Jul 23, 2012

5 Potential ‘Game Changers’ for College Applicants

College of St. Rose
Between now and sometime toward the middle of August, colleges and universities will put finishing touches on application procedures and policies for the 2012-13 admissions cycle. 

But already a few system-wide changes are on the horizon which may alter the way some applicants approach the process.

Here is what we know so far:

1.  Pictures, Pictures, and more Pictures
In response to widely reported instances of cheating on standardized tests, both the SAT and the ACT will be asking students to submit current “recognizable” photos when registering for their tests.  On test day, students will need to present both an admission ticket on which the photo has been printed and an acceptable form of photo ID.  Without both, there will be no test.  In addition, student data “repositories” will be created containing both the information and photo provided by the test-taker at the time of registration.  High schools, colleges and universities, and other institutions receiving scores will have access to those repositories to cross-check or verify information provided.

2.  Counselor Opt-Outs
For the first time, guidance counselors will be given the opportunity to “opt-out” of providing written evaluations on behalf of students applying through the Common Application system.  Counselors (or other designated officials) may check a box indicating that they either don’t know the student well enough or that their caseload is too heavy to write recommendations.  Look for further clarification from the Common Application, but be aware that colleges depending heavily on these evaluations are not happy about the possibility that some counselors may feel “authorized” not to provide them.  Note that the Universal College Application uses a different system for ensuring recommendations are provided when required and has no such blanket “opt-out” mechanism in place.

3.  Colleges Rethink Testing
The College of Saint Rose, Ithaca College, and Clark University are among those institutions announcing a switch to test-optional admissions for the coming year.  According to FairTest, nearly 850 colleges and universities are already test-optional or test-flexible and rumor has it that several more are in the final stages of considering similar changes to admissions policies.  Other schools like Boston University and Cornell University are slightly diminishing the role of Subject Tests in their admissions policies. 

4.  No more Standby
As a corollary to the new photo registration requirement, the ACT and SAT are changing the rules around standby testing.  For now, no students will be allowed to show-up on test day without registering in advance for a specific test.  In addition, students taking the SAT will not be permitted a last-minute switch to Subject Tests.  And students will be required to test at the center designated on their admission tickets—test center changes will no longer per permitted on test day.

5.  Uncovering Application Fraud
Sadly, there are applicants who lie, plagiarize, or otherwise cheat on college applications.  As a result, colleges are increasingly concerned about the quality of information they are receiving.  So much so that the entire UC system, Stanford, and Harvard routinely “audit” applicant information at some point either before or after admission.   In addition, increasing numbers of colleges are signing on with Turnitin for Admissions to check for the possibility of plagiarism on essays.  Look for this trend to continue, and be prepared to stand behind the application you submit.

Look for more policy adjustments as time goes on.  While the Universal College Application has already made enhancements their software, the Common Application will soon begin beta-testing entirely new in-house software for the 2013-14 admissions cycle. 

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