Four Questions: A Local College Consultant Talks Timelines, Finding the School that Fits

Reprinted from the Bronxville-Eastchester Patch
By Renea Henry
October 15, 2010

Katharine Graves

If parents and teenagers can agree about anything, it's the stress of searching for and applying to the right college or university. Now that the school year is in full swing, talk in high school hallways is abuzz with standardized test prep, campus visits and application essays. We decided to get the straight scoop from independent college consultant Katharine Graves of Admissions Blueprint in Bronxville.

Here, Graves answers four questions about tackling the college admission process.

Read more: Four Questions: A Local College Consultant Talks Timelines, Finding the School that Fits

Who Shattered Our Crystal Ball? or...Go To the Wait List

Several years ago, I attended a College Board session with the catchy title, Who Shattered My Crystal Ball? The panelists were prominent high school counselors who shared their growing frustration over the increasingly competitive and unpredictable college admissions process. If that session were to be held today, it would have to be retitled: Who Shattered Our Crystal Ball, because the uncertainty has spread from the high school guidance counselor's office to the college admissions office. (See my posts below on the effects of the Tidal Wave of Applications and the effects of decisions by Harvard, Princeton, and UVA.) Colleges are awash with so many applications that they can't trust their predictive models. "With so many students applying to so many colleges today, it can be difficult to determine which schools students really want to attend."

Read more: Who Shattered Our Crystal Ball? or...Go To the Wait List

Tidal Wave of Applications

As competitive as the college admissions cycle was last year, many experts predicted it would be even worse in the 2007-2008 admissions season. Sadly, they were right.

Whether colleges call it an avalanche, or a flood, or even a tidal wave, admissions offices are literally awash – or buried – with a record number of applications from highly qualified applicants with remarkably similar profiles.

For example, Northwestern University officials report a 14% rise in applications this year, which is a whopping 54% more applications than they received in 2005! According to a recent NY Times article, to cope with this deluge of applications, Northwestern apparently feels the need to read faster and say no – so they've just hired a former Princeton

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Did Harvard, Princeton and UVA Capsize the Admissions Boat?

When Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia announced in 2006 that they would eliminate their early admissions programs in the 2007-08 application season, they may have increased -- however inadvertently -- the overall frenzy of college admissions. Think of it as the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

In his thought-provoking opinion in the NY Times, John Etchemendy, the provost of Stanford University, maintains: "Ending early admission programs increases the level of frenzy in the application process; it does not decrease it." As he points out, in recent years, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA have collectively admitted 2,500 students early. Those 2,500 students would normally be off the market. Now those 2,500 students are still in play, and they have submitted probably 8-10 applications each (that's probably

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Class 2014 Admissions Rates Reach Ridiculous Lows

Four years ago, after presiding over the admissions decisions for the Class of 2010, Dartmouth's former dean of admissions Karl Furstenberg lamented: "We've reached a point where the selectivity is getting kind of ridiculous." If he thought that was ridiculous, what must he think of the new lows for the Class of 2014?

This year 7 of the 8 Ivies, plus such selective universities as Stanford and MIT, posted record low acceptance rates; only Yale (which saw a slight decline in applications) held "steady" at the already ridiculously low acceptance rate of 7.5%. To cite a few other depressing stats, UPenn's admit rate fell nearly 3 percent to 14.2%; Duke's admit rate sank to 14.8% down about 18% last year. Even former Ivy "safeties" such as Vanderbilt and GW saw alarming drops in their admit rates: GW dropped 5 percentage points to 31.5% and

Read more: Class 2014 Admissions Rates Reach Ridiculous Lows