Thursday, December 8, 2011

College Decisions Come Out Next Week. Are You Ready?

By Patrick O'Connor

The first round of early college decisions will be released next week, and things look especially tense for two reasons.  A number of bizarre articles cropped up online this fall, telling students the best thing they could do to improve their chances of admission at top notch schools was to apply Early Decision.  Based on percentages, the articles said, students stood a much better chance of getting in by applying ED.

That’s all well and good, except the article didn’t say students admitted as ED applicant have to attend that college and agree to withdraw all other college applications immediately.

One online article’s response to these concerns?  Hey, it’s October—if they don’t know now, they never will.

Now that’s counseling.

The same increase is happening with Early Action applications, where admitted students have until May 1 to make their choice—the only advantage of Early Action is that students hear early. Because a handful of college increased the number of EA students they admitted last year, the word in the senior hallway was that all colleges “liked” students to apply EA.  The result?  A record number of EA decisions are also expected, including more early admits—after all, if more students are applying early, it makes sense to take more applicants early.

All of this “get in early” talk is pretty exciting, and it’s great when students are organized and apply with focus and fervor—until next week, when students will realize three things:

  •  More early applicants means more early denials.  Colleges may like to take students early, but they aren’t going to take everyone who applies early—and unlike five years ago, more colleges are simply going to say no to those who don’t get in, rather than give them a second look with the regular applicants in January.
  •  Since more colleges are taking early students, those seniors getting a “no” next week are less likely to get admitted to any college that has an early program. More early admits means fewer regular admits, so these students will be competing for fewer spaces at many selective colleges come January.
  •  Some Early Decision applicants who decided to get their college counseling from the Internet will now find themselves required to go to a college they like, but may no longer love, if indeed they ever loved it in the first place. The “one and done” nature of Early Decision sounded great six weeks ago, but students wisely formulated Plan B in case they didn’t get in.  Now that they are in, they may need help being psyched with what now seems like the educational equivalent of an arranged marriage.
In sum, the next two weeks are going to be busy ones for counselors, thanks to bad generic advice on the Internet about Early Decision; students applying Early Action based on unsubstantiated rumors, and students being rushed into a college choice they didn’t really have to make.

We’ll need our best skills to support students through the challenges brought by denials, and even acceptances; search for great colleges that aren’t siphoning off huge numbers of admission offers to early applicants; and not look each of these students in the eye and scream “Why didn’t you ask me about applying early, instead of getting your advice on the Internet?”

Of course, it’s easier to avoid this last temptation, given this time of year is all about peace on earth—so go easy on the early applicants of 2012, and be grateful at least they’re coming to you now and asking “What’s next?” instead of waiting until May.

Follow Up—Another article popped up about the lack of counselor training in college advising—be sure to see it at , and take action.

Also, congratulations and thanks to Eastern Michigan University, who heard the counselor cry for more training, and created a specialist certificate in postsecondary planning.  One down, and about 400 to go.

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