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My 2023 Holiday Wish List to Colleges

With Christmas, my oldest child's birthday, and Hanukkah in the month of December, my husband and I no longer exchange wish lists. There are just too many gifts to buy for everyone else. What's that saying? "It's better to give than to receive."

So I am going to "give" some more. This time, I'm going to give advice to the colleges as we hit the midpoint of the college admissions process.

1. Be clear about when you plan to release admissions decisions for each round you offer (Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, etc.).

Students are expected to adhere to deadlines. Colleges should as well.  

2. If you say you are test-optional, embrace it in the way it was intended.

That means you don't disadvantage students who choose not to report scores. I work with enough students each year to see a clear pattern that you prefer scores—and high ones at that. If that's how you feel, don't be test-optional.

3. Make sure admissions officers respond to students' emails.

If you list your admissions officers' emails on the admissions website, that invites students to email them. When admissions officers never respond, it makes students regret emailing them, doubt themselves, and worry that it will backfire. Just email them back. It's common courtesy.

4. When we call your admissions office, make sure the people answering our questions know the instructions and policies of your admissions process inside and out.

Every time we call your offices, we get a different answer.

5. Better yet, just make your instructions and policies clear right on your website.

It will cut down on phone calls and misinformation. For example, if you track demonstrated interest, list it on the website. If you are need-aware in your admissions process, state it. If you want self-reported test scores instead of an official score report, add it to your website.

6. Publish your admissions data.

It's the only way students will know if their test scores are competitive or even if they should apply. When you withhold this data, it leads us to believe you are hiding it for a reason.

7. Spend more time on each application.

I know that you are reading an application in record time—four minutes in some cases. Students deserve more time than that.

8. Don't string students along unnecessarily.

If you have no intention of admitting a student, do not defer them. Do not waitlist them. And definitely don't defer and waitlist the same student. Making them wait almost an entire year for a final admissions decision is cruel.

9. If you see a mistake or typo in a student's application, give them some grace.

You make mistakes too.

10. Announce your supplemental essay prompts and new admissions requirements sooner rather than later.

For example, the entire class of 2025 is wondering if you will superscore the old paper SAT with the digital SAT. Just tell us so that we can plan better.

READ MORE: The Top 5 Questions Impacting the Class of 2025

I have done a holiday wish list in the past. This year feels different. With my oldest child applying to college, I am even more resolute about making this process more student-centered. Wishing for something is a start. But enacting these changes is how we make wishes come true.
Remember that saying: "It's better to give than to receive." I'm all for it. Now I need colleges to follow my lead.

Happy holidays to all,