#61 COVID Impact on College Admissions Transcript



Cristiana Quinn  00:00

With COVID, we’ve certainly seen the trend of even many students having better grades than they might have had without COVID. So now you’re in this predicament of if you thought that grades could predict success in college, while they were always predictive in conjunction with test scores. Well now removing the test scores means we’re seeing roughly 50% of students having a 3.75 or above GPA, schools with 30% of their class at a 4.0 or above, which I know for parents makes it hard to understand because they think their student is really successful because they’ve got this great GPA, but parents don’t understand in context, their students GPA really has shifted more to quote unquote, like the average. So you apply to a school thinking you have a shot with your GPA, but at the same time for colleges they’re trying to determine will the student be able to come and be successful.


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:53

While much of daily life has returned to normal since the COVID, shut down exactly three years ago, college admissions still often feels like the Wild West, even for those of us who are seasoned experts in college admissions and testing. Because families are often surprised by these changes. I’ve invited two guests to join me today to discuss Amy Seeley is an expert in AC T and LSAT preparation, helping students in the Greater Cleveland area prepare for testing. And nationally she served through the test in the rest podcast she co hosts as well as being a founding member of the National Test Prep Association. And Christiana Quinn is an independent College Admissions Advisor who has worked with more than 500 students to find and successfully apply to their best fit College. I’m Lisa marker Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation, figuring out what has changed in our advice to your family and navigating what can feel like a bumpy road on the college bound journey. Ladies, welcome. This is only the second time we’ve done a two guests podcast. 


Amy Seeley  02:14

Lucky us. 


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:15

I know. And you too, are two of my favorites. And I want to start with the understanding of from college to college institution to institution Kristiana. There are different priorities that they have, which really end up dictating who gets in and why. Because I think families just think it’s going to work this way across the board. And what they find health is there are striking differences that go on behind the scenes. Can you explain that so people don’t go in expecting the admissions process to be handled in the same way across all the colleges that they applied to? 


Cristiana Quinn  02:55

Yeah I mean, I think a common misconception for parents is Oh, my student has A’s and they’ve taken lots of AP courses and honors courses. And they should be a shoo in for this college. But what they don’t really understand is that your student would probably be very successful at that college if they were accepted, but the College wants their freshman class to look a certain way. So they want a certain number of students from each state. They want a certain number of students from different countries, they need to fill their apathetic teams, they need to fill their music ensembles. They might want to give preference to legacy students or large donors or stop children. And obviously they want students of all different ethnicities on campus. So those are really institutional priorities. It’s how does a college want their freshman class to look?


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:55

And then that’s going to really result in very different outcomes, even though the student could be successful at that university. Absolutely. I just had Andy worse from University of Illinois on he’s a director of admissions there. And one of their institutional priorities is to give preferential treatment to Illinois residents, not out of state students, but not every state college feels that way. Some state colleges, University of Alabama is notorious for seeking out of state students,


Cristiana Quinn  04:25

right. And my alma mater, University of Vermont doesn’t have enough in state students to fill the roster. So 75% of their students come from out of state.


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:35

Yeah, absolutely. 


Amy Seeley  04:37

What’s also interesting is those priorities can shift from year to year. So for example, in one year, something that’s a priority might shift. So somebody might not understand why last year, there was an advantage maybe for a particular demographic, and then the next year that might shift a little bit.


Cristiana Quinn  04:52

Right. Absolutely. So they can be very successful recruiting in one part of the country one year, but very unsuccessful in another part of the country. And so the next year, they want to shift the priorities to getting more students from the Midwest or the south or wherever that might be.


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:08

Beyond that, it’s also when we see changes in leadership and Enrollment Management and the admissions office, that’s also sometimes going to do a shift as well, not just same leadership, different outcomes. leadership’s going to change things as well. So what is playing and you know, you had mentioned to me Christiana, like demonstrated interest in yield protection are two for you on the admissions side, and Amy’s on the test prep side, but on the admissions side, that those are playing a bigger role, and we know what they are, but some families are gonna go, Okay, what is even yield protection. So let’s back up and kind of define these two and then explain how this role that they’re playing is shifting.


