Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Resumes continue to add value in the college admissions process

by Nancy Griesemer
UPenn makes provisions for resume submission
on the Common and Coalition applications
Note: This is an update of an article posted last year.
High school students who invest time creating résumés may be handsomely rewarded in the college admission process. Of the Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, at least 272 — or about one-third — have made specific provisions for submitting this handy document.

Résumés haven’t always been so popular. In fact, there remains a lingering controversy over the appropriateness of asking students to develop and maintain résumés throughout high school. And many colleges are quite deliberate about not including them as part of their applications.

In her blog on college admissions at the University of Virginia, Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde makes a point of repeating, “The Common App has a résumé upload function and lets each school decide whether they want to use it. We are one of the schools that turned that function off. We prefer the Common App activity section to the various ways people choose to present their activities on résumés.”

On its website, Duke University clearly states, “Please note that Duke will not accept resumes for the 2019-2020 application process.” And Tufts agrees, “Keep in mind that the Common Application is your one chance to show your extracurricular engagements: we are not able to accept a supplemental resume of activities.”

But they are in the minority, and many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.

“Almost as soon as I start guiding a student through college planning, I learn about the student’s interests and hobbies and discuss the importance of extracurricular commitment in and out of school – both for college admission and life enrichment. That naturally leads to an analysis of student engagement and the creation and continual updating of a résumé,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida. “The résumé becomes far more than a list of activities. Rather, it highlights a student’s special accomplishments, focusing on major themes in her life that set her apart from her peers —what she has done, why, how, and, most especially, leadership, initiative, creativity, and how these actions have impacted lives (hers and others’).”

Robinovitz adds, “Here’s an important secret: when you share a thoughtfully prepared and detailed résumé with anyone who will write a recommendation, you’re likely to get a stronger and more anecdotal piece of writing that supports your application. Plus, through résumé creation now, we lay critical groundwork for undergraduate summer job and internship applications – and ultimately, for graduate school and vocational opportunities. And the résumé certainly facilitates a more impactful presentation on the activities page of both the Common and Coalition Applications.”

In other words, a résumé represents an opportunity to collect, keep track of and reflect on accomplishments. And it’s likely to be a document the student will maintain, using different formats and styles, through college and beyond.

But there’s no reason to include a résumé with a college application if it totally duplicates information contained in other parts of the application, unless of course, the school specifically asks for one. And plenty of colleges outside of the Common App system do, such as Georgetown University and MIT.

For students using the Common Application, basic extracurricular-related information may be presented in the Activities section, which provides space to describe involvement in ten activities. Within each activity, the Position/Leadership blank allows 50 characters to give a solid indication of your position and the name of the organization in which you participate. A second box allows 150 characters to provide insight into what you’ve done and any distinctions you earned.

The Coalition provides space for Activities/Experience in the Profile section of the application. Students may enter up to eight activities and are asked to specify “the two experiences outside of your academic program that are most important to you.” For each activity, the student is allowed 64 characters for the activity/experience name (Cashier, Wegmans Grocery Store, Fairfax VA), as well as 255 characters for “a description of your experience” and an additional 255 characters to “List any individual distinctions you earned in this activity or experience.” 

Students using the Universal College Application (UCA) may enter up to seven “Extracurricular, Personal and Volunteer Activities” and up to five employers or job-related activities for a total of 12 entries. While the characters allowed are more limited (35 for extracurricular and 32 for jobs), students are encouraged to provide more details in the Additional Information section.

But for some students, these activities sections are still limiting and don’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments or direct attention to relevant online content. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options. 

First, check college-specific questions for additional opportunities to provide details about extracurricular activities. This is where some Common App members have made provisions for an upload of a fully-formatted résumé. These include:

  • Boston College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • George Mason University
  • Howard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lafayette College
  • Macalester College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Santa Clara University
  • Trinity College
  • Tulane University
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Vanderbilt University

Coalition members providing for résumés place the option in the Upload section of the application. Some examples are:

  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colgate University
  • Drew University
  • Florida State University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Note that a handful of Coalition members placed their Additional Information questions in the upload section of the application and seem to invite documents such as résumés. Similarly, the UCA provides for fully-formatted résumés by allowing PDFs to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. But before acting on this plan, it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your résumé as part of your application for admission. They may not!

