Dealing with 'Admissions Creep'

October 1, 2007

While admissions officers and high school counselors don't necessarily agree on all the ways to deal with "admissions creep," the issue has captured their attention.

The Assembly of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, meeting Saturday in Austin, voted to create a special panel to study the issue -- in which high school students report ever increasing pressure about the admissions process, earlier and earlier in their high school careers. At the same time, the Assembly modified (some say weakened) an association guideline that was passed last year to bar colleges from admitting students to their institutions prior to September 15 of the students’ senior years in high school, and from setting application deadlines prior to October 15 of the senior year.

"I think people thought the September 15 policy addressed a narrow part of the problem, and had unintended consequences," said Ken Fox, chair of NACAC’S Admissions Practices Committee. "The issue of addressing deadline creep is clearly before NACAC," he said.

As a result, Fox said he wasn't disappointed to see the Assembly modify the September 15 deadline, which had been adopted on the recommendation of Fox's committee.

The change adopted Saturday says that admissions offers may not be made until a transcript is available for six semesters of high school work, effectively requiring the junior year to be finished, but leaving open the possibility of summer offers that were barred by the September 15 policy. The revision also allows even earlier offers by community colleges or other open admissions institutions that base admissions decisions on the application alone, not on a transcript.

The September 15 deadline was adopted last year after reports that an increasing number of colleges were making admissions offers in the junior year. But the deadline was opposed by many community colleges and large public universities, some of which use early offers to encourage disadvantaged students to stay in high school and prepare themselves for a higher education.

Also on Saturday, the NACAC Assembly voted to urge colleges to provide "comparable” treatment of early and regular decision applicants when it comes to "aid," funds awarded either based on merit or financial need. Fox, of NACAC’S Admissions Practices Committee, said that the rule was consistent with association policies that previously have urged colleges not to create an unfair edge for early applicants. High school counselors report that some colleges -- apparently feeling that they don't need to worry about their early decision applicants -- seem to favor other students with aid.

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