Early Action Release Today: Thoughts and Advice

I know I’ve been rather quiet this fall. It’s been an interesting one. Let me explain.

Our Early Action pool this year included just over 5400 outstanding applicants.  In fact, the average core weighted GPA is 4.3 and SAT is 1960. The ACT equivalent is 29. This is essentially identical to last year and as a result, the Committee was faced with some very difficult decisions.    While the academic profile drives our decision making, the Student Index, a composite of extracurricular activities, leadership, recognition, service and the essay also factor into our decision making.  I had high hopes for this year’s essays given our new questions but, quite honestly, I’ve been disappointed.

Our Early Action applications were slow in coming.  We attribute that to our new essay questions. Several years ago when we began requiring an essay, the same thing occurred.   Fast forward a decade and we found that by eliminating “Topic of Your Choice”, students took the time needed to put some greater thought into responding to one of our questions.    You’ll recall we extended our deadline by two days earlier this fall.  We did this because so many applications were coming in at the last minute.   We didn’t want to create issues for applicants or our processing schedule.    By the way, hats off again to our Records and Communications teams.   Fewer than 3% of EA application were incomplete and moved to Final Deadline.

My personal favorite essay question is If you had $5000 to start a business or non-profit organization, what would it be and why?   Who would benefit?  Of the applications I read before Committee, only approximately 20% of students chose to respond to this question.   I really liked what I read but it occurred too infrequently.

The most often used prompt thus far this year has been Describe an experience that required your creativity, passion or commitment.   How will that experience influence your Elon career?  While there have been some interesting responses, I’m not terribly certain we have this question worded correctly.    It’s yielded more of what we have received in the past and while that’s fine, it’s not what was intended.

Anecdotally, the new Think Fast section of the application has given some students pause as well.   I promise you that was never the intent.   We simply thought it would be a great way for us to get to know some things about our applicants that we would never know from the traditional required information.    I’ll tell you it’s been a lot of fun reading these.   We learned that one applicant “can do a stunning Kiwi accent” and is “no slouch as a Scotsman”.  One student told us they narrate traffic patterns rather than listen to music while driving to school.   Another told us they’d like to talk to Napoleon “to find out how he went about being such a confident leader.  He had a swagger that is unmatched”.  

Keep in mind that the student applicant is the one who should be contacting us with questions.    Parents, I get it.   I’m one too.   Like you, I love my children more than anything in the world.    Like you, I want what I believe is best for them and, if I agree with them, I want what they want.   But with nearly 20 years of college admissions experience, I see what many do not.   There are a lot of really interesting and talented students out there.   As much as we’d like to accept more, we cannot.   If we over (or under) enroll the class, the university size changes – and I’m betting that’s one of the main reasons your son or daughter applied in the first place.

So what does Deferred really mean and what can a student applicant do to be more competitive in Final Deadline?   To begin with, we need the requested academic information.   If a student with a 4.2 is deferred and we ask for mid senior year grades, I know this sounds crazy.   But since the issue may be a standardized test, asking an applicant to register for another SAT/ACT when the deadline is three days from today (SAT) and January 7 (ACT) this doesn’t work terribly well either.  If your standardized test score resulted in a decision to defer, a strong academic record in your senior year along with demonstrated interest (contacting your admissions counselor via e-mail) may be helpful as the Committee re-evaluates your file in February.    Naturally, we cannot guarantee admission for everyone who provides what we request but every year we admit hundreds of deferred EA candidates in Final Deadline.     Still others are offered a place on our Wait List.

The university will close for a week tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. EST.  Let me thank you for reading and wish everyone health and safety in the New Year.    Without one or both, nothing else matters.

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