Academic Scholarships, Great Grades, Your Eighth Grader

There is SO MUCH to digest in this article published in Sunday’s New York Times on how academic merit scholarship aid is awarded at a number of colleges and universities today. The overarching point: If attending a private or out-of-state public institution is a goal for your student yet you will need to keep expenses close to that of full cost of attendance at one of your state public colleges, curriculum and grades matter – a lot.

This notion of “academic merit scholarship” versus “coupon” or “discount” is something I cover in depth with families I work with here in North Carolina. We are fortunate to have a tremendously strong and relatively affordable state college and university system (fwiw – I think this is true for ALL states – look beyond the fancy names and you’ll find tremendous academic opportunities everywhere). Though local students are often wooed with scholarship money by public institutions in neighboring states (or private colleges anywhere), it is important to understand that it still may be more affordable to attend a North Carolina public college despite receiving scholarships that may total $100K+ over four years.

As is true with every aspect of the college admissions process, it is important to consider merit based aid offers thoughtfully.

College Board Ends SAT Subject Tests, SAT Writing Section

What started as a message board rumor last night became reported news this morning – the College Board is ending its subject test programs and removing the writing section from the SAT. You’ll see tweets from many and articles published by the likes of the Washington Post throughout the morning. For a most thorough analysis of this decision and its ramifications, I strongly encourage you to read this breakdown by Adam Ingersoll of Compass Education Group.

The College Board just released its official statement this hour.

Because you may be curious, Compass provided lists last fall of schools that still require or recommend subject tests or the writing section for the 2020-21 application cycle.

My take? Simplifying the college application process is always a good thing.

More On Class Of 2022 Testing

Casey Near, Executive Director of Counseling at Collegewise, published a terrific article yesterday on how students who will be applying to college in 2022 should approach standardized testing. To Test or Not To Test: Junior Edition – it’s well worth the five minute read.

This comes on the heels of New York University announcing that they’ve received 100,000+ applications for the Fall 2021 term, a 20% increase over last year. Prior to this year, only UCLA had hit that mark in the U.S. Though NYU has had a “test flexible” policy for some time, they relaxed even that policy last June because of testing limitations forced by the COVID pandemic.

The publicity that comes with receiving over 100,000 applications is real – NYU itself even put out a press release celebrating the occasion. All of this is to say that Casey Near’s theory that “it’s very likely colleges will remain test optional for the class of 2022” is further supported, in my opinion, by the idea that NYU and other institutions with massive increases will be hesitant to risk receiving fewer applications next fall. We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming months.

SAT And ACT Requirements For the Class of 2022

Both Baylor University and the California State University system announced last week continued adjustments to their prior SAT/ACT test policies. Baylor will remain test-optional through 2023 and the California State system will remain test-blind (even submitted test scores will not be evaluated) through the 2022-23 academic year.

We are closely monitoring news releases from our local public and private institutions in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia and are hopeful announcements will be made prior to the busy junior college visit season (even if virtual) begins this March.

ED And EA Applications Way Up

The surprise I felt when the University of Georgia announced its 27% increase in early action application numbers this November was minimal. I chocked it up to their accepting the Common Application for the first time as well as their continued growth in popularity as a Sun Belt state flagship institution.

However, with the announcement by colleges across the country of huge increases in ED and EA applications, it’s clear that something more is at play.

Judi Robinovitz, a certified educational planner based in Florida, has aggregated application increases from over twenty institutions with input from fellow independent educational consultants:

The “why” (really, “whys”) behind these increases are numerous. Josh Stephens, an independent educational consultant based in Los Angeles, published a terrific piece on Medium yesterday – well worth the read!

While he covers the likely impacts of these increases for current college applicants, what might this mean for current juniors, sophomores, and beyond? Since test-optional policies may be the primary factor behind these increases, will colleges be even less likely to return to requiring tests once the pandemic is behind us for fear of losing applications? We will be following requirement announcements closely in the coming months.

UGA EA Decision Release Day Is Here!

Later this afternoon, the University of Georgia will release it’s 2021 EA application decisions. David Graves, Interim Senior Executive Director of Admissions at UGA, does a terrific job keeping prospective students and applicants updated on all things UGA admissions and even goes so far as to answer questions posted in the comments section of their blog. His forthrightness and thoughtfulness is worth appreciating.

The statistics David shares on this year’s applicant pool are remarkable. And he reminds us, “This is data on the total EA applicant pool, and not on the group we will be accepting (which will be higher).” Highly competitive indeed. Reasons for the big increase in applications? New to the Common App this year, continued growth in major southern university application pools (we continue to graduate more students each year down here and folks from elsewhere just like the warmth of our winter sun!), perhaps growth in applications from neighboring Florida as the UGA system is rightly test optional – my guess is it’s a combination of these three and more.

Applicants (of which I know a few!), I encourage you to read David’s entire post here. He explains the decisions UGA releases and offers sincere advice on how you should proceed. Good luck!

Late afternoon addition: David Graves has posted statistics on this year’s EA admitted class. Take a look here.

Our New Home!

In early 2021, AMR College Consulting will move into a new office location at 1102 Reynolda Road here in Winston-Salem! This inspiring space is located upstairs above a pair of Winston-Salem’s favorite destinations, Bobby Boy Bake Shop and The Caviste Wine Shop. Needless to say, we can’t wait!

We will continue to meet with clients remotely or in safe, outdoor locations during the COVID pandemic (and beyond for those residing outside of the area). However, we look forward to calling this unique, historic property home for many years to come! We’ll update you when our door is open!

Standardized Testing Post-COVID 19

According to FairTest, over 2/3rds of US colleges and universities are either test-optional or test-blind for Fall 2021 applicants. The inability of students to access ACT or SAT testing sites during the COVID epidemic has driven this decision for the vast majority of schools.

Jon Boeckenstedt, the VP of Enrollment Management at Oregon State, asks in a recent blog post whether returning to the status quo once the epidemic ends is likely or even advisable. His reasoning – colleges across the country cannot afford to ignore the decisions that are being made in California and on the west coast.

He includes in his post a terrific data chart that allows one to see how many first year students matriculated out of California to schools across the country in 2018 (you can actually manipulate the data to see total first year student movement out of any state). Can you guess the #1 destination for students from California in North Carolina? Would you believe that number represents close to 10% of their traditional first year class size and that, before COVID struck, it required an ACT or SAT score to be considered for admission?

It’s a good piece, worth the time both to read and to play with the tableau data chart he produced. Virtual high five for the first person who reports back to me with the out-of-state institution the greatest number of North Carolina first year students matriculated to in 2018! It probably won’t surprise you, but #2 might!