Cristiana Quinn  05:58

I think first, we have to define yield, because I think a lot of families don’t understand necessarily what yield is. And what yield in college admissions is, is based on how many acceptances a college sends out? How many students then say, Yes, I’m coming and put their deposit down. And that of course feeds in things like college rankings. And so colleges are concerned about this idea of yield protection, and having as high a yield as possible. So having as many students say, yes, when they send out and acceptance as possible, a lot of colleges have hired what are called yield consultants, who assign different variables to students to predict how yield double they are. So did their parent go to the college? Did their siblings go to the college? How far away from the college do they live? Have they visited the college? Did they do the information session? Have they been on the website? Have they opened the emails, all of those things can go into an algorithm that yield consultants used to predict students who are most likely to attend that college?


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:10

So what is the change that you feel that yield has played a greater role since 2020.


Cristiana Quinn  07:18

So where the country went test optional, a lot of students who maybe would not have had high enough test scores to apply to highly selective colleges before started applying to those colleges under test optional policies. And we saw applications boom, everywhere. And that meant that colleges were looking at a much larger pool of applicants, and trying to figure out, Oh, who is actually going to come if we give them an acceptance, because they didn’t want to have the unpredictability of many acceptances, and few people coming who got those acceptances.


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:01

So Amy, that really kind of veers into your lane of test preparation, you serve on the board of the National Test Prep association. So tie this in to what you’re seeing on that side of the equation with test optional, because that’s a that’s really the Wild West. Well,


Amy Seeley  08:21

Christiane has the right point, the idea is that when you say to a student, you don’t have to submit a test score, as much as we want to look at test scores as barriers, they certainly help everybody evaluate, who should apply, who should we accept, until the issue becomes students now perceive not submitting a test score is something that’s going to work to their advantage. So then, of course, like we’re saying here, the flip side to that is, it makes it more difficult for colleges, because students are going to apply to more schools. So a lot of that predictive capability they have or had, kind of has shifted. So you know, trying to predict is harder. The key thing, of course, is that sub students may benefit from the fact that they don’t submit a test score, why doesn’t change, like there are lots of students who would be accepted and attended institution and be successful, there are differences just in a situation of test scores. It’s a little bit harder, I think, to predict that success in that we’re all kind of familiar with, like rampid grade inflation. And so with COVID, we’ve certainly seen the trend of even many students having better grades than they might have had without COVID. So now you’re in this predicament of if you thought that grades could predict success in college, while they were always predictive in conjunction with test scores. Well, now removing the test scores means, you know, there are students out there who may have GPAs. And to be fair, most of the students that we see in the Greater Cleveland area, and I’m sure this is a trend that you’d see probably across the country. We’re seeing roughly 50% of students having a 3.75 or above GPA. We’re seeing you know, schools With 30% of their class at a 4.0, or above, which I know for parents makes it hard to understand because they think their student is really successful because they’ve got this great GPA. But parents don’t understand in context that their students GPA really has shifted more to quote unquote, like the average. So you apply to a school thinking you have a shot with your GPA, but at the same time for colleges, they’re trying to determine will the student be able to come and be successful? Well, there are many students that when we work with them for test prep, it’s very clear that a student with a 4.2, who’s getting an AC t score of a 16, there’s no world where that student is going to be successful, because they clearly are lacking a lot of like the basic skills, but the GPA doesn’t tell you that story. So I think the dilemma for institutions is, are we now potentially accepting students who might have a very high GPA, and yet, we don’t have the same predictive capability of their success, which is where a lot of institutions are looking at? Do they maintain their test optional status? Or do they return to accepting testing simply because they’re trying to ensure that the students they accept and enroll are going to be successful on their campus, that they’re going to be able to retain them? And graduate them, hopefully, you know, fingers crossed in four years? Maybe five? Right. But I think ultimately, that’s the issue is that we just have so many students applying because everybody thinks they have a shot, or you’re just throwing your hat in the ring hoping that maybe you’re that one kid who gets in without that test score?


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:24

Well, it’s interesting, you bring up grade inflation, we had a previous episode on that last fall. So I’ll link to it in the show notes. Brian, you Fincher from Atlanta did a fantastic job of just laying out the data. And while we are talking about how things have changed in college admissions, that’s a change at the high school level. That’s really surprising families. To your point, Amy, oh, my kid has a whatever GPA and in context of their entire graduating class, they might have a 4.0. And they’re still at the 50th percentile of the class, because everybody has a 4.0. 


