Trends at the Start of Another Year

It’s application season, and to coin a phrase from Peter, Paul and Mary, there are some trends that are “Blowin’ in the Wind”:

  • Colleges are pulling back on requiring SAT Subject Tests. It seems that Caltech, Harvey Mudd and MIT are now in the minority in requiring the tests. Some schools are requiring them for only some programs. Cornell University, for example, requires those tests only for its Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering; Cooper Union requires them only for prospective engineering majors; and Northwestern requires two just for students applying into HPME (Honors Program in Medical Education) and three for students applying to its Integrated Science and Engineering program.
  • Colleges recommending Subject Tests nowadays include Ivy League schools such as Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton and Yale. Harvard does, as well, although with a proviso: “While we recommend that you submit two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them.” Still others are recommending them for certain candidates, and that list includes schools in the University of California system, as well as Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Delaware.
  • But there still are STRONG recommendations to take the tests for Duke and Georgetown and an encouragement to submit them to Emory. Washington University in St. Louis says that it will only consider those tests if they strengthen an application.
  • More and more schools are accepting self-reported test scores. Count Swarthmore, Columbia, Harvey Mudd, the University of Illinois and Wash U among that number. Illinois aside, many state schools still are seeking official scores – Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, to name three.
  • More and more schools are no longer requiring the essay portion of the SAT or the writing portion of the ACT. Among those schools are Yale  – “…but applicants who opt to complete the Essay or Writing section should self-report their Essay or Writing subscore on the application.”
  • And as always, some schools have changed their application requirements and procedures. Bucknell no longer has a supplemental essay, while Wash U has added one, as well as a second round of early decision.

I like to tell students that the college world is kind of like federalism versus state’s rights. There seem to be some rules that apply to all – or most – like the 800 schools that accept the Common Application – but then things break down to individual college decisions (requiring the personal essay or not, adding a supplement or not, requiring a supplemental essay or essays, and so on). So with everything changing so quickly, it’s  best to verify the requirements for each school to which you are planning to apply.