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The Top 5 Questions Impacting the Class of 2025

We are weeks away from launching Application Nation - Class of 2025 and, as always, I am excited to get to know a new group of families and share my insider knowledge on the latest college policies.

As I plan live video calls and resources for the current high school juniors, I am keenly aware of what is coming down the pike for them. Here are the top five questions that will impact the Class of 2025 the most.

1. Will colleges superscore the old paper SAT and the new digital SAT? And will most colleges remain test-optional?

My prediction is "yes" for both questions. Most colleges have not made an announcement on how they will handle the new digital SAT yet. However, Penn, Columbia, Harvard, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt have all updated their policies to make it clear that they will superscore the old and new SAT. And elite colleges often lead the way in the industry. While most colleges haven't announced their testing policy for the Class of 2025 and beyond, it appears that many that adopted test-optional policies during the pandemic continue to be test-optional. Outliers that require standardized tests are schools like MIT, Purdue, University of Tennessee, University of Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and University of Georgia.

2. How will students answer the "lived experience" (or diversity) supplemental essay prompts that most selective colleges have implemented since affirmative action ended last June?

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action, colleges got creative about how to continue to seek out the most diverse student bodies. Almost every selective college implemented a new prompt that asks students to write about their diversity, backgrounds, or what is now called "lived experiences." This year, minority students had to decide if they should forgo writing about their backgrounds in the main college essay which allows for 650 words or choose to reveal their backgrounds in the shorter diversity college supplemental essays with word count limits of only 200 to 300 words. Majority students struggled to figure out what to write about for the diversity college supplemental essays. I believe these diversity prompts on college supplements are here to stay. Therefore, I recommend students think of other forms of diversity about their lives when it comes to these supplemental essays. Whether it is a minority student who already wrote about their background in the main essay or majority students who have trouble coming up with ideas for the supplemental essay, thinking more deeply about themselves can yield great ideas. Diversity can relate to religion, socioeconomic background, philosophical perspectives, family make-up and dynamics, the community or neighborhood a student lives in, and the way the student moves through life. Even the way the student communicates can be a form of diversity.  

3. Will colleges scale back the acceptance rates and the percentage of incoming freshmen admitted through Early Decision?

Cornell's student newspaper announced last week that the university would be admitting fewer students in Early Decision this year. The news came a month after the Early Decision deadline. Many students who applied Early Decision based on Cornell's history of admitting more than half of the freshman class through the early round are upset. But the only reason we found out about this was because the recommendation came from a presidential task force rather than a policy change from the admissions office. Most colleges would not admit to this type of detail about their admissions strategies. Given that Virginia Tech eliminated Early Decision this year due to unfair advantages that higher income students get in Early Decision, I would predict more colleges quietly following what Cornell has done in the coming years. That means that Early Decision may be on thin ice, or at least, not as dominant as it has been in the past.

4. How will incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia impact application totals, yield percentages, and interest at colleges that have made national news for the dangerous climates on their campuses?

Colleges like Harvard, Cornell, Tulane, University of Vermont, and many others have dominated the news with both antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents. The University of Pennsylvania has gotten the most attention since the start of the fall semester. The university president, Liz Magill, is under fire for not protecting students' safety and their basic constitutional rights amid ongoing incidents. Many students from all religious backgrounds are questioning whether they should apply to a school like Penn. It begs the question whether Penn's Early Decision applicant pool was impacted by the negative press and concerns on campus. Unfortunately, Penn, along with most elite colleges, is tight-lipped about admissions data these days. But whether application totals or yield percentages are impacted or not at these institutions, it is clear that the climate on these campuses has shifted. Every college evolves over time and the student bodies change over a period of decades. But I believe that the incidents taking place on college campuses right now will have an immediate impact—changing the face and make-up of these communities for the immediate future.

5. With continued surges in application totals at most nationally-known colleges, what should students do to ensure acceptances?

Some of the colleges with the biggest surges of applications are the nationally-known universities with Early Action programs. For example, despite reinstating the requirement of SAT/ACT scores for admission two years ago, the University of Georgia continues to see its applicant pool, especially its Early Action pool, explode. While Early Action programs are non-binding and students can get a decision sooner, I do not recommend relying on them for acceptances. There is no admissions advantage when you apply Early Action and with soaring applicant pools, it's getting tougher and tougher to get admitted. However, applying to some Rolling Admissions programs (in addition to Early Action programs and possibly Early Decision as well) will give students better chances of admission as long as they apply super early in the school year (August or September) and will give them results much faster. Popular colleges like University of Pittsburgh, University of Arizona, University of Alabama, Ole Miss, and hundreds of others, offer Rolling Admissions. Students receive more acceptances when they include Rolling Admissions schools on their list.

READ MORE: 10 Truths for Every Parent About the College Admissions Process

The college admissions process and college campuses are changing rapidly. For the Class of 2025, knowing the landscape and understanding the issues will allow students to make thoughtful decisions about their college lists and where they ultimately enroll. There are many more facets and considerations than today's blog post can address. But one thing is for sure: Getting into college has never been more complex than it is right now.