Senior admissions officers from Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford discussed trends from the 2016-2017 admissions cycle during a “Exploring College Options” event held in Raleigh, NC for college counselors on Monday morning. Here are our four top takeaways from that meeting:
1. Early Decision is your best bet. Early Decision remains a really important deadline for selective institutions that offer that option. Acceptance rates are higher for applicants applying early rather than regular decision. For example, The University of Pennsylvania’s acceptance rate for the Early Decision pool was above 20% while the acceptance rate for the regular deadline pool was only 6%.
2. Do your research. None of the five schools at the meeting track demonstrated interest, but they made it clear a student’s response to the supplemental question about “Why Duke” (or Harvard, etc.) is very telling. The admissions officers were impressed by this year’s applicants who clearly articulated why they applied to their institutions. The representatives stressed that it is important that students do their research. Students should browse university course offerings or demonstrate an interested in a particular specialized study abroad or internship program.
3. Have questions ready at your interview. Interviews seemed more important this year than ever before and all five offer some type of option, with Georgetown requiring interviews for all applicants. Most interviews take place in a student’s hometown with a local alum of the university. The interview isn’t necessarily evaluative, but the interviewer will provide details to the admissions office about the student’s promptness, ability to carry on a conversation, and interest in the university. Most important in the interview is the student’s prepared questions for the interviewer. If the student doesn’t ask a question, then she appears to be unprepared and uninterested in the school. For international students, Skype and InitialView is still a great choice for the interview process.
4. Waitlists are not your friend. Finally, most schools, with the exception only of Georgetown, admitted only a handful of students from their waitlists. This isn’t a big surprise, as it is unusual for a university to admit large groups of applicants from their waitlist. The waitlist is typically used to round out the enrolling class; for example, a university might admit a student from an underrepresented geographic region by admitting students from that area from the waitlist.