Many rising high school seniors are going to find a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic when they apply to college this fall: an increased emphasis on holistic admissions. This is a result of the growing movement by colleges of all competitive levels — yes, even the entire Ivy League — to incorporate a test-optional policy with their admission requirements.
Dropping their stipulations that applicants submit standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT means that now students who choose to eschew them will be evaluated on their overall demonstrated academic and extracurricular performance alone. Standardized tests have grown increasingly controversial over the years, alleged to be biased against certain demographic minorities, plus recent scoring issues and pandemic-related administration snafus have cast further shade upon them.
Referring to applicants’ “demonstrated performance,” former university president Michael T. Nietzel comments on the momentum:
… These decisions show that the test-optional movement continues to pick up steam, as had been predicted after the role fraudulent standardized testing was proven to play in last year’s college admissions cheating scandal.
That scandal reignited the test-optional fire by revealing the outsized role of standardized tests in competitive admissions and by revisiting data that question the added predictive validity provided by such tests compared to student’s high school performance.
More Colleges Adopt Test-Optional Policies
The test-optional trend is sweeping the nation. Fairtest.org reports that currently, almost 1,300 colleges and universities no longer require the SAT or ACT as part of their application process. Thus, that silver lining shines on those pending college applicants who are otherwise superb college candidates but not world-class standardized test takers. These students will be the beneficiaries of holistic evaluation during their admission processes.
Quoted in Spreading the Word on Test Optional, Holistic Admissions, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Kristin Tichenor commented on the benefits of allowing high school students to decide whether to include SAT and ACT scores in college applications. She noted how WPI’s faculty made the bold decision to support a test-optional admissions policy after three years of intensive study and data analysis. WPI then became the first nationally ranked science and engineering school to make SAT and ACT scores optional. This decision greatly enhanced the value of holistic assessment.
… Tichenor explained that admissions professionals at WPI and other universities consider a student’s success in high school, the rigor of their course of study, their extracurricular accomplishments, their recommendations, and their personal statement. She said WPI admissions officials look at the qualitative elements of an application before looking at the quantitative elements like test scores so the scores do not bias their review. “This is what is referred to as holistic admissions,” she explained …
One of the better-kept secrets in higher education was the high degree of influence standardized test scores had on admission decisions. Before the test-optional era, admission staffers meeting with students and parents at the end of campus tours would proudly tout their “overall” approach to evaluating applications when, in fact, their “overall” (a.k.a. holistic) approach was much more skewed toward test scores than they would admit. How things have changed.
The Basics of Holistic Admissions
For the benefit of rising seniors who will be entering this fall’s college admissions arena, let’s take a closer look at what a holistic evaluation process involves. Google defines the term “holistic” as being characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. Merriam-Webster more clearly explains it as relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts.
As it applies to college admissions, then, “holistic” means that admission committees look at the overall applicant, not just their individual components (GPA, class rank, test scores, high school schedule, etc.). It’s a kind of big-picture assessment of what an applicant might bring to a college’s student body.
In an op-ed piece from the Los Angeles Times, former admissions officer Sara Harberson tells “The truth about ‘holistic’ college admissions,” which could possibly diminish the brightness of that silver lining:
” … has holistic admissions become a guise for allowing cultural and even racial biases to dictate the admissions process?” Plus:
“Without more transparency, holistic admissions can become an excuse for cultural bias to dictate a process that is supposed to open doors.”
While perhaps somewhat provocative, Harberson’s contentions are still fair, in my view, especially in light of the court battles and strong debates happening today regarding affirmative action and diversity. While the holistic approach to admission offers definite advantages to a large segment of applicant pools, it does, like almost every enterprise, have a potential for corruption. Think Varsity Blues, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
In the realm of holistic admissions, probably the boldest example comes from Bennington College with its Dimensional Application, which represents a new realm of flexibility for students. It has no required documents. Instead, it asks applicants to build a portfolio that demonstrates their academic achievement, including their creation and revision processes, classroom and community involvement, and writing skills
Here are some excerpts from the booklet Bennington applicants use to guide them through the creation of their portfolios:
… We invite you to share with us a collection of your work that reflects your capacities and creates a portrait of what you might bring to the Bennington community. We invite you to be deeply thoughtful. We invite you to be bold. We invite you to bring your own dimension to the college application. And we look forward to receiving it.
