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Students Ask, College Counselors Answer

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This week's question from Brad Miller, Great Falls, VA asks:

How has technology changed the admissions process?

“The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.” Pennsylvania Dutch saying

Susan Sykes | President
Indeed, the convenience of technology has, in some ways, made the pace of the application process faster than ever before. But it’s more positive than negative. Students have access to more information about colleges through college websites. Financial aid calculators make it easier to estimate the cost of attendance and a family can easily compare costs at a number of colleges. School personnel are able to send transcripts and recommendations electronically. And applications no longer go astray, lost in the mail. The paper chase is history.

A new, professional look taking hold for extra-curriculars

David Montesano | Admission Strategist & Founder
Technology plays an increasingly important role in shaping and sharing special talents in performing arts. Students hoping to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive admission picture can improve their chances by “professionalizing” their extra-curriculars by using online resources like personal computers with high quality sound and graphic qualities as well as by digital channels like YouTube. Recording voice, dance, and monologue performances using their PC’s and then providing links to their performances to showcase their unique abilities for Admission officers and heads of performing arts departments at colleges. By creating online artist’s portfolios or “publishing” work in advance of applying to colleges, students can stand out more from the rest of the crowd.

Admissions is a 24/7 kind of job

Steve Blanchard | Assistant Head of School for Advancement
Technology enables schools to respond to inquiries almost instantaneously. In our office we use I pads to register inquiries at fairs and almost instantaneously send prospective students materials without being in our office.In addition, smart phones enable our office to stay in touch with colleagues and or inquiries immediately. Our work internationally is enhanced by technology so that there are no long delays in responding to people. In the old days we would have to wait until we came off the road or find a fax and fax materials back to the office.

Applying To College Just Got A Lot Easier

Joan Bress | Director & Certified Educational Planner
When fifteen colleges got together in 1975 and created the Common Application in an attempt to streamline the college application process, they had no idea that they would revolutionize the way students apply to college. Four hundred fifty six colleges now use the Common App exclusively or in conjunction with their own school application. Even more dramatic is the fact that students no longer have to request information or attention from a college. Once the purview of top athletes, anyone with a computer or i-pad can now post their stats online and wait for college recruiters to find them. Students signing onto Zinch.com create an academic profile to which 6,000 colleges have access.

Better technology only helps if you use it well

Julie Manhan | Founder
Simply put, technology has made the admissions process EASIER. It’s easier to learn about colleges and connect with their representatives. Applying online has become a breeze. Practicing and signing up for admissions tests is a snap, too. Unfortunately, it’s also easier for students to get misinformation – especially if they look in the wrong place. The ease of applying can also cause students to procrastinate, resulting in more mistakes and essays of poorer quality that may hurt their chances of admission. No matter how much technology changes the process, college admission still depends on each student’s effort in that process.

Big, Confusing College Websites Can Bog You Down

Mark Montgomery | Founder
Browsing a college website is like trying to dance in a bog. Videos, blogs, podcasts, thousands of photos, and acres upon acres of text all amount to information overload. Unfortunately, most of the information on a college website is completely irrelevant to your college choice. But because colleges try to appeal to every last possible student, they put every last possible piece of information on the web. So you should never browse; instead, mine those websites for the information you most need. Before you explore, ask yourself, "what information is really important to me?"

Changes for students and admissions officers

Andrea van Niekerk | Educational Consultant
Students wonder about admission officers lurking on Facebook, about sending links to their greatest moments on YouTube or submitting music portfolios online. Deluged with applications, many admission offices now similarly rely on new technology. They scan all incoming paper, encourage electronic applications, inform students of missing material and notify applicants of their decisions online. In a growing number of colleges, admission officers even read applications in virtual format. More significantly, while in Moneyball we see the impact of number crunching on sports, in admission offices too systems managers increasingly influence approaches to applicant searches, diversity questions, and enrolment management.

Easier to apply, harder to stand out

Dale Ford | Counseling Department Chair
The days of finding a fat acceptance letter and or thin rejection letter in your mailbox are over. You learn of your results online, just like you registered for your SAT and submitted your applications online. The technical side of applying to college is much easier than the “good old days” of paper and postage. But with electronic forms and dropdown menus, writing a memorable application has become more challenging. Standing out is now mostly done through essays and activities – and standing is more important than ever.