Amy Seeley  12:02

And I think the best way to describe it for us parents who went to college, maybe in like the 80s, early 90s, it’s like the bar has been raised as far as GPA, what we think of as a parent to be a very selective competitive GPA, like, back in my day. I mean, we all know if somebody had a four point we would have thought they were the valedictorian, right. Our, let’s say, 3.5 is now already a 4.0. And so that student today who even has a 3.0, how can you have a 3.0, everybody’s above you have a 3.0. So parents lack that context to understand where their student is going to fall in the range. And often, I think that means parents might encourage their students to apply to more institutions thinking, Oh, they must be super smart, because they have GPAs that I don’t remember students having, you know, back when I was in high school.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:47

Christiana, do you see that with your students? You know, you’re working with applications and essays? And how does the number of schools that students are applying to how has it changed? How are you navigating it? What’s your advice to families on that?


Cristiana Quinn  13:03

Yeah, so I’ve been an independent educational consultant for 17 years. And every year that I’ve been a consultant, I’ve seen that average number of applications that students want to do enging up. And there is an idea, I think, with students and parents that, oh, well, if I apply to more highly selective schools, I have a better chance of getting into one.


Amy Seeley  13:29

You know, if you buy more lottery tickets, you have a greater chance of winning.


Cristiana Quinn  13:32

Right, exactly. So you know, many families definitely will have 10 to 16 colleges on their list. Some of them are pushing the envelope on 20, the coffin, 


Amy Seeley  13:47

which is insane, 


Cristiana Quinn  13:49

yeah, the common app limits it to 20. And then you’ll find families or students trying to get around it with doing a few coalition apps schools, or the UCS where they’re not on the common app. And it’s not necessarily resulting in isn’t resulting in better admissions outcomes. And I think what families have to remember is, each application really needs to be handled in a unique way with the essays and with what you’re putting forth about yourself. And if you’re doing 20, or 25, you’re not taking the time and care on those supplemental essays and the information that you’re giving to the colleges as you are if you’re just doing tap,


Amy Seeley  14:35

I would like to create a new word called Apple deflation, right? Don’t you think that’s what we’re seeing? I mean, this total inflation of applications, which just doesn’t make any sense, right, you throw your hat in so many rings, you don’t even know where it’s gonna come back. But again, it contributes to the problem of colleges going back to earlier yield. Right. The more that are applying, it’s harder to predict your yield because everyone’s just throwing their hat in the ring.


Cristiana Quinn  14:58

Yeah, and I think parents field that admissions has become very unpredictable. In the era of test optional. Everybody has a story about how they can’t figure out how their next door neighbor’s child got into X college. And so it must just be so terribly random. And if it’s so terribly random, if they throw out more applications, you know, something random will happen for their child.


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:24

If you had the ideal on how many applications you would ask a student to consider completing? And I’m sure you’re talking to some of those who are trying to do you know, 20, and game it by going over 20. What do you feel is a good balance number, we often hear this question by families, what do you find? How do you advise? 


Cristiana Quinn  15:44

Well, I think it’s interesting I by students to have nine to 12 colleges, they really like on their final list, most of my students will get into one of their top two or three choices during the early action or early decision round. And so in reality, half of those applications may never go out the door, because they may be for schools where the student had to apply regular decision, because the college only offered early decision or regular decision. And so how many colleges are on the list and how many applications they end up filing can be two different things.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:23

But let’s talk about that timeline for just a second, because we know those deadlines. Amy, you just went through this because you have a high school senior daughter. And so you did it with the mom hat on as well. But talk about those deadlines for a second. It’s not something that’s changed necessarily. There’s early action, which is often tied to getting scholarship money, particularly at state universities. There’s early decision which is binding. And then those regular apps, they could be not till January, right?


