Preparing for College Admissions Changes

Preparing for College Admissions Changes

By Dr. Mark Fisher |

Life will not be the same for high school seniors this fall. Before we look at the changes in the college admissions process, let us see what happened this past year.

What are one’s chances for admission based on the acceptance rates for universities’ Class of 2020? Here are some of the statistics for colleges where many Jewish students apply.

College Applications Admitted Acceptance Rate
Barnard 7,071 1,131 16%
Boston University 57,416 16,650 29%
Brown 33,380 2,919 9%
Columbia 36,292 2,193 6%
Cornell 44,966 6277 14%
Duke 32,202 3,319 10%
Emory 19,924 4,927 25%
George Washington 25,541 10,942 43%
Georgia Tech 30,520 7,630 25%
Georgia 23,000 11,500 50%
Harvard 39,041 2,037 5%
Johns Hopkins 27,095 3,098 11%
Maryland 30,289 14,569 48%
Pennsylvania 38,918 3,661 9%
Princeton 29,303 1,894 6%
Yale 32,145 1,972 6%

Wow! Look at those statistics. Gee, except for a few schools, my chances are not so good.

No, that is not true. There are many fine colleges where you can receive a solid education and that have statistics more to your liking. The question is not the football team’s record or its recruiting class. The question is whether a particular college is a good fit for you. Is this a college where you can grow as a student and a person?

There are so many questions to ask when reviewing a college. Sorry, it is not just the name of the school. Successful adults have come from a variety of colleges across the country.

When seniors this school year apply to college, they will have a lot to be concerned about.

While students are familiar with the Common Application, used by around 600 colleges, they are not familiar with the Coalition application; it has never been used. And not all the schools in the Coalition are using the application this year; 58 are.

Most of the colleges using the Coalition application are also using their own applications or the Common Application this year, but one popular out-of-state university for local students, the University of Maryland, is using the Coalition application only. You must complete the Coalition app for Maryland even if it is the only college on your list requiring the new application.

In the past, the writing section of the ACT was optional; the SAT writing was not optional. The change is that the SAT writing section is now optional, starting with the test administration last March. But if any of the colleges to which you are applying wants the writing section, you must take the ACT and/or SAT with that section.

You don’t want to skip the writing section, then learn while you’re applying that one of seven colleges that interest you wants the writing section. You’ll have to take either the ACT or SAT all over again.

The message is that a student needs to know the testing requirements of the colleges being considered.

Applying for financial aid, including the HOPE scholarship in Georgia? That process has changed. Families need to know that the Free Application for Student Aid and the College Profile (used mostly by private colleges) can be submitted beginning Oct. 1. In the old days, the date was Jan. 1.

For this school year, you will use “prior-prior” year financial information as the base year. That means families will use 2015 financial information in filling out FAFSA. It is easier to use that information because the 2015 income tax returns have been completed months before you start the FAFSA or College Profile.

This change takes guessing and estimates out of the picture and avoids the necessity of corrections when those estimates are not in sync with your tax return. Furthermore, you can use the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool to import verified IRS tax returns into the FAFSA.

Many highly selective colleges are filling their incoming classes to an increasing degree through their early application dates, including early decision, various early action plans and other priority deadlines. Will your chances be better for an acceptance? You need to study the statistics for a given college.

The moral of the story is that “earlier” becomes a key word in the admissions process. Seniors, I hope you have started the entire admissions process. As an educational consultant, my counseling in the past began with juniors, but now sophomores and even freshmen have begun the process.


Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants ( and a consultant for the College Planning Institute (

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