While minor adjustments and refinements to various application platforms, standardized tests, and college admissions requirements take place year after year, there is no doubt that 2016 is a year of seismic change in the world of college admissions.

1. Students took the new SAT.

The redesigned SAT, which goes back to the familiar 1600-point format, made its long-awaited debut in March. While the test now more similar to the ACT, there are still some key differences – check out my three-part series on the new SAT for more details. Scores from the very first administration of the new test were recently released, but many are struggling to interpret them due to changes in the College Board’s scoring scale. For those who have taken / plan to take the new SAT: a score of 1300 on the new SAT is not equal to a 1300 on the corresponding sections of the old test. It is important to keep in mind that most colleges have not yet updated their materials based on the new SAT scores, making it even harder for students to know where they stand.

2. The test-optional trend gathers steam.

Great news for students and parents who are fretting over standardized test scores. In the first half of 2016, three prominent colleges announced the introduction of test-optional admissions: Skidmore College, University of Delaware, Willamette University and Whittier College. These institutions join an ever-expanding list of selective colleges and universities that are choosing to de-emphasize test scores in their admissions processes. It appears that a strong test-optional movement is gaining momentum, and I have no doubt that more colleges will follow suit in the coming months.

3. SAT Subject Tests are no longer a hard requirement at top colleges.

In the past, the SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT IIs, were a standard part of the application process at the country’s most competitive institutions. However, currently, less than a dozen US colleges require applicants to submit results from SAT Subject Test. And this number continues to shrink, as in the last year alone, Amherst, Barnard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Haverford, Vassar and Williams stopped asking students for these exam results. While the tests may no longer be required for admission, most colleges will still consider these scores when students share them, and many still recommend that applicants take them. Indeed, the Subject Tests are still a great way to showcase a student’s areas of academic strength.

4. The Coalition Application is introduced – and there are several changes to the UC Application and Common App.

  • The Common Application welcomed 48 new institutions to its ranks this year, including several popular state schools like Indiana University, Ohio University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which previously required their own applications.
  • Meanwhile, the University of California completely overhauled the essay component on its application, making the biggest change to their application in nearly a decade. Instead of writing two longer personal statements, applicants will now submit four shorter (350 word) Personal Insight Questions, selected from eight prompts.
  • But by far the biggest change to the application landscape is the introduction of the Common App’s competitor the Coalition Application. The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success is a major challenge to the Common App’s dominance, enabling colleges to customize their applications to a greater degree and students to take a more long-term approach to building their college applications. However, of the 95 schools that have joined the Coalition, only 53 will use it for the 2016/2017 application cycle, with many colleges opting to delay until next year.

Confused by these changes? Want to know how they might impact your college application? Get in touch to set up a free initial consultation with me.