In addition to asking outright for a résumé, a number of institutions make provisions for an applicant to provide a URL on the Coalition or Common Application. The UCA not only dedicates a question to this, but also makes the response conveniently “clickable” for the application reader. This is another way students may provide a résumé on a personal website or via Linked In.

And sometimes colleges specify they only want a résumé as part of a “portfolio” or “arts supplement” submitted through a separate portal. Columbia University and Princeton University are among those falling into this category.

A résumé can be a very powerful document for pushing your college candidacy forward. It can serve to color between the lines or provide extra detail beyond what may be crammed into a standardized application form. It can also serve as vehicle for showcasing links to websites, blogs, videos or other online media.

If given the opportunity, use it. But make sure it reflects well on you and contains accurate and up-to-date information.

For lists of colleges providing for résumé uploads and/or those asking for URLs on their applications, email:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Colleges that invite graded papers

by Nancy Griesemer
Stetson University provides for a graded paper
option on both the Common and Coalition applications
Last year,  Princeton University began  requiring  a graded writing sample, preferably from an English, social studies or history course, to be submitted by  all  applicants for undergraduate admission.

According to the Princeton website , the paper “will further the holistic understanding of the student’s application and help admission officers evaluate the student’s potential contributions to and ability to thrive in the University’s rigorous academic environment.”

Asking a student to provide a graded paper in the admissions process isn’t anything new. Colleges and universities have been doing it for years.

But  requiring  a graded paper from all applicants represents a major departure from usual practice. And making the announcement in the context of no longer requiring the writing sections of the SAT or ACT gives food for thought. In fact, the new requirement might just have something to do with the current state of high school writing instruction and evaluation.

Historically, colleges have used many different tools for evaluating an applicant’s writing skills.  And considering the number of remedial writing and communications classes offered at even the most prestigious institutions, the need for making an accurate assessment of  college-readiness  in this key area is becoming increasingly important.

To assess writing ability, colleges may carefully review grades in writing-intensive English, history, and social science classes. Or they may require one or more essays as part of an application for admission.

Some colleges factor in  SAT or  ACT writing scores during their evaluations. But this is becoming a less popular policy. In fact, according to a list maintained by the  Compass Education Group , only 12 out of 365 “popular” colleges  require the writing sections of the SAT or ACT and nine are from the University of California system. The vast majority are labeled as  optional , which suggests the possibility that a college might take them into account if they’re submitted.

So what’s another option? A handful of colleges invite the submission of a “graded” paper in lieu of an essay  or as part of additional requirements for  test-optional/test-flexible admissions.

For the coming year, several  Common Application member colleges, including  Agnes Scott Amherst Brandeis , George Washington University and  Stetson University have made provisions for uploading or otherwise receiving graded papers.

The  Coalition Application even has built-in capacity in the Student Locker for both storing  and adding these kinds of documents to applications.  And with this in mind, several Coalition members also give students the option to upload graded papers including  Austin College and  St. Olaf College .

And it’s not such a bad idea.

Graded papers not only provide insight into a student’s basic writing ability, but they also speak volumes about a high school’s grading system.

For example, an “A” on a paper filled with grammar, spelling or syntax errors obviously diminishes the value of the grade and suggests the possibility of grade inflation at work within a specific class or at the high school in general. And it may say something about the applicant’s ability to recognize fundamental mistakes in his or her own work.

“There were times when I would be reading the essay being awed by the poor level of writing, while the teacher still gave an A to the student,” said former dean of admissions and financial aid Tom Parker, in an interview with the  Amherst Student. “[A graded paper] was a great opportunity to have a deeper look into the varying levels of writing education in high schools.”

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to discover if a college is inviting a graded paper or how it should be submitted. And there are usually no guidelines as to what should accompany the paper, if anything. In general, it might be helpful to include a cover sheet with basic identifying information such as the student’s name and birthdate; the name of the course for which the paper was written noting honors, AP or IB; the specific assignment or essay prompt; and possibly the final grade for the class.