A DIMENSIONAL APPLICATION demonstrates your readiness to meet the demands of a Bennington education, including:
The capacity to design an inquiry, to perform research, to create and revise work, to engage with others, and to communicate your work to the world.
Intrinsic motivation: The wherewithal to continue when things are hard. A tolerance for ambiguity and a facility for collaboration. Aesthetic sensibility and cultural sensitivity.
TELL US WHAT MATTERS
Consider how you wish to demonstrate your academic achievement over time, your writing ability, your contribution to your classrooms and your community, and your capacity to make and revise work. Portfolios, research you designed or experiments you engineered, reflective and analytical writing, transcripts, letters of recommendation — all and more are welcome …
… Bennington’s Dimensional Application is for students who want to do more than respond to a set of given prompts. It is an opportunity for you to individually curate an application for Bennington, to create a compelling portrait of your academic achievement, and to demonstrate, in your own way, your potential to enrich, and be enriched by, the Bennington community.
Applications should demonstrate your academic achievement, writing ability, contributions to the classroom and community, and your capacity to make and revise work. While students may choose to do this in very different ways, standard elements of a college application — portfolios, original research, reflective and analytical writing, transcripts, letters of recommendation — are all acceptable and welcome …
How I wish that I’d had the chance to apply to college like this. The Dimensional Application may be the ultimate holistic approach to college admissions. Even the Common Application lends itself to holistic review, thanks to the test-optional status, which is a true advantage for applicants.
By: Dave Berry
Title: Test-Optional Admissions Bring Holistic Reviews to Center Stage
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/test-optional-colleges-mean-holistic-admissions
Published Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2020 12:40:52 +0000
Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”
During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:
- Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
- Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
- Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
- Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.
Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools
If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.
“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”
In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”
Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.
In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.
Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.
Consider Outside Scholarships
The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.
Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.
Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.
Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA
Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.
And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”
Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.
Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?
Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.
“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.
In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.
Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.
She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.
Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended
As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.
“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.
Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help
For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”
Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”
Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.
Consider Other Options to Save
If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.
“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.
In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.
Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.
Share Your Thoughts
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!
By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-amid-covid-19
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
Former Georgetown AO Demystifies Elite Admissions in New Book
No matter how much research you’ve done, you’ve probably encountered unanswered questions about the elite college admissions process, which is often shrouded in mystery. One former college admissions officer aims to demystify that with her new book, Hacking Elite College Admissions: 50 Surprising Insights on the College Application Process.
Gaelle Pierre-Louis read thousands of applications during her time at Georgetown University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and decided to take some of the insights she gleaned there and put them into book form. Her new release also features tips and strategies from people who have worked in the admission offices of schools ranging from Harvard to Johns Hopkins and beyond.
College Confidential sat down with Pierre-Louis to ask some questions about how students can best position themselves for success during college admissions season.
Here’s How Admission Officers Read Your Rec Letters
College Confidential: In the book, you note that admission officers not only read every line of students’ recommendation letters, “but they also read between the lines.” Can you explain to applicants what that means, and what types of things admission officers like to see in rec letters?
Gaelle Pierre-Louis: We read between the lines for two reasons: To tell if the person actually knows you and to evaluate what that person actually thinks about your candidacy. I highly recommend meeting with guidance counselors and sending them your resume and a brief paragraph with your accomplishments. Make it easier for your recommenders so that they can, in turn, make your life easier as well.
