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College Admissions Are Changing and We Must Change With Them

How Maclay Can Improve Their Resources to Help Students


Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash


College acceptances have become more competitive in the past few cycles and students around the country have felt its effects. Previously perceived “safety schools,” or schools where students have an extremely high chance of gaining admission, have gotten more competitive in recent years. As the acceptance rate to get into colleges that were always viewed as “safety schools” decreases each year, students must adapt and work harder to get into colleges that previous classes were easily getting into. A few factors have changed the game and made the admissions process for certain schools to get increasingly harder.


Every students’ education has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, which has in turn affected the education of students and their admission into colleges. According to the Harvard Magazine, there was a significant decrease in Math and Reading scores after the pandemic. Whether the reason was poor performance in online classes, the lack of social life or loss of motivation to keep up with school work, there is a correlation between COVID-19 and a decrease in education. This was mediated with most colleges going test-optional, giving the students the choice to submit any scores they decide to, or not submit scores at all. While this has helped some students, schools going test optional, combined with the ease of the Common Application, have led to an increase of applications for schools. Most colleges have kept a static class size so the acceptance rates for schools have dwindled compared to previous years.


There are a select few boarding or elite schools that many consider “feeder schools.” These are schools that supply a large number of their class to Ivy League and top 20 universities and liberal arts colleges. This is primarily due to connections and prestige, but also because of the rigor that these schools have for their students. The top boarding school in the country, Phillips Exeter Academy, has students constantly doing required college preparation courses. Additionally, students have the option to take a five week course over the summer to supplement their preparation for the SAT tests. While Maclay offers a mini version of this preparation three days a week during FLEX, most students don’t take advantage of what Maclay offers, as they aren’t aware of it, take it for granted or don’t have the motivation to.


With new testing options such as the PreACT, which is only open for 10th graders, students can get more practice before having to take the real exam. This adds on to the preparation students receive, but there needs to be more opportunities to give Maclay students a leg up in competitive admissions. A tactic the school could implement would be to require students to do prep courses for the SAT or ACT, so they are forced to do practice that they may find annoying in the moment, but will benefit them in the long run. Even if students choose to not submit test scores, they may gain skills in their core classes and reflect positively on their grades, by practicing these skills through standardized test prep.


Maclay students have navigated these changes in college admissions differently but there is a general consensus that students wish they would be supported more.


“I tried starting early around September, but I think the best way to navigate it is to ask someone to do it before,” senior Shiv Patel said. “I talked to Teresa Morgado [Valedictorian for the Class of ‘23] and she told me a lot and helped me a lot with it. Especially with smaller things like how to fill out the Common App.”


Students work together to get through the college application process, but some feel as if they need a few more opportunities from the school to be prepared.


“I think Maclay can definitely hold a FLEX class for juniors where they explain what the Common App is and a lot of times you are doing it by yourself,” Patel said. “Like Mr. Gallina is always there but you don’t always go to him. I think putting seniors who have already filled it out in contact with juniors who are gonna fill it out is a really, really helpful thing. But there is not much Maclay can do on their part since a lot of the students have the ambition to fill out the Common App.”


While most seniors have a lot of thoughts about the process, junior Sebastian Aleksander is going into the process with confidence in the help is going to receive.


“I am really relying on my college counselor to help me with that but I know I am smart enough to do stuff I need to do by myself,” Aleksander said. “Maclay is definitely gonna help me with the process and keep me on track.”


Apart from the traditional admissions process, some students used nonprofits to apply to colleges. Questbridge is a national nonprofit based in Palo Alto, California that connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities.


“What is different for me [compared to other students] is that I used Questbridge,” senior Eva Yi said. “Questbridge had way earlier dates than Common App. I had to be finished with my entire application in September so I finished it around August. So just starting early around late summer was a pretty helpful thing to do. Just finding coherence between my activities and everything I have done, like finding connections between them [was important in my process].”


Yi’s advice to the incoming seniors is to find a “theme” within their applications to present a story to college admissions. This way, every activity, hobby or sports makes sense to college admissions officers and they can see the common throughline within the application.


“Well I think it is more of like the students’ interpretations of what they [Maclay] should do, but I would advise Maclay to encourage kids to have quality over quantity in their application to find coherence to figure out what type of person they are,” Yi said.

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