Once the decision has been made about  what to send, students sometimes need to figure out  how to send it, as colleges vary enormously on how they prefer to receive graded papers. Some ask for an upload and others create a dedicated portal on the website. Still others go with snail mail, fax or email.

Although the Common App offers easy-to-use tools for uploading graded papers, a number of colleges have mysteriously chosen to make the process more complicated. For these members, the Common App may only provide an easily missed link on the  “My Colleges” page under  “Standardized Test Policy.”  If you follow the link, you  may be given instructions for submitting the paper.  Or not.

To make things even more challenging, a note might appear under the  “Instructions & Help” column to the right of the college-specific  preferred testing question sometimes only  after you mark your intention to go test optional.

And on occasion, the Common Application provides no information relative to graded paper submissions. In this case, you’re on your own to find instructions on a school’s website or wait until the college sends you an email outlining the process.

So how does an applicant find out if a college requires or invites the submission of a graded paper or will accept a paper in lieu of test scores?

This is where it’s to a student’s benefit to research and compare different application formats accepted by individual colleges. The best place to start is the school website, where allowable applications will be listed. And don’t be surprised to find multiple applications used by a single college, including the Common App, the  Universal College Application  (UCA), the Coalition Application, the  Cappex Application , a school-based online application and/or a paper version of the same.

Although it may take a little time, it’s often worth the effort to investigate the requirements of each application  because they may differ significantly. And you should pick the application that is easiest to use and best represents your credentials.

A number of Common Application member colleges list on their websites other application forms, some of which allow students to substitute graded papers for essays— even when the Common Application does not .  

To give you an idea of how complicated these questions can be, here are some Common App member colleges that provided for paper submissions (graded or otherwise):

Other colleges that offered the graded paper option last year included  Point Park University , the  University of Baltimore , and the  University of Oregon (alternate admission process). And the  Ohio University Honors Tutorial College in Spanish asks for “samples of graded papers in Spanish with at least two pages of writing with teacher comments.”

Note that not all colleges, after experimenting with the graded paper option, became convinced of its value in the admissions process. Both the University of Chicago and Brown dropped the idea for this year.

But even knowing how frequently these things can change, here’s a tip for underclassmen: begin saving or setting aside good examples of graded papers. You never know when they might come in handy. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

UVa reinstates Early Decision for 2019-20

By:  Nancy Griesemer 

After over a decade in mothballs,  binding early decision has returned to the University of Virginia for 2019-20.
The new old plan offers high school seniors the opportunity to apply to the University by mid-October and receive their admission decision before winter break. Admitted early decision applicants who apply for need-based financial aid and have completed both FAFSA and CSS Profile by November 15 will receive aid awards at the same time they receive their admission offer in December.
Early decision is designed for students who have determined by early fall that UVa is their top choice for college. It is a binding admission plan, meaning those who are admitted are committed to accepting an admission offer to UVa and promise to cancel applications to all other schools.
With the addition of early decision, UVa will offer three application options:
  • Early Decision: applications due by October 15 and students notified by December 15
  • Early Action: applications due by November 1 and students notified by January 31
  • Regular Decision: applications due by January 1 and students notified by April 1
“Early decision is for students who know without a doubt that UVA is their top choice for college,” said Dean of Admission Gregory W. Roberts. “Early action was established in 2011 and is for students who would like to receive an early notification of their admission decision, but want to keep their college options open over the winter.”
According to a press release, Roberts indicated that “all applicants will be evaluated in the same manner regardless of which plan they choose,” and he promises that no advantage or disadvantage will be given in the process based on which plan the applicant selects.
“Our mission is unchanged,” Roberts said. “We are committed to identifying and recruiting talented, interesting, ethical students from diverse backgrounds, high schools and communities who will both benefit from their experience at UVA and make our community, and the world, better.”
UVa began non-binding early action in fall 2011, after eliminating an older early decision option in 2007. At the time, Virginia stood alone with Harvard and Princeton supporting policies condemning all forms of early admission as disadvantaging low-income students. Although deans from the three schools have since traveled together as part of a fall tour promoting greater accessibility in admissions, they all eventually backed down from their positions and reinstated various forms of early admission. But only Virginia has gone back to early decision.
Possibly a desire to spread the huge administrative crush of applications now routinely coming in early and a wish to improve yield (the percent of students accepting an offer of admission) figured into the decision to add early decision as an option. But the fact remains that UVa is the only college in the country that has opted for an October 15 early decision deadline—the earliest permissible under NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).
Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde explained, “…we will release the results of the Early Decision review in December. We haven’t been able to do that in about a decade. The applications are a bit higher than back then, so the deadline for the first group is moving up to October 15.”
UVa joins a number of other public institutions squeezing the application process by moving application deadlines up to October 15, such as Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina. No doubt school counselors with start dates after Labor Day will feel the pressure placed on them by the new UVa early decision option to get recommendations and transcripts out by a deadline set a few weeks into the school year.
And note that the University of Virginia will only be accepting the Common Application this year, which doesn’t go live until August 1, 2019.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