We review thousands of recommendation letters from teachers and guidance counselors every year. When you read so many letters, you will inevitably be able to identify trends over time. Not only that, but we are able to see the letters and compare them with what others from your school are getting. Some guidance counselors will have seven kids applying to a certain college, but six of the letters will say the same generic information and then the seventh one will include certain phrases like “this student is one of the best within my 23 years of college counseling” or “this student will receive my highest recommendation.” There will be key words that differentiate that recommendation letter from others. It is important to put your best foot forward when meeting with your guidance counselor so that they can write a great letter on your behalf.
When evaluating your recommendation letters from your teachers, we want to see one from a rigorous course in which you performed well. You do not necessarily have to get an “A” in that class to get a great letter. For example, if the teacher says you might have struggled in your first exam, but you took opportunities to stay after class and you did extra homework to eventually get a “B,” that tells us a lot about your grit and tenacity, which are skills that we want you to have in order to survive college. We want to know how you will do in the classroom based on the rigorous courses you took in high school.
Low Stats? Here’s What Might Move the Needle
CC: The book describes the holistic admissions process that Georgetown and other schools use. Can you share a tip on how students can offset lower-than-average stats by highlighting other aspects of their applications?
GPL: Yes, schools tend to be truly holistic when evaluating your application. To be honest, for students who have below-average stats, usually an essay or recommendation letter is not going to move the needle on their application. From my experience, it is the depth of their extracurricular activities, timeline of the application (meaning early or regular decision) and their interview that weighs more in those cases.
Check How Your Extracurriculars Are Viewed
CC: When it comes to extracurricular activities (ECs), are admission officers drawn to unusual or interesting ones? Or is it more important to show a several-year commitment to the same ECs, no matter how common they are?
GPL: It truly does depend on the institutional priorities set by the university for that application cycle. One year, we might need more students on our debate team and another year, we might be seeking students who play percussion instruments for the orchestra. If it is something we need and you are involved in it and someone can vouch for you, it matters!
Make the Essay About You
CC: Are there any essay topics that you would advise students to never, ever write about?
GPL: I feel as if most essay topics that students think are original, we have seen them so many times. So there is not anything that I would advise students not to write about. This year, due to COVID-19, I do believe that students might choose to write about COVID- 19 and how it has affected the student, which is great, but it will not help you stand out since everyone will be doing the same thing. I would write about it in a supplementary essay and not the personal one, but it truly depends on the situation.
The most important thing with essays is that it concerns you. You would be surprised how many students talk about other people in their college essays. That does not help us understand who you are as an applicant. As far as topics, you could truly write about anything. We have probably seen the topic before, but it is more about the perspective you bring with the topic.
Share Your Thoughts
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!
By: Torrey Kim
Title: Former Georgetown AO Demystifies Elite Admissions in New Book
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/elite-college-admissions-tips
Published Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 16:06:10 +0000
Tackling The Common Application Essay
Rising high school seniors, we haven’t forgotten about you! The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the realm of higher education. It seems as though all we have been hearing and reading about the past five months or so is how the coronavirus has affected, is affecting, and will affect almost every aspect of our lives. Many of us have sought ways to escape the onslaught of bad news.
If you are about to begin your senior year of high school, whether in person or online, and you plan to go to college, your focus may have been more on the college process instead of the COVID process. Colleges and universities across America have been fully sidetracked, trying to make sense out of how to continue providing higher education to their student bodies, while wrestling with an increasing burden of safety precautions, virus testing plans, unexpected expenses, teacher and student protests, and virus outbreaks among staff. That’s just a short list of their pandemic-related woes.
However, the college process cycle continues, and this year’s high school seniors will be applying to colleges and universities just as they have every year, even during world wars, depressions and other major national concerns. So I won’t be writing about the novel coronavirus today, but rather, about one important aspect of your college application process: the Common Application essay.
In addition to your academic record and recommendations, the essay can push a borderline applicant into the “Admit” column if executed properly. So it’s time to start thinking about this, if you haven’t already started.
