The U.S. College Scene Right Now: Notes from the Field



Senior college admissions counselor Grant Calder thoughtfully checks in with Bennett again to give us his take on the latest goings-on in US colleges.


A couple of points of interest that I have noticed –


- Several of my advisees from last year's senior class have contacted me to talk about transferring. In a typical year, one or two, out of a class of roughly 100, might check-in (during their first year in college) to say they were considering the possibility of making a move. This year eight or ten students have already reached out and almost all of them have followed up with at least one Zoom meeting to talk in more depth about the transfer process and about particular schools and/or programs. My guess is that the increase is simply a function of the fact that students new to colleges and universities this year have not developed strong feelings of connection with these institutions, in some cases because they have yet to spend any in-person time on campus and in others because, even though they have been on campus, they haven't been able to enjoy many of the usual bonding experiences that characterized college life B.C. (before Covid)


- No one knew exactly what the effect of the Covid pandemic would be on the college admissions process for the high school class of 2021. One clear answer is that, just as the pandemic has widened the gulf between Wall St. and Main St., it has also increased the separation between the haves and have nots among the colleges and universities. Early decision and early action applications to the colleges with the "most competitive" pools jumped this fall. As I talked with colleagues at those institutions in December, I heard consistent reports of 20% increases, and up, in applications year-on-year. One reported a 63% increase.


- At the same time, the institutions who have to work harder to attract applicants also found themselves under more pressure to find ways to bring their students back to campus this past fall, to show that they were delivering on the investment their current students and families were making. The colleges and universities with the most competitive pools could decide to be "all remote" and know they would still have crowds banging on their "virtual" admissions office doors.


-The good news is that, overall, most colleges and universities will become more nimble and adaptable as a result of this crisis. A successful rollout of the Covid vaccines would help, too.


Grant Calder has worked in College Consulting and Admissions Counseling for over 30 years and is Co-director of College Counseling at Friends' Central School in Philadelphia, where he also teaches American History and German. In the past, he has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University in Philadelphia, and the Middlesex and Choate boarding schools in New England. Additionally, he was a guest teacher at the Evangelisches Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster in Berlin, Germany.


Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.

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