The financial fallout from the pandemic lockdown, along with declining birth rates, could benefit top students by giving them a streamlined application process and college scholarships. Called “direct admissions,” the process allows admissions officers to review the electronic profiles of high school students and contact those deemed to be an ideal match with the particular college and/or scholarship. It can also be a great opportunity to alert students to smaller and/or lesser-known schools that they may never have heard of, but which might be a good match and fit.
Currently 162 colleges and universities are accepting students through direct admissions. Online platforms such as Concourse and Sage Scholars help facilitate the process, and the Common Application is also sharing student profiles with a number of colleges. These include prestigious large colleges like George Mason University, with more than 35,000 students, as well as lesser-known colleges like the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,385.
This is helpful to liberal arts colleges that are having a hard time attracting students. The offers of financial aid are also beneficial because too often families just look at the “sticker price” (which few pay).
If a college reaches out to a student with a direct admission offer, she or he should be flattered, and research the college and available financial aid. The more colleges a student is exposed to, the better, and the more likely it is students will find a good fit. After all, there are more than 4,000 colleges in the U.S., so students should consider a whole group of schools, not just a few.
While elite and Ivy League universities aren’t likely to adapt direct admissions, it has taken off in some parts of the country – even among lesser known but highly regarded schools. For example, 17th ranked* Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN plans to shift all applications to direct admissions, using the Common App and a Minnesota state program.
Robert Heineman, a retired political science professor at Alfred University in New York, was quoted in a Washington Times article as noting that the process is cheaper than traditional applications, which benefits schools struggling to financially recover from COVID lockdowns. Indeed, many smaller colleges are on the brink of closing due to lower enrollments. Students and families need to do their homework to ensure that the colleges they apply to are solvent.
Direct admissions also benefits colleges because declining birth rates have also decreased the pools of qualified students. According to the Pew Trust, ** fertility rates were down 15% in 2020 from the decade ending in 2010,
The only caveat with direct admissions is that colleges contact the student – students can’t request to be admitted through that process. However, if a student feels a college is a good addition to their college list, I’d encourage them to apply.
*U.S. News & World Report again named Augsburg one of the Best Regional Universities in the Midwest in 2022. This year, Augsburg is No. 17 on the list. Augsburg is also ranked fourth for best undergraduate teaching, eighth for social mobility, and ninth among most innovative schools.
**Ten states experienced reductions exceeding 20%. Mostly Western states led the way in incurring the most dramatic long-term fertility rate declines, despite often experiencing strong population gains overall, due largely to migration.