Admissions

Instant College Admission

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The other morning, I found myself standing in front of our microwave oven drumming my fingers, waiting for my oatmeal to finish cooking. “C’mon, c’mon!” I muttered impatiently. Those 60 seconds seemed to take forever.

Sixty seconds. And I couldn’t wait! “Shame on me,” I thought sheepishly.


This embarrassing self-realization sent my mind on a stream-of-consciousness trip that ended with my inspiration for today’s Admit This! post. Yes, this is how my brain works.

First off, I thought about how patience has become a fading commodity in our society. Drive-up windows are everywhere. I can’t document this right now, but I think that it may even be possible to get married in your car. I’m willing to bet that that feat is possible in (where else?) Las Vegas.

How about computer speeds? How many times have we yelled at our computers as they sat there in front of us, grinding, spinning and not responding fast enough to get us to where we wanted to go on the internet? Ever complained about slow service in a restaurant? If so, you should experience basic training in the military.

When I was in boot camp as a green Navy recruit, (here we go with yet another sleep-inducing episode of Dave: Back in The Day...) I always marveled (that’s probably not the right word, thinking back to my mindset at the time) at the speed of “dining” on base. Once seated at a mess hall table, I would try to “savor” my meal as our company commander walked to and fro slamming his nightstick on the tables, sometimes only inches from my tray, screaming, “Eat up and get out!” I often wonder how he deals with his microwave.

This flood of thoughts, kicked off by my microwave encounter, eventually led me to the exciting world of college admissions. Talk about your non sequiturs ...

Since I have worked with high schoolers, helping them pursue their college dreams, for the past 30-some years, I am quite familiar with the long-term ebb and flow of getting into college. For the sake of comparison with my post’s point today (yet to be revealed!), let’s review the traditional admissions process.

Know the Standard Admission Procedure

A high schooler’s college process can start outside of his or her personal being. That is, it can begin in his or her parents’ imaginations. That results in roughly 18 years of full-duplex thoughts, comments, suggestions, persuasions, travels, rationalizations, etc., leading up to a May 1 enrollment deadline senior year.

Even for those young people whose parents are not obsessively and actively involved in the college process, the details can take two to four (or more) years. First comes the realization that college is a good and necessary thing. Then comes a period of research and visits, narrowing the field down to a group of schools meeting any number of criteria.

Then, perhaps starting as early as freshman year, aspiring college students undertake prerequisite testing, specific extracurricular activities and other interests. Academic years, punctuated by active summers, progress until the fall of senior year, when a mad scramble of final standardized testing, college visits, Common Application processing, recommendation acquisition, essay writing and application submission takes place.

Then the wait. It can be relatively short for Early Decision and Early Action applicants whose waiting period ranges from around Nov. 1 to mid-December. Those six weeks reward applicants who get a thumbs-up in December. For those who get a thumbs-down or a deferred decision, the window of waiting expands another several months. Even at the end of this additional waiting period, things can stretch even farther with the unfortunate outcome of being wait-listed.

The traditional college admissions timeline can be onerous and agonizing, placing ongoing stress on high schoolers (and even parents) who would really much rather be enjoying their youth, rather than wheeling, dealing and jockeying for position in the rat race to a brass-ring college and eventual job.

If you’re a high schooler reading this, maybe you’re the kind of person who enjoys a good challenge. With some elite colleges boasting acceptance rates in the mid-single digits (yes, five to seven percent!), there’s your challenge. If, on the other hand, you’re not going around singing, “I love a good challenge!” in between your SATs, Subject Tests and AP exams, you may be thinking (as in hoping), “There’s got to be a better way!”

Well, there is a better way. And this brings us to today’s blog post point: Colleges’ so-called Instant Decision Days.

Instant Decision Days (IDD) Aren't for Everyone

If you would like to get right to the point of getting into college without most of the traditional college process agonies detailed above, then it may pay you to research IDD. I did, and found what I think is one of the better summaries of what you need to know.

The specific information I’m referring to appears on this page, appropriately titled Everything You Need to Know About Instant Decision Days. The subtitle cuts right to the chase, and if you’re impatient with microwaves, this should ring your bell:

Students can meet with a college official and receive a same-day admission offer.

I know; that sounds crazy, an almost impossibility in today’s college process world. But it’s true. Let’s take a look at how this works through some excerpts from the US News article:

The months-long waiting period between applying to college and receiving an admission decision can be stressful. Some institutions offer applicants another option: Instant decision days. During these events – held at high schools, community colleges or universities – prospective freshmen and transfer students meet with an admissions officer, usually for about 15 minutes, and typically walk away with an admission decision in hand. 

That’s a stunning piece of information. Imagine, a kind of walk-in (drive-up window, maybe?) college admissions process. Instead of years, it’s mere minutes.

This seems almost too good to be true, you may be thinking. There has to be some catch. But …

instant admissions decisions aren't binding, experts say, meaning students are still free to apply to other colleges and universities....

If you want to get technical, there may be one aspect of IDD that might be viewed as a “catch:"

The most selective colleges generally don't offer instant decision days, but many other institutions do.

The “catchy” part of this caveat would seem to apply only to those whose college goals include applying to more highly selective colleges. However, in light of the fact that an IDD acceptance is not binding, then you could have your cake and eat it too by securing an IDD admission and then following through with the more traditional -- and much more involved -- college application process.

Using the IDD process can also serve as a way to get a “safety” admission without going through the longer, and possibly more expensive, traditional application route. To wit:

Colleges also have varying policies regarding whether students must complete their application prior to an instant decision day, Wile says. An added bonus for students participating in these events: Many institutions will waive the application fee.

Transfers Can Benefit From IDD

IDD can also serve current community college students looking to transfer to a four-year school, thus greatly reducing the time (and stress) needed to make the transition:

High schoolers aren't the only prospective students that colleges offer instant decisions to. Some university admissions officers travel to community colleges to offer this opportunity to prospective transfer students.

The University of Arizona offers about a dozen such events each year, says Kasey Urquidez, vice president enrollment management and student affairs advancement, and dean of undergraduate admissions at the university.

Virginia Tech also hosts instant decision days at four nearby community colleges, says Jane Todd, the school's associate director for transfer initiatives. Previously, Virginia Tech offered instant decision events on its campus specifically for prospective community college transfers but won't be doing so in 2018, says Todd....

Icing on the IDD cake: On the day of the event, a student's meeting with an admissions officer is more like a counseling session than a high-stakes admissions interview, experts say. It gives students an opportunity to explain any dips in their grades or expand on their accomplishments, note experts.At the end of the meeting, a student typically receives an admission decision and then has the opportunity to ask the admissions officer about next steps....

What is IDD, really? "It's a very, very personal way of going through the admissions process," says John Iacovelli, dean of enrollment management at Stockton University in New Jersey, which holds about three dozen instant decision events at high schools each year....

A “very personal way” of getting into college. Contrast that with being one of 50-, 70- or even 90-thousand others in an applicant pool. Don’t believe those numbers? Check this out. How “personal” is that?

Bottom line: IDD may not be for everyone, but it’s out there and available. Do your research and find the IDD schools that might be a good match for you. Then follow up.

There’s really nothing to lose. You still have the traditional process available to pursue more highly selective schools, but an acceptance in hand can be worth two in a vast applicant pool elsewhere, so to speak.