#125 Colleges Share How Admissions by Major Works with Lisa Marker Robbins Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 01:04

In today’s competitive landscape, the journey to college admissions can feel like navigating a maze without a map. With application numbers skyrocketing and accepting rates plummeting, the stakes have never been higher when your family is getting ready to make that college investment, that investment in your team. Meanwhile, all of this pressure puts extra emphasis on parents and teens having the right strategies. as they navigate college bound journey, it can be hard to crack the code on what really matters inside the admissions office when they form a freshman class. But my friends, they give us clues along the way. And it works a little differently at each type of school. I’m Lisa Marco Robbins, and I want to welcome you to a solo episode of College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:04

So let’s dive right in to this solo episode, where I’m leaning into things that we have learned just this year and 2024 things that we’ve learned from listening to and talking with the colleges themselves, attending professional conferences, and a recently completed a research project that we spent months on with my team. And I want to pull it all together to really give you insights that will help guide you. Now I talked about it being hard to know about what’s happening in that college admissions office. So your teen hit submit, and they start looking at all the applications that come in, and they are forming that freshman class. And you know, it often feels like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, right? However, they do give us clues. And these clues are how institutions, colleges and universities communicate to us their institutional priorities. And this is a topic that we took a general dive into on episode 123 of the podcast. So you know, after we finish this one, if you want to go back and listen to that one, that might be a really good idea. So institutional priorities as a definition is what an individual college favors what they’re trying to accomplish, when they are operating as an institution on who they are letting in through the door. Right. So to listen to us talk about that more, go to flourish coaching co.com, forward slash 123, episode 123. Now, let’s do a deep dive this time and to just one have a very complicated piece of incident institutional priorities. We’re going to just take one of the things that institutions will prioritize and that is the role that your team declaring a major can play as it affects to who cracks the door open, who gets to step foot on campus, and I’m going to show you how to use the clues the colleges gives us to guide your family and to manage the expectations of who is going to get in and why. You know, Laura Mattern. She has two kiddos. They’re both now out of high school and pursuing college and beyond. But she was a family that floors coaching worked closely with and I remember when she shared me with me after we were finished with the process. She said, you know, while we don’t want to place undue stress on our kids to figure it all out. Some thought and expense in high school can save us semesters of tuition and college. Now when Laura shared that with me her experience with what We had done and why she thought it was important. She was coming at it from the standpoint of both a mom. And she by profession is a financial planner. So she wants to make sure that those investments are going to have a high ROI. And she doesn’t want to stress her kids out, probably just like you so many of you probably feel the same way that Laura was feeling. So let’s go What did she learn? Let’s dig into this. What did she learn? And what what have we even learned since then at flourish coaching to help guide you? Now, as we talk about this college admission by major and how colleges prioritize this differently, we really want to first understand two different categories of colleges. The first is liberal arts colleges. Now, people we have an upcoming episode on liberal arts colleges, we don’t yet have a number for that one. So you’ll have to just go to our podcast site and look for it flourish coaching code.com, forward slash podcast, and you can just put in the search bar liberal arts colleges, but the way we define liberal arts colleges, is a school that typically has fewer than 5000 students. So they’re small, sometimes only hundreds or 1000 students. And few if any graduate degrees are conferred by that university. So their focus or primary focus is on a really solid and great undergraduate education. Most of these liberal arts colleges are not found in urban areas. And the vast, vast majority of them are private. There are not many public liberal arts colleges, although there are a few. Now the other category and additional liberal arts colleges or universities, universities offer up to doctoral degrees. And while there are more public universities than private universities, they are more evenly split, unlike the liberal arts colleges, and you can find them in all sorts of settings, urban, suburban, rural, small college town, they’re kind of all over the place. Now, when we look at the numbers that the education department gives us, we know that 73% of college students are attending public state universities. So remember, they they are going to universities, not colleges, liberal arts colleges, right. Now, the role that admission or major specific admissions plays at universities is a bit different from liberal arts colleges, liberal arts