It's two days from May 1, otherwise known as Decision Day. Many students are rejoicing that they got into their first choice. Others are happy to have gotten in anywhere. But there are still many other students wondering why they didn't get in.
The answer just might be Big Data.
Colleges want to know if a student is really going to attend and then spend its recruiting dollars on that student. Sarah Lawrence College uses the big data it collects to increase its yield rates. "How interested an applicant was is heavily correlated with the student who is going to be a good fit and stay on past the first year.”
However, colleges not only want students who want to be at their schools but also "students that will be successful.” To do this, schools analyze your data to determine your likelihood of completing a college program. What data are they looking at? Well, of course they're interested in your test scores and grades, but they're also interested in your social media.
Some schools like Ithaca studied social media data "to see which students [are] employing what behaviors ... most likely to enroll and stay [in college] — how many photos they uploaded to their profiles, for instance, and how many ...friends they made. The idea is to learn how interested a candidate is in the college," a college official said.
Need more insight? This FastCoExist article is more clear:
"Even major life decisions like college admissions and hiring are being affected. You might think that a college is considering you on your merits, and while that's mostly true, it's not entirely. Pressured to improve their rankings, colleges are very interested in increasing their graduation rates and the percentage of admitted students who enroll. They have now have developed statistical programs to pick students who will do well on these measures. These programs may take into account obvious factors like grades, but also surprising factors like their sex, race, and behavior on social media accounts. If your demographic factors or social media presence happen to doom you, you may find it harder to get into school—and not know why."
This interesting read from Jeff Selingo, a writer for the Washington Post, discusses the change in how internships have been viewed over the years and what they currently mean to a college-student's future success.
As Selingo notes: "Internships are increasingly the only way for new applicants to get in the door at some companies. Postings for internships now make up a significant proportion of the overall entry-level job openings in several industries, including engineering, graphic design, communications, marketing, and information technology."
But how do you find an internship of note? Well, it's a competitive world out there. I suggest that you start developing professional contacts as soon as possible. Create a LinkedIn account, develop a portfolio and have it on a website, create a strong resume and keep it up to date, visit your career center and ask about alumni who might be hiring.
Don't be afraid to be straightforward with people about your goals. I had one student who went back to see her high-school teacher, one who taught the course she's currently majoring in at college. After visiting for a few minutes, she asked if he knew anyone who might be hiring an intern for the summer. Turns out, he did. He set up an interview and one day later she landed a coveted internship in New York--in addition to three other internship offers from other sources.
This college sophomore is what Selingo calls a Sprinter, someone with "determination and experience." He notes that Sprinters often "move right into full-time work related to their major...."
While Sprinters appear to benefit from having direction early, they also benefit from seeking opportunity. Perhaps Sprinters have always been ahead of the pack, but it seems that knowing how to forge a path quickly through internships can help them toward their future quickly.
Jay Matthews, the education columnist for the Washington Post, just released his rankings of the nation's and the DC-region's most challenging high schools. Matthews' index score is the "number of college-level tests given at a school in the previous calendar year divided by the number of graduates that year." So, in essence, the more AP tests a school administers, the higher its index number.
Matthews purports that all students, even those from areas with weaker educational systems and might lack readiness, can and should take AP tests. While some might suggest that not all students can meet the challenges of the AP tests, administered by the testing behemoth The College Board, Matthews sides with those "who believe lack of progress in U.S. high school achievement is because so little is demanded in most classrooms."
He goes on, as a way of supporting his point: "But what if you have teachers who are skilled enough to grab the interest of many of those habitual slackers and who can show them that struggling with a challenging course is less boring than sitting through a painfully slow remedial course?"
But there's the rub, right? Skilled teachers.
I'm very familiar with the students at the #6 DC-area school on the list, McLean High School, in McLean, Virginia. MHS teachers are extremely dedicated and prepared to teach the students from this highly affluent DC suburb. However, rising class sizes; an ever-increasing budget gap, currently at $51 million, according to Fairfax County Public Schools; and teacher pay that is lower than its nearby counties are starting to cause problems. Last year McLean High School reportedly hired 33 new teachers to complete its 120 person teaching staff: almost a 30% changeover.
While McLean High School still has dedicated teachers who can "grab the interest of habitual slackers," new teachers might not yet have the skill enough to really teach students at the AP level--and this is in an area where the school only has 9% of its students receive or reduced lunch and enjoys a safe and productive atmosphere.
However, apparently schools in more difficult situations are giving AP tests. In the national rankings, many of the schools in the top 10 have a substantial number of students receiving subsidized lunches, including three in Texas: Science/Engineering Magnet (#3, 65%), Talented and Gifted (#6, 31%), and Idea College Prep Mission (#11, 91%).
