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10 Admissions Trends for 2015

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Dec 2, 2014 6:21:00 PM

Nothing in admissions moves at the speed of revolution. But we still expect to see the process evolving, with long-term trends intensifying. Here are the ten trends we at Story2 expect to dominate the coming year.

1. “Early everything” will overtake “Early Decision.” While colleges may not literally advance application deadlines, the culture of college applications has shifted. Students, teachers, counselors, parents--everyone gets started earlier, often at a more frenzied pace. and setting a more anxious tone for the 2015 admissions cycle.

2.  The application tsunami will flood admissions offices at selective schools. We’ll see this trend across the board, but even more so at schools (there are currently 42 of them) that are both need-blind and committed to meeting students’ full demonstrated financial need.

3.  Selective colleges will announce test-flexible or test-neutral approaches. Wesleyan, Bryn Mawr and Temple were in the vanguard this year, shifting their policies in order to bring in a wider group of applicants who are focused less on tests and more on learning.

4.  Colleges will experiment with ways to learn more about what applicants will contribute to their next class. Like Goucher College’s mobile video “essays,” or Chicago- and Tufts-style emotional intelligence testing essays, schools will expect students to reveal more about themselves and favor the ones who dare to be real over “Stepford students.”

5.  The Common App monopoly will erode. It’s not going away anytime soon, but schools are beginning to see the downside of standardized admissions, and looking for ways to go beyond the safe packaging that students present to eight, ten, or even more other schools.

6.  Attempts like dropping essay requirements to boost applicant numbers in order to lower acceptance rates will draw unwanted attention. Education watchers are wise to the game of using numbers to inflate rankings. In fact, the pendulum will swing to approaches like Bard’s, which now requests a series of essays specific to them to attract a smaller number of higher-quality applicants.

7.  Colleges will turn up the marketing dial to recruit the students they really want. Colleges already reach out directly to the students they want for their premier programs. As this increases quietly and steadily, students and parents will need to focus more on ways to cut through the marketing to research colleges that fit their needs.

8.  Colleges will sponsor and participate in collaborative college outreach events: It is getting too expensive for every college to run its own private road shows. More and more groups of similar colleges will create events together to recruit students from diverse high schools and try to extend their reach to parts of the country where they have not previously traveled.

9.  Specific programs and opportunities will take center stage in the way schools will try to brand or rebrand themselves. Very few colleges or universities are good at everything. As they focus on a few premier programs--including innovative ideas like Entrepreneurship and Technology Leadership--where they are really world class, they may even eliminate their less popular or less prestigious programs. Students in turn will have to go beyond the generalities and show how they will fit in these more specific programs and communities.

10.  Web-based, co-op, and hybrid programs will blossom. Colleges are increasingly worried about criticism that they graduate students who are ill-prepared for work, and that degrees may not be needed to succeed in the future. This year we expect to see more of them responding with pilots and programs so students can straddle the fence between the academy and industry. 

Topics:college admission