colleges, and we talk about this as we do that deep dive in the other episode on liberal arts colleges, they tend to have more flexibility in when it comes to majors. And there typically are a handful of majors that are not going to be offered at a liberal arts college, it can be hard to find engineering, nursing, architecture, so some of the majors could be hard to find at a liberal arts college. So what we did recently was a research on the 50 state research project in a 50 state flagship universities. So I’m here in Cincinnati, Ohio, our state flagship is Ohio State University, or they would want me to say The Ohio State University, just to the north of us, it’d be the University of Michigan, you got the University of Florida down in the South University of California, Berkeley would be the state flagship all the way out on the West Coast, so you get the idea. So we looked at one university for each of the 50 states to see how they started trending, and then we’re starting to look at it now for other colleges. So what we did was we asked these colleges, do you admit freshmen first time freshmen applicants directly into a major? Or are they instead admitted into a division or the university as a whole? So we actually had three different categories that they that we kind of summed up our finding findings into. So the first was, yep. When a student applies here, they are directly admitted into a major my youngest Sydney just graduated from the University of Cincinnati. That is not our state flagship, but that is a major research unit public university here in Ohio. And when a student puts that major that they want down on their application when they’re a high school senior or you know, maybe they took a gap year and they’re applying later, but when they’re going to be a first time freshman, then if admitted the student has an assured spa Add in that major. So that’s the first category. Yep, we admit students directly into their major. When we looked at the 50, state flagship universities, that was the largest category. So more than the other two categories, more universities were admitting students directly into their major. Now the second category was, Well, it’s complicated. So these are universities that have a mixed approach to some majors are going to directly admit students but to others are going to put them into a pre major status. So that pre major means that they will come onto campus, let’s just say that’s pre nursing. And after taking classes and knowing how their grades are landing, while they’re in college, the student will later then apply and find out if they’re then directly admitted in the major to go ahead and continue down that path to graduation. Now, there were two important trends that we found when we were engaging with the students and that I am learning from others. So the number one was hot majors, are competitive majors. The hottest major in the United States right now is computer science, you might be going dallisa, that’s pretty obvious. But just in case, it’s not it is the most competitive. And I would say the most in demand major right now.

Lisa Marker Robbins 11:31

Another major that’s in demand is nursing. Now, it’s not necessarily due to it is a popular major, but I wouldn’t say due to popularity, it’s more due to their there’s limited space in every nursing program, because students who are in nursing programs have to complete clinical hours at local hospitals. And hospitals can only take so many students right then, and by the way, this is one reason why some of these liberal arts colleges that are in more rural settings might not have a nursing program is access to be able to do clinicals that can be one issue that can arise. Another hot major engineering, and another is business. So those, those are the ones that we were really hearing like from the schools, these are really hot majors. It’s not even they can be difficult to get into academically. But we have so many applicants, we could fill a freshman class many times over by the number of applicants that who have students who could be successful, and we just can’t let everybody in. So let’s keep that in mind. Okay, now, the other thing that we’re hearing is to not play games with choice of major when going ahead and applying to either schools that directly admit to the major or the ones that have this complicated approach. I was recently listening to John Doerr on today’s podcast, the college admissions process podcast. By the way, that’s another great follow for my listeners, he is frequently sitting down with those that work directly in the college and getting you an inside scoop. So last fall, he had on Tim fields of Emory University to do a deep dive on Emory in admissions and what’s mattering on their institutional priorities, things like that. And while actually, Emory is an example of a school that is not admitting students directly into major, they do consider still the major of interest that your student is going to put on the application. So the common app, the college application used by over 1000 colleges, and I can assure you, all of your students, any of my listeners, you will have your child completing the common app. And they might have some other applications they have to do. But it’s quite possible that the common apps the only application they’ll have to do since it goes out to over 1000 colleges. Now the common app does have a required question on the application on the on the university side of the application. So there’s the main application on the common app. And there is a college section where you’re answering