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How Data Helps in a Spectacularly Difficult College Admissions Year

Updated: May 7


In this New York Times article, Daniel Currell accurately describes this application cycle as a perfect storm of difficulties.


The process can be intimidating and complex, but there are ways to make it easier. Let's review how data-driven strategies can help.


  • Early Applications—This application cycle reinforces that colleges continue to favor early decision and restrictive early action applications. Understanding which schools give a significant boost and which schools hold back on ED preferences helps students with Wave 1 and Wave 2 applications. Schools report this information in their Common Data Sets and institutional publications. Finding and filtering this information becomes a challenge.

  • Test Optional vs. Submitting Scores—With schools waking up to the fact that grade inflation can reduce the transcript's ability to reflect academic fundamentals, standardized tests are back in the picture. What is different now compared to pre-pandemic is that some schools are reviewing scores more holistically and in the context of the student's peers at their high school vs. the total applicant pool. Schools report the percentage of enrolled students submitting scores; it is helpful to see this information as students apply.

  • Financial Aid - Current juniors can learn from the many students who are in financial aid limbo due to the Federal Government's FAFSA debacle. Application research MUST include running the net price calculator for each school before deciding to apply.

  • Essay Prompts - The Supreme Court 2024 decision has colleges scrambling to change essay prompts. Students can now use essay content to explain how their experiences are unique and will contribute to the freshman roster. Expect supplemental prompts to continue to reshuffle.


While the common data set publishes most of this information, finding the data and making sense of it can be challenging. We are here to help.

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