Cristiana Quinn  16:58

Right. So October 15 really kicks off the early action and early decision season with some of the schools down south having early deadlines. And then November 1 is the big early action, early decision date as well as November 15. So we really see that rolling from mid October to about December 1 Are those deadlines. And then regular decision typically starts January 1. But as you noted, there are quite a few schools, both public and private, that might have varied merit, aid deadlines. And by buried I mean, when you open up your common app, and you look at those deadlines, and they start to appear on your dashboard. It will never tell you when the early merit deadlines are, you have to dig through the admissions pages and look at the deadlines and sometimes go to the merit aid page to see where and when those deadlines are. And very often those can be even though it’s a regular decision app, the deadline can be at the time of early action, ie November 1, or there are a number of schools that have a December 1 early merit deadline.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:21

Absolutely. So you know the the word of caution to families. As you start getting into that comment, first of all you’re talking about when we submit so starting the process of applying and writing those essays backs up into the summer. Those are the submission deadlines. But I think sometimes students get into their application in the common app. And they’re just fully relying on their they’ve got that great dashboard that tells you your deadline. But I always say the school’s website is your best friend, the common apps, what you have to do. Your best friend is a school’s website on the admissions page, the financial aid pages the merit scholarship page. So you mentioned early decision. And I know that we’ve seen a tremendous shift in early decision since COVID. Let’s define for our listeners early decision and talk about the shift that you’ve seen from an admissions perspective. And then Amy, I’m sure you’re gonna have stuff to add to on the test optional side of this


Cristiana Quinn  19:26

right. So early decision is a binding commitment. You may only apply to one college early decision. The deadline is typically around November 1. And what you are saying to the college is you are my first choice and if I am accepted in December, I will attempt as I said it is a binding commitment. The only way you can get out of early decision is if the college does not meet your family’s demonstrated financial need as outlined in the CSS Profile and FAFSA. So Do you really have to know that you want to go to that college. And to make things more complicated in the last 10 years, a second round of early decision has emerged, the deadlines are typically in January. But it’s important to understand that you may only apply to one college early decision at a time. And it is a binding commitment.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:19

And not all colleges offer early decision


Cristiana Quinn  20:22

no, they do not. Most public universities offer early action, which is non binding, early decision only exists at a very tiny number of public institutions, but much more at private institutions.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:37

So what has happened with those early decision outcomes, since we’ve gone into COVID, and we’ve had this surge of applicants at the colleges as well,


Cristiana Quinn  20:48

the early decision acceptances have become more difficult to get colleges have become more selective because they have a larger pool to pick from. So it is harder now for students. You know, we’ve seen the elite schools drop from double digit acceptance rates during early decision to single digit acceptance rates, and colleges that maybe used to be in that 20% range or now in the 10% range of who they’re accepting for early decision. So it’s become much more selective. 


Amy Seeley  21:22

Well, then you hear the crazy stories of like two lane, who in regular decision, except like, I don’t know, what was some crazy that were like 106 Kids, because they had accepted all the other kids that Ed, which that is what you call it think?


Cristiana Quinn  21:35

Well, yeah, two lane, interestingly, has two rounds of early decision. And at the same time as their early decision one, they also run an early action round. So they have three rounds,


Amy Seeley  21:48

they’re scooping them up really early there. 


Cristiana Quinn  21:51

To be honest, that’s not something new. I mean, five, six years ago to Lane had filled 90% of their seats with those rounds. So it’s gotten more extreme. But that’s been going on for a while. But we are seeing colleges in general, particularly when you look at the small liberal arts colleges in New England, that have two rounds of early decision. We’ve seen them move from filling 30% of their seats during early admission to now maybe 60% of their seats during early decision because of those two rounds.


Amy Seeley  22:24

And again, that speaks to yield. Those all helped their yield. Right.


Cristiana Quinn  22:29

Yeah. 99% yield. Yep.


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:31

And then you’re getting into the US News and World Report rankings and all the other things which is driving a lot of this what feels to us, like the Wild West, right? Is just seems like craziness. I had a family that I was interacting with just this week, and they were very concerned about securing housing. And they have an older student. And they said, when Natalie was doing this, which was pre COVID. I don’t feel like it was like this. And now I’m on my second child. And Sarah, it just feels absolutely like we’re up against the wall and may 1 doesn’t matter anymore. I told her she was a crazy that that is real. What are you seeing Christiana, with your students with housing and when they’re enrolling is does may 1 not matter anymore.