questions that will only go to the specific college on that college specific section on the common app. There is a required question that says to what college major Are you applying? Now, Emory University, who is very much of the mindset that students can still figure it out while after they get on campus and they’re not going to admit students directly into the major Tim fields indicated that what a student puts down for that question Have what is the your intended future major? Not? What major Are you applying to, but what is your intended future major still is going to be used inside the admissions office. And the way he explained it was their number one priority, their number one institutional priority at Emory, because they’re a selective in a rigorous institution, they want to make sure that students can keep up, if admitted. And so he said, when it comes to the major that they’re applying to, they will look at what students are saying that they’re interested in in intending the major end, even though it might change. But he said, we’re looking for alignment, he said, so if you, for instance, are applying to a STEM field, where Emory is very much known for their STEM majors, then they are going to be looking at do your extracurricular activities, and the coursework that you’ve pursued in high school lineup to demonstrate that focus. So he said, for instance, sometimes they will get kids trying to play the game of get coming into an easier major with the intent of later switching into a more competitive major. And he said, for instance, if we saw somebody put down, they’re applying to our philosophy major, but all of their activities and the coursework they’ve taken in high school is screaming stem focused. We’re going to feel like there’s not alignment. And now we’re going to likely turn that student down. So do you hear me Don’t go after we’re not going to coach our students to say they want one thing, and then try to backdoored into another major. Okay. You know, Andy Borst, said the same thing to me when he was on my podcast for episode 57. Andy Borst, previously was the Director of Admissions at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, where they do admit everybody directly into a major and they even have some major, a major, where if you don’t apply as a first time freshman in your high school senior year, you can never switch into that major. If you want to hear more about that you can go listen to episode 57. One, we’re done with this one, that one is at flourish coaching. code.com. Forward slash 057 Is your easy way to get there. But he literally said in that interview, and you’ll hear him say it over there, that if you aren’t admitted to here, first choice major at any school, not just that the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, he encourages all students to go elsewhere elsewhere. Now, Andy is down at the University of Georgia now in enrollment. And he’s working out there that’s a school a state flagship, where they do not ask this, or they do not admit students directly into the major. So he left one institution that admits students directly into the major to move into another where they do not admit to the major. And my guess would be I don’t know this for a fact I’ve not heard anybody say this. But when we were researching the 50, state flagships and we checked out the University of Georgia’s policies and process. They said, No, they don’t admit students the major, but they still, just like Emory asked for the students intended future major. And interestingly, undeclared is not an option. So for the University of Georgia, if you look at their common app, your student who’s applying will have to tell what their intended future major is, even though they’re not being admitted to that major, but they will not be able to say that they’re undeclared. And that’s not unusual. We’re going to come back to that one. So so far, we’ve got two categories, yes, you’re gonna get an assured spot in the major of your choosing, if admitted. And number two, well, it’s complicated. We’re going to take a mixed approach with some directed meds and some limited options, as well as some pre majors. The third category, and I should say, there were only eight state flagships out of the 50 that fell into this category, University of Georgia was one of them. And this is just now when you apply here, you are applying to the University, not the major. As a matter of fact, we’re not going to let anybody directly into a major, you will declare it later. Now people often say when is later sometimes that could just be freshman year once you’re on campus. The latest date by which policy say is typically if you want to get out on time and buy on time, I mean, in four years. If you want to get out on time, you really have to be in your major by second semester by the end of second semester. During your sophomore year, so that’s kind of a drop dead date. Now, this category of No, we do not admit anybody that major. Remember, there were eight schools of the 50 state flagship research universities that said, Okay, that’s that’s our policy. Now, this is interesting, because this is the place where there’s this nuanced piece, where if you’re feeling like Laura, my client I referred to earlier, like, there’s undue pressure on kids. And maybe you’re thinking like, Oh, I like the idea of these eight universities from the 50. State flagships that don’t put the pressure on knowing your major. The problem is, of these schools, only four of them really take an open approach to not pressing the students on their intended major.

