The College Admissions World Has Shifted

The college admissions process is complex, stressful, and often overwhelming. Both students and their parents spend a lot of time and energy thinking, planning, testing, applying, waiting, and then making important decisions. Could it get any more difficult? In some ways, the answer is yes.

Changes to the admission process

In November 2019, the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NCAC), removed three provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP). NACAC, an association of more than 15,000 admission professionals from most colleges and universities in the U.S., chose to make these changes in response to an investigation by the Department of Justice.

The organization chose to strike the following provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices:

  • “Colleges must not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an early decision application plan.”
  • “Once students have committed themselves to a college, other colleges must respect that choice and cease recruiting them.”
  • “Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from a previous year’s applicant or prospect pool unless the students have themselves initiated a transfer inquiry or the college has verified prior to contacting the students that they are either enrolled at a college that allows transfer recruitment from other colleges or are not currently enrolled in a college.”

Essentially, these changes mean that 1) colleges can continue to recruit students after they have made their college choice by the May 1 National College Decision Day. In the past, once students made their commitment, other colleges ceased recruiting them. They may now continue to pursue them – perhaps with offers of increased aid. 2) It also means that students may be offered incentives to apply with binding Early Decision, and 3) that once a student begins college in the fall, they may continue to receive communication from other colleges to which they had applied encouraging them to consider transferring.

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How to Drop Out of College (the Smart Way)

No, we’re not advocating that students drop out of college. Staying in college is a good thing and graduating from college is even better. But, unfortunately, a lot of students aren’t able to finish college as planned. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national six-year graduation rate is about 60%.  That means that 4 of 10 students who start college may drop out before graduating.

Why do students leave?

There are many reasons that students leave college.  There may be one overriding factor or there may be multiple factors. According to most surveys, the primary reason for leaving is financial. College tuition costs continue to rise and many students, and their families, find that they simply cannot continue to put together the necessary funds or continue to amass huge college loans.

Another reason for leaving is closely related to financial issues. According to one study, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 54% of students who attend college work full time.  Many of these students find that they cannot continue to balance a full time job and full time student load, and so they drop out.

Students may also leave college for reasons beyond financial. Some students find they are not prepared academically for college level work. Some cite lack of support or social difficulties such as fitting in, finding friends, or getting caught up in a culture of drinking or drugs. Some encounter mental health issues or lack the maturity to be able to function independently.  And some students may simply be unmotivated: perhaps they never wanted to attend college or they are uninspired by their major or field of study.

Whatever the reason, if your student begins to talk about dropping out of college, it can be scary. You’re not sure what to do or where to go from here.

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How College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump

College administrators, faculty, and parents place a lot of emphasis on the transition to college and the first-year experience.  We all know that these new college students, and their parents, will be undergoing a tremendous change in their lives as they enter the world of college.  Colleges run orientation programs, offer special classes and seminars for first-year students, communicate with these new students with encouragement and reminders, and often have a “let it go” attitude when new students make mistakes or miss deadlines.

Once students complete that tumultuous first year of college, they face sophomore year and the changes that it brings.  Our sophomore students need just as much support from home, even though that need may be less obvious. As college parents, we can help our sophomore students realize that the concept of sophomore slump really does exist.

What is sophomore slump?

Sophomore slump refers to the phenomenon in which a second effort fails to live up to the quality of a first effort.  The term is also used in sports (for second year players) and in music (for second recordings by an artist).  At college, students in their second, or sophomore, year often experience both a let-down and a decrease in their grades.  If the word sophomore means “wise fool,” it is an accurate description of how many second year students feel: they aren’t sure whether they feel wise or foolish at any given moment.

Why does sophomore slump happen?

There are several things that occur during the second year of college that can contribute to the slump that sophomores may encounter.  These are especially troubling if your student is unprepared for the differences during this year of college.  Parents and students need to understand the ways in which this year is different from that first year of college.

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15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.

As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student – and for you.  As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.

Why is change so difficult?

Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means.  Definitions sometimes give us clarity.  To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.

Change can be hard.  It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it.  So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company.  The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.

Fight or flight – or go with the flow?

Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response.  We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away.  We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening.  Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone.  Don’t fight it or ignore it.  Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.

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Why Your Transfer Student May Be in Shock

There is a phenomenon called Transfer Shock.  If you have a transfer student, they may be experiencing this tendency for students who transfer from one school to another to experience a temporary dip in their GPA during their transitional first or second semesters.

If you have a transfer student who did reasonably well in their original school and are now facing this transitional grade dip, they may be alarmed.  Your student may wonder whether they should have transferred after all – or whether they transferred to the right school.  It may help if you can reassure your student that this struggle, this dip in GPA, is normal; and that most transfer students recover their grades within a semester or two.

If you have a student who is considering a transfer next semester or next year, warn them ahead of time. Your student may be able to avoid it, but more importantly, if transfer shock does occur, your student may worry less because they’ll know that others may be experiencing the same thing.

Why does transfer shock happen?

Some students may underestimate the difficulty of transitioning to a new school.  They’ve already made the adjustment to being in college, and they feel that a new school won’t be all that different.  However, once at the new school, students realize that there are new ways of doing things, new expectations, new traditions, and new policies.  Students may also encounter more difficult upper level coursework than they had at their previous institution.  Some students may also be taken by surprise at the social disorientation that they feel in a new environment and the effort that it takes to make new social connections and friends.

