSP.
Rising 200 and 300 level cadets (sophomores and juniors) currently enrolled in college Air Force ROTC programs
TL;DR More scholarships will be awarded to current cadets through the In College Scholarship Program (ICSP) who have demonstrated sustained interest and strong performance in Air Force ROTC. Fewer scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors, but those scholarships will all be Type 1 (full tuition) scholarships.
More Current Air Force ROTC Cadets Will Get Scholarships
The details are still coming out, but multiple Air Force college ROTC recruiting officers (unit staff members responsible to communicating with students interested in the program) have confirmed that Air Force is changing its scholarship program to award more scholarships to students who are already enrolled in ROTC units. These are cadets who have demonstrated readiness for college academics and performed well at the military requirements ROTC put in front of them, including fitness tests, air science courses, and military training. This applies to students interested in both Air Force and Space Force commissions (which are both administered through Air Force ROTC).
These changes to how Air Force ROTC scholarships are distributed will be a boost for Air Force and Space Force cadets who were not offered scholarships directly out of high school. It also allows the Air Force to base its scholarship decisions (and the decisions about who becomes an Air Force or Space Force officer) on observations by ROTC staff over the course of months or years rather than best guesses based on test scores, high school grades, and a relatively short interview. This change in the scholarship program is also based on the observation that cadets awarded ICSP scholarships tend to have higher retention than cadets awarded scholarships out of high school, probably because those cadets have had their own opportunity to see what ROTC and the Air Force or Space Force is like and not base their continued service on a best guess based on recruiting videos and a brief unit tour.
Fewer Air Force ROTC Scholarships for High School Students
However, since the scholarship budget didn’t get bigger, the increase in scholarships for current college cadets has to be offset by a reduction elsewhere. Specifically, there will be fewer scholarships awarded to students applying through the High School Scholarship Program (HSSP). This includes students applying as high school seniors and high school graduates who have not attended college yet. In the past, around 1,000 scholarships (of varying award levels) were awarded through HSSP. The expectation is that this will drop to around 500 scholarships (but it could be fewer).
Fewer Types of AFROTC Scholarships
Another change to Air Force ROTC scholarships is that there is now only one type of high school scholarship award level, the Type 1 scholarship, which pays full tuition and fees at any public or private institution with an Air Force ROTC detachment. The Type 2 ($18,000/year at public or private institutions) and the Type 7 (full tuition capped at in-state tuition rate where the cadet qualifies for in-state rate) are no longer available.
In past years, the Type 1 scholarships were only offered to about 5% of AFROTC scholarship awardees and were almost exclusively reserved for cadets doing critical majors (being technical majors (with the exception of biology) and high need language majors). Now all high school students offered an Air Force ROTC scholarship will get the higher value Type 1 scholarship, but there will be fewer scholarships offered to high school students overall.
What Should Students Do Now?
What do these changes in the Air Force ROTC scholarship mean for high school students interested in becoming Air Force or Space Force officers? The selection rate for Air Force ROTC scholarships will be much lower for high school seniors this cycle (and probably for several years). They will likely go to the most outstanding applicants – with high test scores AND strong grades in rigorous classes AND outstanding fitness test scores AND a demonstrated history of leadership. The AFROTC interview will continue to be a key part of the scholarship application, and students walk in ready to clearly communicate why they want to be part of the Air Force or Space Force for the next 10 years (or longer).
It also means that students who are not offered a scholarship straight out of high school should go ahead and join the ROTC unit and demonstrate their potential as future officers – with great college grades (particularly in critical majors) AND outstanding performance in unit military training and fitness AND high grades in air science classes AND taking initiative to find ways to make a difference in the unit (aka show leadership). But it also means that they need to look closely at college affordability when they build their college list, since they will be paying for at least a year of tuition.
Some aspects of the changes in the Air Force ROTC scholarships are still unclear, like exactly how many high school scholarships will be awarded and what percentage of current cadets will be offered scholarships. In addition, some colleges offer institutional scholarships to defray the cost of food and housing. If a college has typically offered this scholarship only to incoming freshmen, will they change their eligibility policy to reflect the shift in Air Force priorities?