Lisa Marker Robbins 20:53

So let’s talk about how this works. And, and we directly went to the colleges, we emailed with them, we called them we looked inside the common app application, the questions that they’re putting in front of students. And here’s some of the things that we found. And I would say, that had been verified to me and my other experiences. One of those experiences was I was recently at a conference and Industry Conference. And I’m not going to name this university, if you I will. And I’m not here to shame colleges, I’m here to support families, in supporting their teens. So I’m not going to use this university’s name. If you want it, you can send me a DM or I do have a master class that I’m offering on May 29. And June 4, where I’m going to also be talking about this on there. So you can find me on either place, if you want to go to the masterclass, you can learn more about it at flourish coaching co.com, forward slash, no stress in Oh, STR E. SS. So I was sitting in a panel discussion among colleges on this topic that we’re talking about today. And the this one person from a university in the south, a private research university that is very selective, said nope, there, we do not admit students directly to the major. And I thought, You know what, I don’t think I remember that correctly. So I went another common app on my phone while I was sitting on their common app does have an app by the way that you can download. And I saw that they asked these questions around major. So afterwards, I went up to the woman and I said, Hey, I have a question for you. That’s a little bit confusing to me. When I look at your application, you not only have a required question of what is the major, your intended major that you intend to pursue in the future that’s required? You have a second question that said, was your second choice major, a third question that says what’s a minor that you’re interested in? Those two are not required? And the fourth question is, do you have any pre professional interest? And I said, Can I ask you how that’s being used inside admissions? If you’re saying we take a very open and fluid approach to majors, and she said to me that they weren’t using it. And that, as a matter of fact, they were suppressing that information. And I thought, You know what, that’s a lot of questions to ask if you’re suppressing the information, and you’re not interested in those answers. So when I got back to my office, I sent an email to admissions at that school. And I asked the same question, and verbatim, this is the email reply that I got from them. We try and create a well rounded class, we want to make sure that we’re admitting students with varied interest and programs of choice. Now, I get it, I understand from the University’s perspective, why they need to do this, they need to have a balance of classes, and they need to be able to manage resources. You know, they need to know that they haven’t let so many kids in that kids aren’t going to be able to get the classes they need and the order that they need them to get in and out on time. On time being for years, they need to make sure that they’ve got the right number of professors employed the right number of classrooms have labs set up, I get it, they have to ask, I don’t shame them for asking them colleges or businesses, they’re running a business, right. But what I do struggle with is when they say it’s not being used, and it really is being used, and I struggle with it because it’s like talking out of both sides of their mouth. And then families what I find time and time and time again, is they they are believing that oh they there’s time to figure it out. And what we are finding out through our research and interacting with The colleges says, Even the colleges, even the universities that are not admitting students directly to major are still asking for the interest of the student and their future intended major, because they want, as this school said, varied interest for a well rounded class, and programs of choice. So I understand it. And that really confirms what Tim fields of Emory had shared on John’s podcast as well. So so just know that even at the universities that don’t expect students to know and they have some degree of flexibility on switching majors and declaring majors, most are expecting the student to have defined interest while in high school that supports this in their application. I think tank builds put it best. I’m gonna give you another example, one of the other schools we looked at the University of Oklahoma, they do not admit students to major yet students have to list their intended major, and undeclared is not an option at all. So again, they expect them to have some level of interest as defined when they’re applying to college when they’re coming out from their parents home. In our research, the reality was only four of the 50 state flagships made it very clear that interest or intended major doesn’t play a role. And the one I’m gonna give the first place to the gold medal to on transparency on this topic that we’re talking about today is the University of Arizona. They truly I felt did the best job inside the common app with the questions that your team will be facing, of communicating that they really are open and flexible. Here’s what it says in the common app. You do not have to select a specific major