You will most likely be using the Common Application for at least some (if not all) of your target schools. Chances are, even if you don’t end up using the Common App (unlikely), you will still need to write an essay on a general topic such as those that the Common App requires.
Get to Know the Common App Prompts
Here are the 2020-2021 Common Application essay prompts. They are the same as last year’s:
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Check These Resources for Guidance
To help you get started thinking about how and what to write, I’ve listed a dozen of my College Confidential articles about writing application essays. You don’t have to read all of them, just find several that appeal to you, then read and learn. (Note that some of the articles reference older Common Application prompts, but my advice also applies to the current prompts.)
“There are myriad topics in your world … right under your nose. Use them!”
“Titles can lend heft to an essay if they are carefully thought out …”
“Those are just three examples of great college application essays.”
“Keeping all this in mind, construct a list of “little known habits, hobbies and other weird stuff ” about yourself. Then, work to shape an aspect (or aspects) of that list into a winning statement.”
“You should be able to see the advantage of using not only picturesque imagery but also one of my favorite essay elements: humor.”
“Do you have some kind of challenge in your life that you have worked to overcome, like Cheryl? If so, give some thought to writing about it in your college applications.”
“As always, remember: Don’t write what you think they want to hear; write what you want to say!”
“Essay ideas are everywhere; we just don’t see them.”
“Even the brightest students many times have difficulty conjuring decent topics and gathering their compositional forces to put together a winning set of sentences and paragraphs. So, what’s a frustrated essayist to do then?”
“The lesson here for essay writers is to look around your everyday lives carefully. Scenes like those immortalized here in “Banana Girl” happen all the time.”
“What you can see in these entries is the contrast between writers who write what they want to say (the winners) and those who write what the contest judges want to hear (the losers).”
Make Sure Your Voice Shows
What you’ll see in the samples I posted in the above articles can show you the natural style incorporated by the writers. Their essays flow smoothly and don’t have an “academic” feel about them. When you read them, you can almost hear the writers speaking. In other words, their “voice” is natural and not at all affected by formality or overblown usage. They don’t use big words just for the sake of impressive vocabulary. Big words don’t impress admissions committees. A natural voice, convincingly presented, does.
The best essays help you to stand out in a crowd and reveal who you are and how you think. Sure, you can write a good essay about anything, but an essay often has the most impact if it highlights something that is unique or unusual about you.
Finally, try to have some fun with this. I know that “fun” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about your college essays, but you may find that once you get into it, you’ll actually enjoy expressing yourself!
By: Dave Berry
Title: Tackling The Common Application Essay
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/how-to-write-common-app-essay
Published Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2020 12:24:38 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Gaming Laptops Powered Massive Cryptocurrency Mining Farm Spotted in China, Over Hundreds of Ampere Laptops
Intel 3rd Gen Xeon Ice Lake-SP CPU Rumors – 10nm With Up To 40 Cores, 8-Channel DDR4-3200, 64 PCIe Gen 4.0 Lanes, Max 270W TDP
Intel’s Raja Koduri Teases Xe HPG Enthusiast Gaming Graphics Cards In Action Within 3DMark Mesh Shader Test, Launch Imminent?
What No One Knows About
How to Quickly Write a Good Essay
Travel Planning3 years ago
Student Loans3 years ago
What No One Knows About
Student Loans3 years ago
How to Quickly Write a Good Essay
Student Loans3 years ago
College Admission Scandal: Symptom of a Larger Problem
Tech2 years ago
Intel Bringing Core i9-10850K 10 Core CPU To Retail Channel Too, Listed By Several Retailers Along With Celeron G5925 & 5905 Entry-Level CPUs
Student Loans3 years ago
Looking Beyond Ivy League Hype
Investment Advice3 years ago
Good Investment Advice: Only For The Rich?
Retirement Planning2 years ago
State Farm car insurance claims fall by as much as 50 percent in some states