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Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Decision, the Process, and the Transition

Roughly 2.5 million college students every year transfer to a different school.  Statistics from the United States Department of Education suggest that close to 60% of college students will attend more than one school before they graduate.  While many students find just the right college and stay there four years, these statistics suggest that there is a good chance that your college student may consider a transfer to another college at some point during their college career.

While the overall transfer rate in the United States may suggest that transferring is now the norm for many, if your child decides to transfer, the process is a significant event for them, and for you.  Even though others may be going through the same process, it does not lessen the impact of the decision for your individual student.

For some students who attend 2-year institutions, the decision may not be whether to transfer, but rather where to transfer.  For other students, the decision is more difficult because transfer is a choice.  Your student will need to go through a process of deciding whether or not a transfer is the right answer for them.  If they decide to make a change, they will need to complete the actual process of transferring, and finally they’ll need to make the transfer successful once it happens

What are transfer options?

Many students make what is called a vertical transfer.  Quite simply, this is a transfer from a two-year college to a four-year institution.  The student may have opted to begin their college career at a community college or a junior college.  After completing work there, perhaps with an Associates’ Degree, they transfer to a four-year institution to complete their undergraduate work for a Bachelor’s Degree.  Some two-year institutions have Articulation Agreements with four-year schools.  This means that the student may have direct entry into a program at the partnering institution.  This type of transfer is a big step, but does not have the emotional weight of a difficult decision.  It is a natural next step.

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Is College Transfer the “New Normal?”

Gone are the days when most college students begin and end their college career in four years at a single institution.  Many parents, and their students, still imagine that scenario as students engage in the admissions process and agonize over finding just the right college or university for them.  They see themselves graduating from there at the end of four years.

We now know that fewer and fewer students are completing their college degree in four years.  Five years is now closer to the national average, with many students taking longer than that.  Now a new report has been released indicating that nearly 38% of students who entered college in 2008 moved to a new institution at least once within a six year period.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a non-profit organization based in Virginia tracked 3.6 million students who enrolled in college in the fall of 2008. They looked at the number of students who moved to a new institution prior to completing their bachelor’s degree.  Their findings are certainly important for institutions and policymakers, but may also be important in helping parents be prepared for that moment when their student may come home and say, “Mom and Dad, I want to transfer.”

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“I Don’t Want to Go Back.” When Your College Freshman Wants to Quit

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming over the course of the semester, or perhaps it has taken you by surprise.  Your student came home for what you thought was going to be a few weeks for winter break and announced that he doesn’t want to return to school when break is over.  No one expected this when you headed to school for Move-in Day.

Dissatisfaction with the college experience at the end of the first semester is not uncommon.  Several national studies suggest that as many as one third of college students do not return for their sophomore year of college, but there is little data regarding how many of those students leave at the midpoint of their first year.  However, both college personnel and first year students know that there are many students who will not be back for second semester.

So you are faced with a dilemma.  Your student says he does not want to return to school.  What do you do?

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Arrive, Apply . . . Accepted! Consider Instant Decision Days

The waiting game for high school seniors can be excruciating.  All of the deadlines have been met, the applications sent, and now your student is waiting for the verdict.  In or out?

For an increasing number of students and colleges, the waiting game has been eliminated.  More and more colleges are now conducting Instant Decision or Immediate Decision Days.  Students usually submit their online application ahead of time, sign up for the IDD, arrive on campus with SAT scores, essay, recommendation and transcript, meet with admissions personnel, and leave at the end of the day knowing whether or not they’ve been admitted.  It doesn’t get much faster than that.

Instant Decision Days are not new, but they are expanding.  Ramapo College of New Jersey was one of the first schools to offer this program over twenty years ago.  Today, many schools offer the program.  It is more common for transfer students, but has rapidly expanded to include students directly from high school as well.  Several colleges not only offer the opportunity to attend Instant Decision Days on campus, but take the program to local high schools as well.  Some high schools host several colleges for Instant Decision.  Students can apply to and be accepted to several schools without ever leaving their high school.

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Why Your College Transfer Student Needs Your Support

According to both the Department of Education and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, nearly 60% of college students will start and end their college careers at different schools.  That is a lot of transfer students.  If your student is one of these transfer students, he may need your support more than ever.

Some college students have no choice but to transfer.  They attend a 2-year institution and then move on to complete their degree at another school.  Other students make the decision to transfer to another school on their own.  Your transfer student is making another transition and is, in some ways, much like a new first-year student only wiser.  Your transfer student has learned something from their experience in college and can take advantage of that knowledge while still experiencing a clean slate at a new school.

The college transfer process may not be easy.  It takes time and energy, requires adjustments, requires understanding of the transfer process and may require extra time from your student to complete their degree.  Your student will be most successful if they knows themselves well, understands their strengths, challenges and passions, and evaluates their reasons for the transfer.  According to the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement, transfer students may be less “engaged” in high impact activities such as study abroad, internships, research, or capstone experiences, so your student may need you to remind them to seek out these opportunities.

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