at this time. If you do choose a major now, you can change your major at a later date. If you wish to continue without selecting a specific major, please select undecided slash undeclared. So way to go University of Arizona for a level of transparency that we’re calling on all colleges to have. I absolutely love this. Okay, moving right along. What else do we find out from our research? One last piece that stood out to us that was kind of consistent among the 50 universities and we’re continuing to ask other schools these questions was, some colleges have a really niche focus, right, so they’re really niched, down on a particular focus. So with this niche focus idea, we’re gonna pick on the University of Arkansas. So the University of Arkansas falls into that it’s complicated category. They when we pressed them, they said for the most part, students who apply are admitted directly into their major. And then they gave us a big warning, when we said, Do you have any majors that are restricted in any way that are kept that are super competitive. And this is not the only school that this happens at but I think they give a good example, and they took it to a degree that we don’t see others. Their response was that both nursing and architecture are so intense and competitive at their school, that they will not entertain out of state applicants. So if you don’t already live in Arkansas, in you want to go to the University of Arkansas, if your intended major or your major of interest is architecture or nursing. That’s not going to be the case now we see nursing being one of those highly competitive, very kept majors all the time. It is unusual that architecture would be treated in this way.

Lisa Marker Robbins 29:01

So I’m sharing what we’ve been learning, listening and talking to the colleges doing our research, going to industry conferences, because my heart and I’m coming to you as a mom, the heart of this mom, who now has an empty nester with my youngest out of college. I’ve been there done that as a parent and I’ve done this for over 25 years as a professional. I want to emphasize to my listeners, the need for early planning and informed decision making while our kids are still at home under our roof, because once they step foot on campus, the colleges are not communicating with the parents. The parent can’t call and make an appointment with an advisor or go in on parent teacher conferences, Professor teacher conferences It doesn’t work that way. Your student has to fully engage and take advantage of the resources on campus. And I found that the quality of resources vary from needs improvement to really fantastic So I want to encourage families to do the work while we can do it with our kids, we don’t want parents to be in the driver’s seat. But we certainly certainly want them to be like that driver’s ed teacher who sat next to them and, and gave them some support and some directions along the way, and has that emergency brake if they gotta slam into it, right. So, you know, Nancy Lopez, another one of our flourish coaching clients, she said it really well, as far as giving the student the support that they need, she said, Please, I helped my daughter gain a better sense of herself. In areas of interest to explore around work majors and college frameworks are my friend. And her approach has helped me get out of Katherine’s way and allow her agency in this college search process. And that’s really what it means parents to be the driver’s ed teacher with our student at the wheel. Now, to better help you do this, I am sharing what we used on this research project. You can find it at flourish coaching co.com, forward slash majors, we’re giving you all the tools and the resources you need to one do a deeper understanding of how this works, and access the data for all 50 states as well as other schools that were regularly adding, we just went ahead and added Emory today when I am recording this and I’m sharing my email template, so that you can just copy our email template that we send to all the admissions offices, paste it into your own email, be sure you change the name of the college right there. So it’s all correct. And make it your own. So that for whatever school that your student might be interested in, whether it’s a liberal arts college, a major research university, public or private, that you have the tools to get the information to make really wise choices. So my friends, do what I keep telling you to do every week, which is carve out a college bound conversation every single week, probably the weekend with your teen, make it fun, you know, you might be like some of my other clients who say, hey, we started requiring my kiddo to do 20 minutes of talking about this stuff with us every week. And we’ve found that we’re, you know, we’re cohesive are coming becoming like minded. We’re doing the work together. In sometimes we’re sitting around our Saturday morning pancake breakfast table for an hour or more and we’re enjoying the process along the way. If you found this helpful, I know that you have friends that are doing this to share with them the podcast, share with them the florist coaching co.com forward slash major so they have the resources that they can use. Because my friends, we are all in this together and you are getting ready to make a major investment. Till next time, make it a great week.