NACAC reports nearly 500 fabulous colleges still admitting students for fall 2019

By:  Nancy Griesemer:

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) nearly 500 fabulous colleges and universities are still admitting qualified freshman and/or transfer students for fall 2019. And many of these schools also have financial aid and housing to offer.

Now in its 32nd year, the College Openings Update is a wonderful search tool for counselors, parents and teachers as they work with students who have not yet completed the college application and admission process. The listing applies equally for students who may have gotten a late start on their applications as well as for those who weren’t totally satisfied with admissions results received by the May 1 response deadline observed by many colleges.

“The NACAC College Openings Update is a win-win for students and postsecondary institutions,” said Joyce E. Smith, NACAC’s CEO. “For example, some colleges and universities may face challenges in predicting how many students will accept an admission offer. They may find openings in their incoming freshman class for deserving students if their predictions are slightly off. This creates opportunities for students seeking a great match after May 1.”

Typically, colleges continue to join the Update after the public release date until the page closes on June 30. The Update is a voluntary “bulletin board style” listing for NACAC members, including domestic as well as foreign institutions. This year, over 90 percent of colleges on the fall 2019 Update are based in the U.S., although Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries are well represented.

Note that if an institution—of any description—does not appear on the list, it does not necessarily mean there are no openings.  Not every college chooses to participate.

Nevertheless, the NACAC list contains some amazing opportunities for students still open to offers.

For example, Appalachian State University (NC), Arizona State University, Baylor University (TX), Belmont University (TN), Drew University (NJ), Florida Atlantic University (FL),  Hofstra University (NY), Iowa State University (IA), New College of Florida (FL), Oregon State University (OR), Pennsylvania State UniversityOhio Wesleyan University, St. Joseph’s University (PA), the University of Delaware (DE), the University of Denver (CO), the University of Maryland (MD), the University of Oregon, the University of San Diego (CA), Xavier University (OH), and West Virginia University (WV) are posting space available for the fall.

And Chapman University, Providence College (RI), Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Salve Regina University (RI), Santa Clara University (CA), TCU (TX), the University of Connecticut, Ursinus College and the University of Miami (FL) have spaces for transfers.

But be aware that this list is highly fluid.  "Admission is an ongoing process for many institutions,” Smith has noted in the past.

Over the next several weeks, colleges will finish reviewing their incoming classes for vacancies and if they want to publicize openings, they will add their names to the Update.  Already, the list has risen from about 400 colleges when it was first published to nearly 500 colleges and universities, as of this publication. So keep checking back!

In addition to the NACAC survey, colleges still accepting applications may be found by searching the College Board, Common Application and Universal College Application (UCA) websites (specific instructions are found here). As of May 11, 2019, the Common App shows 430 members still open to new applicants, including Christopher Newport University, Eckerd College (FL), the Florida Institute of Technology, Jacksonville University (FL), North Carolina State University (NC), “Ole Miss,” St. John’s College (MD/NM), Stetson University (FL), the University of Missouri (MO), Widener University (PA) and Xavier University (OH).

