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3 Application Changes for Rising Seniors

College applications are stressful enough. You have to pick majors or go undeclared, choose colleges (reach, match, and backup schools), get recommendations, prepare for interviews, take standardized tests, visit colleges and last but not least of all, write essays. All while maintaining grades and balancing a variety of extracurricular activities.

As if this wasn’t enough, rising seniors are going to encounter three major changes in college applications. If not managed appropriately, these changes are sure to cause major hair loss and/ or graying of any remaining hair for you and your spouse (I am not exaggerating!). Let’s walk through these changes so you can have a smoother experience.

1. UC applications replacing Personal Statement with Personal Insight Questions

So far, UCs had 2 Personal Statements – maximum 1,000 words long. Going forward, they will require 4 (out of 8) Personal Insight Questions with maximum 350 words. If you just look at just the word count, that’s not too much of a delta, after all it is 1,400 vs. 1,000 words. However, writing about four different topics is much more work than two. Plus, fitting an idea in fewer words takes a lot more time; as Mark Twain said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Fewer words force you to think hard about what’s really important and cut out everything else. And this requires many hours of reflection, discussion and introspection to distill things down to the core.

REMEDY: Prompts are already available. Start writing early! Don’t wait until Halloween.

2. New SAT vs. Old SAT vs. ACT

This year’s application is all about change. You now have an option of submitting 1 of 3 types of standardized test scores – Old SAT (if your child had taken the SAT before Jan’16), the New SAT or ACT. It really doesn’t matter which one you submit from the college’s point of view. But from your point of view you should choose the one that your child does/ has done best on.

REMEDY: Don’t leave this choice to the senior year. Get this taken care of before then.

3. Coalition Application for Private Schools

Private Schools have primarily been using two types of applications – Common and Universal. Enter a new kid on the block – Coalition application – an application that opens for business next month. An innovation of 90 colleges, the Coalition application attempts to level the playing field for low-income/ underprivileged students by providing a “Locker” where students can start recording their accomplishments as early as 9th grade and a collaboration platform. While the application will be open soon, it’s unclear how many colleges will use it for students entering in 2017.

The impact to you is that you will have to choose which application best showcases your child’s accomplishments. Schools like Harvard might accept all three (assuming they accept Coalition for 2017 entering students). And for some it could be 4 if they have a college specific application. Colleges go out of their way to say that they don’t favor one application type over another. However, our view is that your child might be able to present him or herself better in one type of application.

REMEDY: Check out the Coalition platform in April and make a decision on which applications you are going to use. Hopefully you won’t have to mix and match different applications for different schools.

PARENTS OF YOUNGER STUDENTS: The Coalition platform means you will have to start planning about college as early as 8th grade to record their accomplishments in the Locker.

We are not counting the UC Berkeley admissions policy change that happened for 2016 admissions where some students are invited to submit 2 letters of recommendation. If you were not aware of this, then this is a 4th change!

Ivy Review Services

If you child is a rising senior and you would prefer professional help, and 26% of high school students do (source: huffingtonpost, and the number is probably bigger in the Bay Area), we are there to help. Our Application Coaching program is now accepting students and we expect it to fill up before sessions start in June based on history from past years. Our program covers all aspects of the college application process ranging from college and major selection to putting every aspect of the application together. We also throw in last minute fine tuning tips around extra-curricular activities etc.

To apply for our program, contact us now at (408)982-6670 or

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