Education Leaders Push for Major College Admissions Changes

May 26, 2017
Russell Schaffer

Discover what college admissions changes educators are pushing for.

Educators are thinking outside the box for college admissions.

Some high school leaders want the college admissions process to be transcript-free. Some college waitlists offer false hope. Make smart choices when using social media. A gap year might be just what you need. Here’s what’s happening on the college admissions landscape:

Talk of transcript-free applications

There’s a potential change in the works that would radically reform the college admissions process. Earlier this month, a group of 100 elite private schools proposed eliminating grades and courses from transcripts that colleges would see. The plan, called the Mastery Transcript Consortium, would instead includes proficiency levels in various areas. This proposal naturally has caused rippled in the academic community:

“What bothers me most about this whole discussion is the amount of $$ that is being spent to study the idea and the amount of resources (time, financial and human) that would go into making such a switch when I have students who can’t get to school regularly, who sleep in homeless shelters, and who face numerous challenges, many of which are more than any adult will ever face,” said one high school counselor.

More supportive was the president of Bard College, who said, “This is an extremely positive development that provides more of the kind of information that colleges need to assess whether a student can do independent intellectual and creative work that a first-rate college demands.”

Don’t wait too long on the waitlist

Colleges and universities receive thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of applications. Often they only admit a fraction of those who apply. For the most competitive schools, it’s often less than 10 percent. Rather than reject applicants altogether though, some put the more qualified ones on waitlists.

We’ve always said that the last thing you should do if you are waitlisted is wait. Your first step: thank the school for keeping your application under continued consideration and send the admissions office new, relevant information that could aid your cause: midterm grades, awards, new leadership roles, etc. Make the case that you are a “must-have student.”  

That said, don’t be under any illusion that getting off the waitlist will be easy; in fact, it’s unlikely. Some schools that have waitlists let exactly ZERO students in. Our advice: Definitely consider the schools that did say “We want you now.”

Guard your brand on social media

As college applicants, you should guard your personal brand. You have the unique ability to put your best foot forward online to impress admissions officers and show them why you are a must-have student. There are some do’s and don’ts you should be aware of though, as one expert says.  

  1. Keep your profile professional looking. That doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a shirt and tie, or wearing a ballgown, but consider this: dress for success.
  2. Update your profile: If you have your resume posted online, make sure it’s up-to-date with whatever you submit to college.  Admissions officers may frown upon inconsistencies, or at the very least be confused by it.
  3. Untag yourself from unflattering post or questionable content.
  4. Post things demonstrating your talents and interests.
  5. Create a professional-reading email. First name.middle name.last name should do the trick.

Kaplan Test Prep research shows that over a third of college admissions officers have checked applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them. Be smart!

Consider taking a gap year

A growing number of teens are taking off between graduating high school and starting college, in what is popular known as a gap year. One study estimates that between 30,000 and 40,000 people do this, a jump of over 30 percent from the year before. Among them are Malia Obama, who won’t enroll in Harvard University until 2018, despite being accepted this year. Many students choose to take this time to travel the world or on the flip side, work in order to pay for college.

“A gap year is a wonderful opportunity for young people to take a year to follow a passion before attending college. Some will have internships, some will travel, some will fulfill religious responsibilities and some find paid work. All-in-all, they will grow and mature,” said Avis Hinkson, dean of Barnard College in New York.


To help your child (and your pocket book) with college admission, take advantage of great savings on SAT/ACT prep with Kaplan.


Russell Schaffer

Russell Schaffer Russell Schaffer is Kaplan Test Prep's senior communications manager. Russell is responsible for helping lead our external media relations efforts, including speaking with reporters and bloggers on a regular basis about Kaplan's proprietary research and products. Russell also helps craft the surveys we regularly administer of students, advisers​,​ and admissions officers. The data collected helps guide the hundreds of thousands of students and parents Kaplan works with every year by giving them accurate and up-to-date information ​about​ the landscape. Russell is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, where he received his BA in political science and MA in communications.

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