What’s new in college admissions? | TheUnion.com

What’s new in college admissions?

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

As the new high school year begins, many families are already thinking about upcoming college admissions. The process can be confusing and is constantly changing.

Here are some of the important trends you should be aware of.

The uncertain economy is creating anxiety about paying for college and being saddled with college debt. These concerns are making the less expensive state colleges more appealing to many families, and applications to the California State University and University of California are at an all-time high.

Some good news: There has been a 5 percent funding increase to the UCs and no tuition hike in the 2013-14 school year. The UCs also implemented the Gold and Blue plan, covering tuition and fees, for families who earn less than $80,000.

More than half of all seniors submitted seven or more college applications. And nearly half of colleges and universities employed wait lists and admitted just 28 percent of the students.

Private colleges, in return, are worried about losing students to the publics and are trying to find ways to increase financial aid. Traditionally, publics and privates have limited their financial aid to truly needy students and athletes.

Now, students with high GPAs from higher-income families are increasingly awarded money in the form of merit aid.

This is why it is important for all families to file the Free Application for Financial Aid, regardless of family income.

Students with high GPAs or test scores may also qualify to be in honors programs at many universities. Honors programs allow students the opportunity to work with some of the best professors in small, specially designed courses.

This makes the large university feel like a smaller, personalized experience. Some honors programs also offer housing, priority registration and recognition at graduation. California colleges with honors programs include CSU Chico, CSU Long Beach, CSU Fresno, USC and UCLA.

Students are applying to more colleges than ever before. More than half of all seniors submitted seven or more college applications. And nearly half of colleges and universities employed wait lists and admitted just 28 percent of the students.

Many incoming freshman are choosing to live in “substance-free” or “wellness” dorms and bypass the traditional dorm party scene. Colleges that offer substance-free dorms include UC Santa Barbara, CSU Monterey Bay and Willamette University.

Another trend is toward test optional colleges. More and more top universities have stopped requiring incoming students to submit SAT/ACT scores. At least 775 American colleges and universities are now test optional, including Smith, Middlebury and Wake Forest.

If you are a student who does poorly on tests, you might consider putting some test optional colleges on your list.

For those families who have been unable to visit colleges, a college fair may be a good idea. From noon to 4 p.m., Nov. 3, the University of Nevada, Reno will host one of the largest fairs in the country. To register, visit http://www.wacaccollegefair.com.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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