How Has Technology Changed the Admissions Process?

David Miller | Director of College Counseling
Charles Dickens had it right when he declared that "it was the worst of times and the best of times," and that pretty much sums up what has happened with the college application process because of technology. The good results of the advances made in technology include more informed choices, easy access to information, efficient and more mistake-free work by teachers, counselors, and applicants, and a great deal of time saved in many areas. The unfortunate results, however, may more than counterbalance the advantages. Students' abilities to know more about their choices and about the process itself has led to more stress, more anxiety, and and a compounding of the indecision which is inherent with many applicants. The shrinking of our world because of technology has also misled many youngsters to believe that they are "behind" in the process or that they must apply early because others are applying early.

No more green forms. No more envelopes. The joys of technology

Rebecca Joseph | Executive Director & Founder
Technology makes the college application process so much easier. When I applied to college, I had to type my application, including one on green paper. Now most applications for freshman are online and many allow you to submit recommendations, essays, transcripts online. So no more stamps, envelopes, or moms as secretaries. Only some high schools hold kids back from doing most of their college application work online. Researching colleges is also much easier as students can visit schools virtually and learn about them on great third party sites like UNIGO. Technology is also dangerous as kids must double-check everything they do, keep track of usernames and passwords, and be careful about revealing too much about themselves on Facebook.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball of Technology

Dave Hamilton | Director of College Advising
The college quest has evolved into a "bricks and clicks" endeavor obviously. With a big nod to Gordon MacKenzie's book, I caution that we - students, parents, college admissions/advising professionals - should not become too enamored with the electronic admissions process. This is a time for students to contemplate on how to craft an educational experience, not sprint through a connect-the-dots race and check off a box. Young learners are not a plug to connect into a USB port, but future citizens to bring forth their talents in our society. While it may be great to use a drop down menu and select a major, I think a better, deliberate question that needs to be asked is "What do you want to learn more about?" From there, a more thoughtful college quest can move forth.

Social media "ups the ante"

Suzanne Shaffer | Founder
Technology has made it easier for colleges and students to connect with one another using email and social media. Colleges can personally connect with students using YouTube and Skype, and students can personally connect with other students using blogs and Facebook. Social media has forced colleges and students to hone their images because search engines are now referencing Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and Google+ information. Instant information means colleges need to position themselves to be found and when students are found by the colleges, their image should reflect their character.

Technology in admissions: necessary, but not sufficient

Hannah Serota | College Counselor
When I began working in college admissions, every application was a paper one. What a transformation. Now most students apply on-line. Technology has changed so much about college admissions. On the positive side, it is now easier than ever to complete and send an application. No more hand writing or typing out information. And, there’s very little snail mail. Even high schools can send their supporting materials - transcripts and letters of recommendation – on-line if they choose. Plus, it’s much easier to research colleges now. With a click you can go to college websites or third party sites (like this one), learning an incredible amount about colleges in a relatively short time frame. But, there is also a downside to technology in admission. Since it is so easy to submit applications, students can apply to more colleges. Sometimes it’s tough for colleges to figure out which applicants are “real” and which ones are students with a passing interest, a “what the heck, it’s one more click to apply” attitude. Therefore, it’s critical that you find a way to let colleges know that your interest is genuine. In the college admissions world we call this “demonstrated interest.” Despite all the information available on-line (some of which is reliable and some of which is suspect), you still won’t get the real sense of a campus without visiting in person. So, even though technology has improved the ease of research and the application process, you cannot depend on technology completely. Unless you plan on attending a virtual university, you still need to humanize the process by visiting colleges and having that person-to-person contact.

Technology Makes College Information More Accessible

Jolyn Brand | Founder & Director
Anyone can look up college facts, data and rankings. But most students still don't know what to do with that information. Technology has made all this information more accessible to students, parents and consultants, but expert guidance is needed to choose which factors are important in finding the best fit for a student. Technology has also made the actual college application process easier. No more filling out a ton of paperwork for each college; most students can fill out an online application for several colleges at one time. However, students are applying to more and more colleges which makes the process complicated if someone is not keeping it organized.

