Education

Colleges begin offering direct admissions to level the playing field for prospective students

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Direct admissions is a new strategy that some colleges and universities are hoping will broaden their pool of prospective students — and level the playing field for low-income and marginalized students. 

The direct admissions approach allows colleges to pre-approve any prospective students who attain certain criteria like a GPA requirement and compatible areas of academic interest. Based on these criteria, students can receive offers from universities, including financial aid packages, without ever applying.

How can my child be considered for direct admissions?

There are several colleges that will contact prospective students directly based on their academic criteria as well as their geographic location, including some universities in Minnesota as part of a pilot program in the state. 

If you live elsewhere or want more options, filling out the Common Application (also known as the Common App) is the first step for students who wish to be considered for direct admissions. This single online college application form is used by nearly 1,000 colleges and universities — some of which are starting or considering direct admissions programs this year or in the near future.

Many colleges that will be conducting direct admissions programs will use the Common Application as a starting place to assemble their pool of potential students. Researchers behind the Common App have found that the direct admissions offers seem to have a particularly strong effect on the acceptance and attendance rates of Black, Latino, low-income, and first-generation college students.

5 more college app tips for prospective students

Whether or not direct admissions is an option for your family, it’s a good idea to fill out the Common Application entirely before students continue onto the rest of the application process. This application will tell all participating institutions about your academic skill set along with your interests, hobbies, and other information relevant to your higher education.

Once a student has completed that step, there are lots of other ways they can make the application process smoother and less stressful if they want more options than direct admissions. Here are five tips to ease the college application process for students and their families —

  • Make a timeline: There are lots and lots of deadlines when it comes to applying for college. Each individual application may have several components with different due dates — and each college will likely have different application deadline options like early decision, or rolling admissions. Making a timeline that includes all relevant dates and deadlines (both general dates, which you can likely get from your high school guidance counselor, and the dates specific to any universities your child will definitely be applying to) will help you prioritize the various tasks associated with applying for college.
  • Plan for recommendations early: Most colleges will want letters of recommendation for their incoming students from their previous teachers, supervisors, or mentors. Think about who you’d like letters of recommendation from, and ask them as early as possible (in person, if you can). Getting a jump start on these letters, rather than waiting until the last minute and getting lumped in with lots of other students’ requests, can lead to more impressive recommendations and more college acceptance letters!
  • Let colleges know you’re interested: Signing up for the email list, following their social media accounts, and touring the campus are all ways you can demonstrate your interest in a college. When it comes time to review your application, admissions officers will notice those types of indications that you’d like to attend, and will be more likely to show your application favor. 
  • Review your social media: Even if your accounts are set to private mode, it’s a good idea to delete anything on your social media that might be held against you in the admissions process. Things like underage drinking, consuming drugs, and posting hateful messages can harm your chances at getting into the school you want, or even getting jobs you want in the future. 
  • Get confirmation from the school: Even if you’ve done the most meticulous job possible getting all of your application materials completed and submitted as instructed, it’s always possible for something to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure to confirm receipt of all application materials with your schools of interest well before any deadlines. Most importantly — save everything! 

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Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.