Report from NACAC 2014

Last week, over 5,000 professionals in the field of admissions counseling attended the annual National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Annual Conference in Indianapolis.  This conference provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss current trends in admissions and learn products and skills that would enhance their practice.

During the conference, several sessions took place that offered valuable information for students currently applying to college.  One of these sessions involved presenters from several prestigious universities discussing how to decide which college (i.e. liberal arts, engineering, education, nursing, etc.) to apply to within a university.  Many students and parents believe that one college might offer easier admission than another college within the same university, and will hope to use this as an admission strategy to get in.  However,  admissions officers were in agreement that students should be applying to the major of their choice first for two primary reasons.  First, students should have experiences that reflect their interest in their chosen college.  Whether a student wants an engineering degree or a nursing degree, or is an undecided applicant to liberal arts, his or her activities and class choices should reflect those interests.  Second, within some universities, a student might only be considered for their first choice school for admission, and, they might not be able to transfer once enrolled in that program.  Therefore, a student could get stuck in a major that he or she is not well suited for, creating extra work and cost for that student.

Another session discussed trends occurring in Early Action programs at several major universities throughout the country.  All schools were in agreement that Early Action programs are growing.  All schools were also in agreement that Early Action programs vary widely at each institutions.  The schools featured offered specific information about their plans, but the takeaway message was that students and counselors should be carefully researching Early Action and Early Decision choices.  Some schools take the majority of their freshman class through Early Action, such as the University of Maryland, where over 80% of students are admitted through Early Decision. On the other hand, some schools make it more difficult to get in through Early Action.  Many also have varied deferral policies.  Students, counselors, and parents should try to be in touch with admissions officers to understand what is the best fit for their application, and should gather that information with plenty of time to adjust accordingly.

Finally, three highly experienced professionals discussed how to help students an excellent college essay.  The most valuable advice offered in this session was to encourage students to find “a unique way to write about a common experience” and to encourage students that it is “the story, not the topic” that matters when writing these essays.  Admissions professionals noted that students should take care to present an essay that reflects their best work and that they have proofread carefully.  They also suggested that students spend time brainstorming to find the right idea before locking in on a topic.  Counselors or parents who are helping students write essays can spend time with a student helping them decide what story they have to tell and what they want the college to know about them.  The presenters also revealed a survey that showed that the essay is rated #4 by admissions counselors in most important factors in admissions (after rigor or coursework, grades, and test scores).

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) and its regional affiliates (such as the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling) offer many opportunities for professional learning for admissions counselors, school counselor, and families.  Look for the upcoming NACAC Annual College Fair in Atlanta in March 2015!

A former admissions professional and experienced school counselor,  Nicole earned her B.A. from Vanderbilt University, where she then worked in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.  After earning her M.A. and M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, Nicole worked as the Associate Dean of College Counseling and dorm supervisor at Darlington School, and subsequently as an Upper School Counselor and Director of College Counseling at Atlanta International School.  Most recently, Nicole earned her Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Personnel Services from the University of Georgia.

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