Summer is a great time to take a step back, sip a cool beverage, and take a look at what’s going on in the world of college admissions.  Departments use the summer to evaluate how their year went and plan on any changes they want to make for the fall.  Did they over-enroll? Under-enroll?  What application materials were useful to them?  Which were redundant or time consuming?  The decisions being made right now will change what the landscape will be for all those application that roll in starting in this fall and trigger larger trends for the future.

The buzz this summer has so far focused on some HUGE decisions made by some pretty big name schools, specifically involving application practices on their way out.  The first, while not totally unexpected, signals the death toll of the SAT/ACT essay section.  Yep, Yale is officially opting out:

Yale Drops SAT ACT Essay Requirements

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Many schools already say “No thanks” to these subjective parts of the tests but when a heavy hitter like Yale weighs in people stop and notice.  If Yale doesn't need the essays then why would anyone else?  That said, don’t expect these testing giants to go down without a fight.  Remember, these essay sections are a pretty substantial moneymaker so I’d anticipate a rebranding in our future.  Perhaps the essay is marketed as a replacement admissions essay.  Or an English placement test.  My prediction: after a few more years of back and forth we can finally wave goodbye.

 We in the biz thought that would be the big hit our college assessment overlords would take this season, until an even bigger story broke:

University of Chicago Drops SAT, ACT Requirement for Admissions

While a lot of these changes in mandated testing has to do with inclusion I can’t think of anyone (testing companies aside) who isn’t excited by this news.  The time has come to finally listen to all those mountains of data that have proven that a student's GPA is a much more accurate indicator of college readiness and success.  As with Yale, getting a decision like this from one of the top research schools in the country makes everyone take notice.

The other big story of the moment has to do with yet another big shot school, but this time they’re bucking an otherwise widespread trend.  Carnegie Mellon is saying sayonara to demonstrated interest:

Carnegie Mellon Eliminates Demonstrated Interest

This, to me, is a HUGE deal.  While most every other school is still singing “I Want You to Want Me,” this highly selective school is done with the game playing.  It’s certainly some very refreshing music to this college counselor’s ears but will it be enough to start a trend?  I for one hope so.  The cat is out of the bag when it comes to courting colleges and applicants have become very savvy at playing the field, making every school think they’re their #1.  From a purely evaluative standpoint, is that data useful anymore?  And from an ideological one, I can totally get on board with the Mellon’s perspective.  Let’s eliminate the practices that are really only showing a college which students got the best admissions coaching and start admitting those who have truly earned it academically.

Those of us in the trenches will no doubt be puzzling over these moves for some time to come.  Will we see larger trends in both of these directions or are they a flash in the pan?  Only time will tell, so stay tuned for more updates!