More options, more personalization

Gen-Zers are growing up with technology that all but reads their minds to provide them relevant content that they’re interested in. They can personalize everything from their shoes to their videogame avatars.

College admission offices are following suit by giving prospective applicants more options for how they apply to college and apply for scholarship funds. Students today can practically “build-their-own” college applications with the information that best shows off who they are and what they would bring to a potential college match.

One optional application element is the standardized test score. More and more colleges are joining “The Test Optional Surge,” giving students the option to either show off their college readiness with standardized test scores or show it in other ways.

Another traditional college application element colleges are making optional: the essay. Most colleges still want to see some writing from their students, but colleges like Cornell College are allowing students to submit a writing sample from a class instead on our Cornell application option. Even the SAT is providing more options that before: on the new SAT the essay is optional.

Online applications are helping students personalize their applications by providing tools they can use to showcase their accomplishments, interests, and creativity. College admission officers are looking at them—like the students, college admission officers are primarily people under 30 who have grown up with social media and appreciate the visuals that online profiles offer.

Likewise, 180+ colleges are giving students the option to earn scholarships through as well as through traditional scholarship applications. Some colleges still accept essays for scholarship consideration, but a growing number are offering students alternative ways, like, to track how they qualify for college funds.

With this increase in options and personalization for the college application process, there’s an inevitable decrease in standardization for what a college will and won’t accept. However, the increase in options is being met with increasing support and accessibility to college admission officers.

Part of personalization is being personal. Admission counselors continue to do the footwork they always did: touring college and career fairs and making phone calls. They’re also becoming increasingly accessible through email, text messaging, and social media. Admission counselors are working to make the application process personal. Through online surveys about interests and through good-old-fashioned listening skills, counselors are gathering and utilizing information about what individual students want to talk about and how they want to talk about it.

While there is still some sense that admission officers are the keepers of the keys to college, there’s also a growing presence of the admission officer as a resource available to answer questions and help students create the best college admission applications possible.