The latest in college applications

Every year, we do one post devoted to college admissions – this is it! If it doesn’t apply to you, no worries! I’ll be back to our regular topics next week.  If you are interested in signing up for our college advising focused newsletter, please be in touch.

Last week, I received an email in my inbox:

Hi Ana,

I am reaching out to let you know I was accepted to [MY FIRST CHOICE] in the ED1 round!

And then this message from another student who was accepted her first choice school Early Decision:


It’s all thanks to you guys! I appreciate everything that you guys did for me and making my application the best it could possibly be. I am so excited!! 

I couldn’t thank you all enough, especially you and Emma! 

Happy Holidays 🙏☃️❄️🤍

And another one landed in the inbox of our Assistant Director’s inbox:

Thanks Brandon! 

A huge thank you to you and the Green Ivy team, everybody was super helpful and it was amazing working with the team through my college process!!
Thanks again and I hope you have a great holiday break!
What did these students have in common?

They were all thoughtful and strategic in their application process and spent a good deal of time refining their essays and overall application. There were many drafts. 

That’s not to say it always works out that way. 

There are always students who are deferred to a college and then accepted during the regular application process. And, there are always students who apply to their dream school – one that may not make the most sense given their overall profile – but are convinced it is their one shot. 

A side note:

For seniors who were deferred, I encourage you to check the school’s press release to get a sense around your odds – for instance, if a school only defers 10% or less of students it might be more likely that you could be accepted than at a school that defers nearly all applicants to the regular application pool. If you were deferred, focus on your regular applications now and write a letter of continued interest in January, after the holidays. 

Helping students focus on what they have control over in the college application process and become savvy consumers (a term I use in my latest book, Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint for Success Beyond Grades and College Admission) in understanding the data and their overall profile, and helping them understand how to create an application that highlights their unique perspective and strengths is what keeps this work so interesting. 

In the ever-evolving world of college admissions, we understand that the journey to higher education can be both exciting and challenging for families. New trends, challenges, and opportunities emerge every year. 

Starting January 8, we’ll have our academic advising appointments with high school freshmen and sophomores (all about creating a great high school experience) and our college advising appointments for high school juniors. Please be in touch if you are interested in scheduling.

Before then… We wanted to share a few  main points for students, families, and educators to think about around college admissions, as well as a few links to articles of interest below:

A holistic admissions process looks beyond grades and test scores 

Class choices and the rigor of coursework certainly matter. Test scores can also be submitted as one part of the application process. Still, activities, interests, teacher and counselor recommendations, and unique factors (artistic portfolio, personal experiences, legacy, athletic recruitment) can all play a role. Take a look at the language on Stanford University’s website on how they practice and understand holistic admissions. 

One story: last year, we had a student who struggled with testing but was an *incredible* artist who had really spent time on their craft inside and outside of the classroom. I encouraged them to swap out time that they might have spent preparing for standardized testing to instead build their art portfolio – the result: accepted to 9 of 11 schools, including several schools where chances might have been seen as slim at best.

Test-Optional Policies: A Changing Landscape

The trend towards test-optional or test-blind admissions allows students to decide whether to submit standardized test scores as part of their application or not submit scores altogether, respectively. Nearly 83% of U.S.-based colleges have adopted test-optional policies with the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU)systems having gone test-blind. 

At the same time, this opinion piece in the Hechinger Report highlights some key data: Colleges are looking at ACT and SAT scores. Even though the opinion piece is from 2022, it is worth looking at colleges’ public press releases and comparing the acceptance rates of those applicants who submitted test scores versus those who did not. The differential can seem substantial (Boston College, Notre Dame, Colgate, Georgia Tech) or not (Vanderbilt).

College Affordability: Exploring Financial Aid Options

College affordability is a significant concern for many families. Many colleges and external organizations offer resources to help make informed decisions about financing a college education. 

Ron Lieber, the Your Money columnist for The New York Times, provides insights for families on how to pay for college. He also has written extensively about understanding merit aidand how to get it. His book The Price You Pay For College is a helpful resource. 

Our goal is to help students see themselves as savvy consumers who evaluate the importance of different school qualities and programs and recognize there are many places, not just one, where they can thrive. One place to start: virtual campus tours

Partnering for Success: Resources and Support

At our office, we focus on offering guidance, support, and personalized strategies that support a student’s overall growth and development. Our focus is on using the college application process to help students develop their executive functioning skills, narrative writing skills, and overall confidence and sense of self. We offer a range of support services, from one-time consultations, to a four-day summer bootcamp, to an ongoing support process. For those interested in learning more or to be added to our college admissions newsletter, please be in touch.

Warm wishes,

Ana + Green Ivy Staff

Other links of interest:

Why Parents Can’t Quit the Elite College Arms Race (NYTimes)

Which colleges consider legacies? Not just the ones you are thinking (Chronicle of Higher Education)

MIT via community college? Transfer students find a new path to a degree (Aspen Institute)

Early Decision: A Necessary Evil? (Slate)

Harvard sees a 17% dip in Early Applications (NYTimes)

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