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Challenges and opportunities abound this year for college applicants ...here are just a few of the trends that College Match Educational Consultants spotted:


1. College counseling goes private. For an increasing number of the nation's 1.7 million college-bound students, personal advice for college applications is a phone call away. Faced with counselor to student ratios of 315:1 (source: National Association for College Admission Counseling, 2007) at public high schools (241:1 at private schools), students and their families are turning to consultants in record numbers. Last year, 20% of private high school students and 5% of public high school students hired a private college advisor with the number expected to increase this year (Independent Education Consultants Association).


2. Dance--more than just your average activity. Among the usual performing arts that students take part in, dance is now one of the most sought after with college admission offices around the country. For the first time, a number of competitive schools are reporting dance statistics among accepted students. Pomona and Occidental Colleges now record the number of accepted students involved in dance among their freshman class profiles (t5 % and 8% of the freshman class, respectively). And at Harvard the Dance Program there just moved into a new 200-seat dance center. Echoing this trend, construction is underway on new dance studios at Vassar –one that seats 244 people and new facilities have been built at Tufts, University of New Mexico, Hamilton College, and Emory University this year.


3. High schools team with organizations like Rotary Club to extend service opportunities abroad. Among the nation high schools, a higher percentage of students are embarking on overseas service projects through Rotary's Interact program. With 246,000 members, 10,700 clubs in 109 countries, opportunities abound for Interact Club students to engage in service projects in developing countries. At Seattle's Garfield High for example, students regularly travel to Uganda and dispense computers to schools through Interact-sponsored program, "Computers for the World".


4. Urban colleges offer "chic" appeal to more applicants. In a 2007 poll of more than 3,000 students conducted by Princeton Review, New York University came out on top as the college that students most often dream of attending. In general, applications to schools in the country's major urban areas, NYC, LA and Chicago, have dramatically increased, For example, at one urban liberal arts college, Occidental, college applications have risen 170% over the last 8 years.


5. Schools with strong international studies programs increase in popularity. Like their urban counterparts, colleges with significant international programs have gained ground in admissions. Applications to international majors and schools such as Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service have increased over last year to 3,400 and represent Georgetown's most competitive applicants according to its Admission Office. Other strong international programs include, Macalester (where former UN Secretary Koffi Annan attended), Occidental College, which sponsors undergraduates at the UN, and Tufts University where undergraduates benefit from the research of the school's graduate programs at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. According to Institute of International Education, US students studying abroad also increased by 8% in 2006.


6. The medium is the message: a new professional look is taking hold for extra-curriculars. Students hoping to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive admission picture can improve their chances by "professionalizing" their extra-curriculars by using slide portfolios, CD's/CD-ROM's, to showcase their work to art departments and admission committees. By creating artist's statements, portfolios or publishing their manuscripts in advance of applying to colleges, students can stand out more from the rest of the crowd.


7. Bad news for good students: top students across the nation face less than 5% chance of admission to top Ivies.Among the very top tier of colleges including, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, chances for admission have become very unlikely for most candidates who don't have a "flag" or "tag" in the admission process. Flags and tags represent varying degrees of admission importance to colleges and include sought-after athletes, under-represented minorities and or legacies. If you happen to be in one of these special categories you may enjoy a far better chance of admission. At Harvard, for example legacies (that is, when your mother or father attended Harvard College) have been admitted a rate as high as 40% in 2003 (according to Daniel Golden in his book, "Price of Admission"). For the rest of us mere mortals with top grades, SAT's and extra-curruculars that leaves us with a less than 5 percent chance of admission—which viewed conversely, reads more like a 95% chance, against getting in.


8. More students attend undergraduate "feeder" colleges en-route to Ivy League graduate programs. Based on an assessment of colleges originally conducted in 2003 by the Wall Street Journal, it was then revealed that students who got into graduate schools such as Yale Medical School, Harvard Law School or Penn's Wharton Business School obtained their bachelors degrees at some very unlikely places. Apart from Ivy League colleges, this year's students gaining ground in elite graduate admission offices continue to include private liberal arts colleges Pomona and Claremont McKenna in California, Haverford and Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges in Maine, Washington and Lee in Virginia and Reed in Oregon. Similarly the state schools that "feed" into top graduate schools are also enjoying more applications; these include New College, in Florida (a public liberal arts college) along with three familiar research universities: Berkeley, Michigan, Virginia.


Dave Montesano is director of college planning at College Match Educational Consultants in Seattle and can be reached by email: david@collegematchus.com or by calling (206) 799-4986.


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