JUNE 2024
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It’s Always Something

By Robert A.G. LeVine

By Robert LeVine

I have been working as an educational consultant for quite a while. What used to seem idiosyncratic now seems like objective truth:

Every year, things change, including both the strategies adopted by the universities and the way each class of students responds to the challenges of the admissions season. The changes are always difficult to predict, and the 2024 experience was no different.

It started with the students. Years ago, the Class of 2024 seemed more mature than most, well-practiced at time management as a result of the online learning required by Covid isolation. But appearances can be deceiving.

When it came time to do the work, the Class of 2024 proved to be … immature. Last June, I found myself screaming during one of our company’s “walkaround” group meetings. Then, just as the angst was releasing from my vocal cords, reality flooded my mind. Once again, we were experiencing The Covid Effect.

But just as Covid mutated (why do they still call it Covid-19?), this new problem was a mutation of the “usual” pandemic response. Whereas the prior class was anxiety-prone, this class was too comfortable. As a result of the timing of their isolation, they had forgotten (or failed to learn) how to follow instructions. They didn’t listen to us, and they didn’t read their essay prompts with care or concern.

One of our students, when asked if she had followed our instructions for crafting an outline, admitted that she had not bothered to read them. We urged her to do so, explaining that directions are meant to make her task easier and her work product better. So, she tried again, carefully reading and even mimicking our example outline as best she could.

Then she looked at what she’d crafted, decided it wasn’t the best, and once again did her own thing. It was not good. Before we wrangled her into order, this high-performing student had written a rough draft talking mostly about … suppositories and enemas.

Of course, the universities and the government didn’t help, either. In June 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision banning affirmative action in college admissions. Honestly, we didn’t think that decision should cause a big change, but when the colleges started requiring new supplemental essays to conform with their interpretation (and funny how so many colleges developed nearly identical essay prompts …), we had to advise our clients about how to answer these new queries. No problem; that’s our job.

We did notice, however, that a proper response to this “new” essay prompt would lead to repetition and redundancy within the essays, but that was something that would likely be fixed next year (now, this year).

Yet there was something else percolating below the surface. FAFSA – that weird and wonderful scholarship tool – was a mess. The government, having endeavored to make the process better, made the process worse. By reason of different deadlines, delays of FAFSA awards were highly likely.

We didn’t think much about it, but apparently the colleges did. You see, each incoming class is a significant part of any university’s economic foundation, and now the colleges were unsure of the timing of this piece of the monetary puzzle.

Ultimately, when the admissions results came in for the Class of 2024, we saw a few unusual trends. First, it seemed that the “haves” got more wins, while the “have nots” got none. We were surprised when certain students got a lot of great results, but others did not get their expected share.

We also noticed two other trends. For the first time in years, the colleges seemed to be making offers to students from their waiting lists. That practice had pretty much dried up for about half a decade. On top of that, we saw transfer applicants do very, very well this year.

Will these anomalies repeat? It’s too early to say what strangeness will happen this year.

I’m sure that some education professionals will say that I’m off-base, that my observations are mere conspiracy theories, but a lot of those protestations will come from institutions that allow certain voices to be squelched in favor of other demonstrations of free speech.

I don’t work for them. I work for you. My job is to be as forthcoming as possible so that you can make your best decisions.

What’s upcoming for the Class of 2025? It’s always something. Stay tuned ….

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com

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