Air Force ROTC Recruiting Officers will likely have more clarity later in the cycle. If you read through the HSSP Applicant Guide and still have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to a Recruiting Officer to ask them. But remember you are creating an impression; so be professional and show that you’ve done your homework first. I’d recommend starting with an email, since that gives you a chance to think through what you’re asking before hitting send.
At Admissions Decrypted, I work to guide students through the college application process. This includes ROTC Scholarship applications. If you want help with your application (including essays and practice interviews) please reach out.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
These are some of the best college admissions books I’ve found to help parents better understand the current college landscape. They will help you put sensational articles about a small number of colleges or well-intentioned but misleading online advice into context. Where possible, I include links to an excerpt or interview to give you a taste.
The prospect of college scares and overwhelms many parents. College admissions may seem confusing and random. Paying for college may feel impossible. The stories that make a big splash in the media are often outliers, that don’t represent typical outcomes. Advice from parents on social media often lacks the context that made it true in their specific situation.
Some parents react by pushing their kids into “getting ready for college” years before it’s appropriate (sixth graders don’t need to be picking a dream college). Others choose to avoid the topic, which leaves them scrambling when senior year arrives. The books and other resources on this list should give you a better foundation for approaching college admissions with your student.
What Does College Cost and What Value Are You Getting?
The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber, a NY Times financial columnist, gives both broad and specific information about college costs and the decisions families have to make about value. The chapters are short and topical. Part II addresses the role of emotions in thinking about colleges – specifically Fear, Guilt, and Elitism. I won’t say that reading this will erase all negative emotions from the experience, but you will at least be prepared to recognize them when they start to take over. If you only have time for one college admissions book, this would be my highest recommendation. I recommend the full book, but this interview gives you a taste of his style.
How Do Colleges Pick Students?
Who Gets In and Why by Jeff Selingo, a former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, describes a year in college admissions. He was allowed to sit in on application reviews with three colleges and also interviewed high school seniors about their experience. In my work with families, I find that parents often assume college admissions today is the same as what they experienced decades ago. They may be shocked to find that their alma mater is now much harder to get into, that colleges have extensive marketing budgets, or that financial need plays a role in who is admitted.
One of the best take aways in Who Gets In and Why is his concept that colleges are Buyers or Sellers. In short, Buyers are colleges that need to make an effort to enroll a full class of incoming freshmen. They have higher admissions rates and often give tuition discounts to encourage enrollment. Sellers have many more applicants than they could ever enroll. They turn down large numbers of highly qualified students and usually limit their financial aid to students with demonstrated financial need. I read this book over a couple months with a small group of college admissions professionals. You can read my reviews from that book club here: Part 1 and Part 2. If you’re short on time, the article The Secrets of Elite College Admissions by Jeff Selingo, is based on the research he did for the book.
Does Where You Go to College Matter?
Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni rebuts the idea that only a handful of colleges offer an education that prepares students for adult success. This is a destructive idea that causes many teens to feel like failures before they even graduate high school – simply because they didn’t gain admission to one of the most celebrated, most selective colleges. This excerpt is from the beginning of the book. I especially commend the letter Matt Levin’s parents wrote him as a model of what I think most of us want for the children we love.
What Other Colleges Should You Consider?
Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope and Hilary Masell Oswald is one that I hope will get you excited about the opportunities and culture of education that exist at many colleges you’ve never heard of. In 1995 he wrote a book Looking Beyond the Ivy League to encourage families to do just that. So many readers asked for specific examples of colleges they should consider that he wrote Colleges That Change Lives to profile colleges he felt “do as much as, and perhaps even more than, any name-brand schools to fully educate students and to give them rich, full lives.” The colleges in the book are mostly small, liberal arts colleges that concentrate on teaching undergraduates.
The book has been revised twice, most recently in 2012, with Oswald as co-author. While some changes have occurred at the 44 colleges featured over the years, I still find the descriptions of possible college environments are useful, especially for students who only have a vague sense of what they might experience as a college student and what factors they really care about. There is also a consortium of the colleges featured in the book. They do joint college fairs around the country and additional information about the schools can be found on the CTCL website.
