“One of these things is not like the other…”
Anyone remember this song from Sesame Street? Maybe not. Maybe I’m the only one who has a three-year-old son who watches this episode on repeat. Regardless, this song is on my mind, and even though it may sound crazy, it’s about to illustrate my point.
In the song, kids are encouraged to find the differences between objects, like apples and oranges, which sometimes causes confusion. This confusion is not much different from that of my clients when they’re asked to compare apples and oranges metaphorically during the college planning process.
When it comes to college applications, my clients go into the process assuming all applications are the same. They quickly discover, though, that each college has different requirements; Some require interviews, some don’t. Some require letters of recommendation, some don’t. Some require standardized test scores, some don’t. And the list goes on. On top of that, all colleges have different deadlines and admission plans such as early decision, early action, regular decision and rolling deadlines. It sounds very overwhelming and confusing, right?
Colleges do have some things in common, though, when it comes to the admissions process. Admissions officers want to see evidence that a student has the academic readiness to undertake studies at their particular school. Officers also want to see that a student’s educational goals align with that college’s, and they want to know the student will provide a positive contribution to the university’s campus.
Colleges go about finding this information in very different ways, though, which can add to the stress of this already overwhelming process. I read an interesting article posted by U.S. News and World Report that I feel accurately and succinctly explained the differences in college admission models:
1) Open Admissions Model
The open admissions model does not require standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT. Nor does this model ask applicants to submit personal statements or recommendation letters. This admissions model is most commonly used by community colleges in the U.S. It exists for colleges with a mission to provide equal access to a variety of educational backgrounds.
Colleges with open admissions models provide higher education opportunities to students who may require additional academic preparation, students who are seeking vocational or technical education, or students interested in reducing the costs of a four-year degree through transfer partnerships with bachelor’s degree-granting universities.
2) Threshold Admissions Model
Universities which use threshold admissions models are those who publish very clear standards of admission. They tend to provide a minimum required GPA, SAT or ACT score for admission, but will likely not request a personal statement, essay or letters of recommendation. This admissions model is used by many U.S. colleges and universities, and is common among public institutions. This model is used by selective schools in an attempt to be open and clear with students as to their likelihood of admission.
3) Holistic Admissions Model
Selectivity is also a tenet of the holistic admissions model. Where this process is employed, a university is more likely to provide the average academic profile of the previous year’s admitted class. This gives some insight into what GPA and standardized test scores may be competitive for admission.
Additionally, holistic admissions will often require that applicants provide an essay and recommendations from teachers, counselors or other community leaders. Many admission officers consider this model one that strives to consider the broader experiences of an applicant, and that allows the admission team to compose a class that is both strong in academic ability and diverse in experience.
So, when I say “one of these things is not like the other,” it can certainly apply to the admissions process. At first glance, three college applications may look the same, but two may be holistic admissions models and one may be a threshold admissions model. Students can get a sense for which model will be used to review their application by visiting the admissions website of a university. It’s important to know that many universities will employ some combination of these models.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Landmark 12 Consulting can help. As a college planner, I alert my clients to all deadlines and requirements, edit student resumes and essays, and then answer any questions they may have about the applications themselves. When it comes to the applications, there’s no need to stress about comparing apples and oranges—I’ll break the admissions process down into manageable, bite-sized pieces, making the entire process a lot easier to swallow!