Technology shifts the paradigm. Two kinds of resources now

John Carpenter | Founder
I think the biggest change technology has brought about is that now most of the high school kids are far more savvy than their counselors when it comes to negotiating electronic resources. Kids are faster and smarter about the social media venues for connecting with people to get information about colleges, about downloading and finding their way in and around the actual applications, and about how to use video as a place for info and as a tool to promote themselves. So what does that mean for admissions? It means kids need to rely on their counselors for what they're NOT getting via technology--and that is wisdom, experience, and a real human who will listen to you. I love the technology, but I also know that none of it can replace the years of personal relationships that lead to understanding exactly how admissions people think. Use your human resources well.

Technology: Making sure we stay connected

Mabel Freeman | Asst. VP for Undergraduate Admissions
Thanks to the web, you know more about us sometimes than we know about you. We do know how late you stay up at night…because we know what time you hit that “send” button to forward your application. (And we soon find out how thorough a proofreader you are at 2:15 AM.) We are happy that you are checking out our websites, but we also want to answer *your* questions via whatever technology works best for you. We can text, write, email, phone, tweet, facebook, or meet in person; we just can’t read minds. Keep the connections real!

Technology: Ease of researching and applying to a diversity of colleges

Jennifer DesMaisons | Director of College Counseling
Retyping essays over and over on pieces of clean white paper while trying to avoid using any Wite-out on application materials, has been replaced by the simplicity of editing, cutting, pasting and submitting personal statements, short answers and other writing samples to colleges. Filling out multiple application forms by hand has evolved to completing one form online that can be used for a variety of schools. For students unable to visit college campuses, virtual tours, email conversations and Skype interviews allow for connections with students, faculty and admissions offices that otherwise might never have happened.

The Ups and Downs of Tech in Admissions

Jeannie Borin | Founder & President
Certainly the Common and Universal College Applications have made it easier for students to apply to many colleges using the same resume and essays. Many say this has cause application inflation. There are countless sources where students can find information on the college process from other students, counselors and the colleges themselves. Some colleges accept YouTube supplements and interviews are done via Skype. Final admission decisions are relayed online and some students submit personal url’s as part of their application. There is a new sense of creativity in admissions as a result. Recruiting efforts run across social media sites and students rate professors on others. Competition is tough and technology has raised the bar.

There is no such thing as a "common" application...

James Maroney | Director
Perhaps the most tangible byproduct of technology’s impact on college admission has been the proliferation of applications. Now that it is easier to apply to schools, more and more students are applying to more than 10 colleges. This in turn has taken away some of the personalization of applications, causing colleges to ask more short answer questions to learn more about a student’s personality and better determine fit with their school. The end result seems to be that even though there is a “Common Application” accepted by many schools, students still need to customize their applications to the individual colleges.

We've Come A Long Way, Baby - No Stamps Required

Rachel Winston | President
From typed or illegibly handwritten applications to site crashes stemming from information overload, applying to college has changed considerably over time. Early on, colleges would choose new requirements, send applications to a printing house, and mail hard copies to those who called, mailed requests, and visited the campus. Now, everyone with a computer has instant access to applications. With the click of a button, students can upload essays and documents, schools can insert transcripts and recommendations, and testing agencies can send scores seamlessly. While technology may have changed the timing and process, students still anguish over their uncertain future.

With Speed Can Come Confusion

Linda Turner | President
There’s no denying that advances in technology have changed the college admissions process, some ways for the better, others, not. Some of us remember filling out every application with pen and paper, asking teachers and counselors to do the same, and then mailing them in. Colleges responded in kind, mailing decisions to you. Slow, but clear and direct. Today, technology provides speed, unlimited resources for finding colleges, preparing applications, and finding scholarships, and more information than one person can handle. Thus, the drawbacks are in being overwhelmed by information and swayed by misinformation. Keep an open mind, but stay focused and critical of what you read.

You say I’m missing my transcript?

Patricia Tamborello | College Counselor
Many colleges will give you a log-in after your application has been received. It is important that you check your “status” to make sure that the college has received all of your information. It is no longer necessary to call or just to hope that all of your materials have arrived safely- it is just a click away. Remember to put your log-in information in a safe place (like your cell phone). Allow enough time for your high school to mail, fax or electronically send your information. Then, allow enough time for the college to “log” it into their system.


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