Cristiana Quinn  23:25

Unfortunately, with housing, we’ve had a couple of things going on. One is a lot of colleges were not able to accurately predict their yields over the last few years, and were majorly over and rolled, meaning that they didn’t have enough housing. I’ll give you an example. I had a student who has accepted Tampa two years ago, and he put in his deposit. And after May 1, when he had let all his other schools go. He was told that he would not have campus housing. And by the way, all the off campus apartments within a three mile radius were rented. So we had to scramble and find him another school during the summer. But we are seeing this idea of over enrollment. And then there are some things that have come into play with the May 1 guideline for deposits used to be much more enforced by some of the agencies that regulate these things, whether it’s the National Association for college admissions counselors, or the colleges themselves voluntarily doing it, those guidelines and that adherence to May 1 as kind of dissipated.


Amy Seeley  24:37

Well, it’s interesting because NASDAQ changed all those rules right before COVID. And then COVID hits and you get again this contribution Lisa to the wild, wild west because the rules had become relaxed. At a time when as it turns out, there was going to be this huge question market admissions and so because schools can now still solicit students After that deadline, it makes for a real interesting dynamic that the rules change. Right about the time we’re actually institutions kind of needed those real changes, unknowingly.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:10

Absolutely. Well, the housing issue, I always say, it’s not intentional, but it has become so hard for them to predict yet it reminds me of when I’ve been working and as an independent educational consultant for 24 years. And back in the day, we were still doing pencil to paper on those applications. So when common app came along, and Oh, my word, you could do one application and send it to all these schools, we saw that trend of more schools, and it became more difficult for the colleges to predict yield. And that’s exactly what it was back then. About 20 years ago. And that’s when demonstrated interest really became important, which you referenced earlier, Christiana, which are all the ways to do it, we have a previous episode that we just had in January, that I’m going to link to because it is a very practical guide, I think, for families on how to demonstrate interest and how demonstrated interest also helps a student so I’m gonna go ahead and link to that as well. Ladies, as we’re wrapping up here, do you each have a piece of advice that you would like to leave our listeners with?


Cristiana Quinn  26:19

I think that as families approach application season, they have to do it with stress in mind. And with the idea of minimizing stress for their child in some of the ways that we’ve talked about today, not having too large a college list, not having a crazy number of applications, taking it one step at a time starting early in the summer working on your application, so that you’re ready by October 15. Amy?


Amy Seeley  26:51

Well, I would as far as from a testing perspective, certainly, despite the fact that the world may seem very test optional. Students really do need to consider what role testing or their scores will play in the admissions process. So it means you shouldn’t shy away or stay away from testing, you should engage with it. But maybe you want to engage with it earlier, to determine whether test prep may help you, but also to increase your college list. I think that it’s fair to say make sure you’re looking at schools that you’re not banking on tests optional. But maybe you are considering, you know, a limited amount of schools where you feel like you could send your application without a test score, but don’t rely on it because a lot of the numbers aren’t supportive of the fact that your student is going to have a great chance if they don’t submit test scores.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:33

Absolutely. Well, this really served as a fantastic guide for our families. Thank you for I hate to call it the anniversary but for joining me for the anniversary of COVID not necessarily come to celebrate not celebratory, right. Right. Take care, ladies.


Cristiana Quinn  27:50



Amy Seeley  27:51

Thanks, Lisa.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:55

What a great conversation among experts who have your teens wellbeing and positive outcomes for front as I consider your college bound homework for this week. The first thing that comes to mind is to further educate yourself on some of the topics we hit on, but didn’t do a deep dive into. This includes episode number 37 on test optional admission data, episode number 42 ungrate inflation number 52 on demonstrated interest and how to demonstrate that interest and number 60 on the upcoming change to the FA T when it goes digital. Those four coupled with this episode well, they’re really a college admissions COVID changes podcast playlist. That’s a mouthful. A link to each of those episodes in the show notes. I encourage you to not only listen but include these topics in your weekly college bound conversations that your family should be having each weekend. At least I encourage you to if today’s episode was helpful to you, please share it with a friend who needs this to sharing following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast where I help your family move from overwhelmed, confused, to motivated, clear and confident about your teens future.