We might ask this question: To what end? We know that students are taking AP classes and tests, but are they receiving passing scores of 3s, 4s, or 5s?
However, I'm not sure the scores matter. To develop able students, they need rigor and expectation. While results are nice, what's most important is creating a cohort of students who believe they can succeed and are prepared to take on the challenges of college.
So, you're on the wait list, in ersatz college limbo: neither in, nor out. You've gotten some yeses from some really great schools and likely have already paid your deposit to one of them. However, you haven't yet bought that Ohio State t-shirt or U. Santa Cruz "Go Banana Slugs" bumper sticker for the Prius. Why? Because you've been wait listed by your first-choice school.
This is the time of year I hear from students asking: What's the likelihood I'll get off the wait list?
The answer? A resounding "Dunno."
I wish I knew. I wish the colleges knew. I wish anyone knew. These data are murky to say the least. However, today's Washington Post article gave some really excellent insights.
Some schools admit none from their waitlists (Lehigh, Tulane, U. Maryland, Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Macalester), while others like Penn State have used it extensively. (In 2015, it admitted almost all 1473 from its wait list.) Some schools don't share the data (Harvard), while others do, but to little use. (Duke admitted 9 and CMU admitted 4 from their waitlists.)
While you're waiting and hoping, here are some of the highlights from the article:
In 2015: 963 waitlisted, 129 admitted from the list.
In 2014: 1133 waitlisted, 0 admitted from the list.
They don't share their data.
1324 waitlisted in 2014, but won't share how many made it off the list.
In 2015: 927 waitlisted, 0 admitted from the list
In 2014: 7 were admitted from an unknown number of those waitlisted.
Lehigh, Tulane, U. Maryland, Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Macalester
0 admitted from the waitlist
4 admitted from the wait list
9 admitted from the wait lsit
Case Western Reserve
5119 on the waitlist (9,000 invited): 518 admitted from the waitlist
In 2015, 1473 on waitlist, 1445 admitted
In 2014, zero admitted from the waitlist
In 2014, 4536 on waitlist, 136 admitted
University of Michigan
In 2014 and 2015, 4500 on waitlist, equivalent to 75% of the entire class size.
In this Washington Post article, the author describes the frustration of getting into a dream school but not receiving (enough) Merit Aid to afford to go. Yeses become no's really quickly when you cannot afford the yes. I'm giving a scholarship seminar with Inspiring Test Prep on April 28 at 7:30 pm about finding, applying for, and winning non-university sponsored merit aid. This seminar will be too late for any current seniors, but can be very useful for parents of juniors and younger.
When my oldest applied to RISD, we told her that she could never, ever go without a substantial scholarship. She got in and quickly told them "thanks, but no thanks" after calculating her student loan debt and duration of payments. $70K for art school is just too much for this family to afford, and I do colleges for a living.
Most schools will not negotiate, although some, specifically Ohio schools, have been known to. (I'm hearing this is less and less the case now, though.) So, offsetting merit aid (which most in-state schools do not offer) is the only way to really go. Which is why when my oldest understood the need, she applied to so many scholarships--and has won well over $50K so far--enough to pay for two years at Virginia Tech. It's work, but then again, I have to work to make $50K too.
Choosing how to apply to a college can be daunting. There are multiple types of admissions choices: regular, early action, early decision, immediate decision, restricted early action, and so on.
Understanding your options is crucial to the process. I generally explain them in terms of looking for a prom date:
While Early Decision gets you the prom date, you don't have any say in the cost of the date. There's no splitting the check, opting for KFC over Shi-Shi in the City, sharing a limo with friends. You're stuck with the date and all it entails. It doesn't matter that you thought you'd get a 50% off coupon for tickets that didn't pan out. The bill comes, you pay--all of it. (Although you can technically get out of the date if it's really too expensive, but that's tough too.)
Early Decision gets you a guarantee of a good date. In fact, your chances of dating the Prom Queen or King is almost double if you ask for it Early.
As this Washington Post article shows, double is serious business. Want to go to prom with UPenn? They admit 24% ED and only 10% RD. Davidson? 48% for ED and 22% for RD. William and Mary? 50% ED to 34% RD.
However, getting the great date is only great if you can afford the cost, even if it's above what you thought. This is the problem. The wealthy can afford to take the cost risk and apply early. Those struggling and need to see the financial aid packages can't take advantage of the better yes rate.
Is it unfair? I'm not sure. Is it good to know the rules of the game before starting the process? Yes. After all, a good date can make life much more fun.
A College Counselor who asks and answers the tough questions.