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Your “Holistic College Review” is done in Four to Six Minute Minutes! How to Stand Out.

During the early pandemic panic, colleges moved to a test optional policy during the to keep application numbers strong, but this had the unintended consequence of increasing applications. In the 2020-21 application cycle the most selective schools saw an increase anywhere from 30 to over 100%! As a result, college admissions officers are now spending less time reviewing more college applications.

In the past, college admissions would meet in groups to evaluate candidates. Now, colleges have implemented a quick, strategic review. Admissions officers will complete as many as 15 applications per hour. Colleges readily admit that their “holistic” college application evaluation is a four-to-six-minute review! Of course, some students will be moved to an application pile for further review, but most are deemed an immediate yes or no. To stand out during these crucial minutes, the first four sentences of your Essay must be your strongest writing, giving the Admissions Office an idea of your thesis and a reason to keep reading, i.e., the “hook”. Your entire application needs to be not only impressive, but also more succinct than in the past.

Counter intuitively, parents and students see more and more references to colleges reviewing their students holistically, that is as a whole person, rather than a set of numbers. While it would seem like colleges who tout their holistic evaluation process would not welcome a massive surge in applications, the increased number benefits them in two ways. First, a high number of applicants means a lower number of acceptances - the selectivity rate is a component of determining college rankings, every applicant’s first Google search. An even stronger incentive is money: with an average application fee of $75 and the top schools receiving over 50,000 applications, higher numbers of applicants generate millions of dollars in revenue for the admissions office. This is why colleges continue to harvest data from testing sites to advertise their schools to high school students far and wide.

Developing a resume ensuring your most impressive accomplishments stand out is also crucial. The new, quick review necessitates a strategic approach to highlighting strengths in your activities, awards, extracurricular and community service. Understanding how your application will be reviewed and planning accordingly is the key to seeing “ACCEPTED” on your screen.


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