The bottom line is that you need to move quickly.  Colleges will only entertain applications as long as they have space available.

And for the most up-to-date information on specific colleges, contact the admissions offices of the schools directly. You may be surprised how glad they are to hear from you!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Common Application announces new members for 2019-2020

By: Nancy Griesemer

The Common Application recently announced the addition of 50 new members to a roster of what will be almost 875 colleges and universities accepting the Common App for 2019-2020. The popular online platform and college planning website annually serves and supports over three million students, teachers and counselors in the U.S. and around the world. And with the addition of several large public institutions including the University of South Carolina, the University of Arkansas, Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University well as Elon University, Duquesne University and Landmark College, these numbers are bound to increase significantly.

“Our increasingly diverse member institutions, now located in all 50 United States, have demonstrated a shared commitment to pursuing access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process. Thanks to our members, all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to easily apply to the college or university that will help them achieve their best future,” said Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of The Common Application. “These colleges and universities are helping us forge a direct and unambiguous path to a viable future for all students, and we are elated and honored to welcome them into our membership.”

Membership in The Common Application is open to colleges sharing the organization’s mission of advancing college access and must be
  • Not-for-profit
  • Undergraduate degree-granting
  • Accredited by a regional accrediting association (if inside the U.S.)
  • A member of the Council of International Schools (if outside the U.S.)
  • Committed to the pursuit of equity and integrity in the college admission process
Member institutions are no longer required to also be members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The requirement to evaluate students using a “holistic” selection process including a recommendation and an untimed writing sample (essay) was also dropped to accommodate a wider variety of member institutions.

As a result, the Common App membership includes
  • Colleges from 50 states plus Washington, DC
  • 370+ colleges with no application fee
  • 170+ public universities
  • Over 330 colleges not requiring a personal statement
  • 64 international universities
  • 340+ test-optional/test-flexible institutions (including colleges that only “sometimes” require tests)
But the Common App isn’t the only online application from which students can choose. This year, the Coalition Application was accepted by over 140 colleges and universities, including four exclusives: Virginia Tech and the Universities of Florida, Maryland and Washington. The Universal College Application (UCA) was welcomed by 18 institutions including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins, Cornell University, and Princeton. The Common Black College Application enabled students to apply to any number or combination of 53 HBCUs for a single low fee. The Cappex Application, with its promise of no application fees and no supplemental essays, was accepted by over 125 institutions including Cornell College, Eckerd College, Ohio Wesleyan, Queens University of Charlotte, and the University of Tampa. The Greenlight Scholars Application was accepted by 30 colleges and universities, including Carleton College, the College of Wooster and the Wentworth Institute of Technology. The QuestBridge National College Match application was welcomed by 40 highly selective colleges and universities.

And the following new member colleges and universities will be offering the Common Application for 2019-2020:

  • Arkansas State University (AR)
  • Baruch College, The City University of New York (NY)
  • Bridgewater College (VA)
  • Brooklyn College, The City University of New York (NY)
  • College of Staten Island, The City University of New York (NY)
  • Duquesne University (PA)
  • Elon University (NC)
  • Florida Atlantic University (FL)
  • Florida Gulf Coast University (FL)
  • Hunter College, The City University of New York (NY)
  • Kansas State University (KS)
  • Landmark College (VT)
  • Messiah College (PA)
  • Methodist College of UnityPoint Health (IL)
  • Midway University (KY)
  • Missouri Southern State University (MO)
  • Missouri State University (MO)
  • Mount Aloysius College (PA)
  • North Central College (IL)
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology (PA)
  • Dominican University (IL)
  • Eastrn Michigan University (MI)
  • Ryerson University (Ontario, Canada)
  • Shawnee State University (OH)
  • Simpson University (CA)
  • University of Arkansas (AR)
  • University of Charleston (WV)
  • University of Minnesota Crookston (MN)
  • University of North Dakota (ND)
  • University of South Carolina (SC)
  • University of Texas - Arlington (TX)
  • University of the Incarnate Word (TX)
  • Wichita State University (KS)
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College (WI)