When Your Student Feels Vulnerable and Ashamed
Finally, I encourage you to watch two TED talks from researcher/storyteller Brené Brown. She sometimes refers to herself as a “shame researcher,” who has spent several years exploring how issues of shame and vulnerability affect our perceptions of self-worth and relationships to family and friends. The reason this topic is relevant is that students sometimes feel that certain admissions outcomes represent “success” and other outcomes mark them as unworthy. It’s important that we as parents keep lines of communication open, attentive to both the unintended messages we are sending and the feelings our kids may struggle to articulate.
I have recommended these talks for many years in my parent resources. In the last few years, mental health concerns for high school and college students have swelled. I think students today feel they are under intense pressure, and don’t know how to ask for help. I hope that these presentations by Brené Brown (or one of her many books and outstanding podcasts) will help you support your student.
You probably recognize that grades and curriculum matter for college admissions. You may be tracking the changing landscape around standardized test scores. But, did you know that at some colleges, students aren’t assessed just on what they did in high school, but also what they want to do as college students? Why and how does an intended major affect college admissions? What does this mean for building a balanced college list?
Colleges have institutional priorities that affect admissions decisions. Institutional priorities might include keeping revenue flowing into the college, staying within the annual financial aid budget, maintaining a target ratio of men and women on campus, or educating state residents or even local students. There can also be an interest in bringing in enough students to keep small programs going, while not over-enrolling other programs.
Direct Admission Programs
Direct admission for certain programs is one way that colleges ensure that they don’t have too many students in a program than they have capacity to teach. Under direct admission, the student indicates an intended major when they apply. There application is compared with those from other students wanting that major, not against all students applying for the college. Successful applicants are not only admitted to the college, but into the major program as well. A competitive program might have higher gpa and test scores than the general profile for admitted students. Direct admissions is often used for high demand programs, including engineering, computer science, and business; but low capacity programs like nursing, performing arts, and professional flight can also be direct admission.
The student’s choice of major can affect college admissions if a specific program requires students to demonstrate an interest in the subject as high school students. For example, prospective nursing students may need to document volunteer experience in healthcare, and engineering students might want to have done STEM activities. Academic requirements often differ by program. Colleges of Engineering and Business Schools often expect students to have taken calculus in high school or be ready to take calculus as freshmen.
A direct admission program might also expect students to have specific high school coursework. For example, students applying to engineering programs may be expected to have taken calculus and physics, , and business students may need to show a prior interest in business as well as a high school calculus course.
Something to realize is that direct admission programs may have lower admissions rates than the college as a whole, may have higher academic profiles for incoming students, and may not have viable pathways for students admitted to the university for other majors or as undeclared/undecided students.
Case Study in How Major Affects College Admissions: University of Washington Computer Science
From the Geek Wire article: “Some 7,587 freshman applicants to the UW for next year picked the Allen School as their top choice for a major — more than economics, political science, nursing, and mechanical engineering combined. The program attracts more students than any other UW major, and interest has increased more than 400% over the past decade.”
“But the Allen School has room for only 550 new undergraduates in the fall. Freshmen can apply for direct admission to the program… It’s highly competitive: only 7% of direct admission students were offered a spot in the Allen School, compared to 52% of applicants to the UW’s College of Engineering, which houses the Allen School.”
It’s even more challenging for students who are not Washington state residents, as the tables below indicate. Not only does the choice of major affect college admissions, but so does state residency. The overall admissions rate for out of state students to University of Washington was 51%, but for Computer Science/Computer Engineering, that drops all the way down to 3%.
3-year University of Washington Average Admit Rates by Residency
First, realize that average admissions rates may be mathematically correct but misleading, when they don’t categorize by major or program. Search for program specific information. This may be a good question for college visits or college information events.
Second, understand that admission to a specific program at a specific university depends greatly on factors outside the students’ control, like the size and popularity of the program. You may need to decide if attending a specific college is more important or if studying a particular major matters more.
Third, create a balanced list that include colleges that don’t use direct admission for your intended major or that have viable exploratory options for freshmen. Don’t confuse popularity with quality. Starting with a broader college list helps give you more choices when admissions decisions are in.