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IECA Conference in Philadelphia Provides Valuable Information

11581748-ieca-logoThe Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) conference in Philadelphia provided a great opportunity to network with other independent educational consultants and tour colleges and universities in the surrounding area. The conference included some exciting and informative sessions, a few of which I will highlight below.

Trends in Admissions: Many colleges are feeling the impact of increased requests for student aid accompanied by reduced endowments, resulting in more need-aware decisions for admissions. Generally, only those students in the top 25% will receive merit aid at the colleges offering it. Some colleges are offering more grants during the first year to entice students and are then increasing loans in subsequent years, with about 40% of grant money going to freshmen. When students visit campuses, look for the following signs that a college might be suffering financially: deferred maintenance on campus, layoffs and cutbacks in academic or athletic programs, or a change in bond ratings.

Demonstrated interest and applying early (early action and early decision) are key factors in admissions and can result in the equivalent of an almost 100 point increase on the SAT, and a .25 increase in a student’s GPA in some admissions offices. Visiting a campus can also help demonstrate interest—if a campus is within six hours and students have not visited, they risk being rejected because the college believes there is only a slim chance they will eventually attend. Skype interviews with admissions officers can serve as an excellent connector if travel is prohibitive.

Athletics in the Admissions Process: A number of Division I and III colleges and universities participated in this valuable session. The cycle for admissions varies by sport, and transcripts are run through the admissions office for an academic index to determine if students will get in on their own, will need support in admissions, or are inadmissible. Athletes often get pressure to apply Early Decision, if this is an option. The timeframe is moving up for athletes, with deadlines flying in the face of NACAC and NCAA rules in many cases.

A presenter from the University of Pennsylvania stated that thousands of athletes are initially recruited for just a few official spots to play football; for this reason, it is important to ask coaches how serious they are about a particular student. “Likely” letters are sometimes sent for students at the Ivies, and if one is received, then admission is guaranteed. An “official” visit means that the college is interested; if an official visit is not offered, students are in a large pool. Parents are discouraged from over-involvement in the process, as the coaches have considerable experience with families trying to game the system.

Military Academies: This excellent presentation included many admission details for the various academies, the nomination process, and ROTC options. Programs are primarily looking for candidates with an interest in technical and engineering fields. There is also a strong focus on computer science and math students, and much less focus on students in the humanities. The following is a summary of the evaluation areas for the academies:

  • Physically strong
  • American Legion boys/girls state get lots of points
  • 1200 and 3.5 minimum GPA (in reality, 1250 minimum)
  • Demonstrated leadership
  • Commitment to service
  • Eagle Scout and Girl Scout Gold get the highest point levels
  • Strong, disciplined student
  • Politics don’t work anymore, all hoops are required

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