Colleges adopting ‘holistic approach’ in admissions, counselors say

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Illustration by Nora Khaled

COLLEGE-APP BLUES: Illustrator Nora Khaled used blank paper alcohol based markers and fine-tipped pens to capture the anxiety seniors are facing while applying for colleges during a pandemic. “Most schools are saying that they’re taking a more holistic approach,” said Ms. Dorsch, the new college and career counselor here at DM, “mostly because there are kids who were unable to test in spring or even the fall.

Jordan Wright, Editor-in-chief

Are you confused about college? Are you planning on applying to college? There are so many options. In state, out of state, out of country even.

Have you even had the chance? 

These are all questions at the forefront of the minds of the students at DM in the class of 2021. In the current state of the world of education, there are so many questions to ask. Some questions, students are quickly learning, don’t have answers. 

But experts say that even in these strange times, college-bound students can find answers. 

“Most schools are saying that they’re taking a more holistic approach,” said Ms. Dorsch, the new college and career counselor here at DM, “mostly because there are kids who were unable to test in spring or even the fall.”

Many schools are not requiring the submission of SAT or ACT scores in the application; the application process will rely more heavily on the essay portion and letters of recommendation.

This more holistic approach can benefit many students, Ms. Dorsch said. 

“Kids that didn’t do great on the test still get into selective colleges,” she said. “Some things can’t shine through in the test.” 

Colleges are removing the standardized test element from applications because many students do not have the opportunity to take it. However, past students have been able to “get into selective colleges” even without high test scores.

What does that mean for the class of ‘21? In short, focus on your essay and your letters of recommendation, said former DM graduates.

“Writing a good essay is so important just for getting scholarships, but especially now that they don’t require test scores it will probably have more weight,” said Abby McDonald, a 2020 graduate and current freshmen at Simmons University in Boston. 

Still, some tests are helpful–and future college applicants should prepare for their inevitable return. 

“Not many [colleges] are saying it yet, but they will revert back to requiring the tests” notes Ms. Dorsch. Underclassmen should prepare for changes in how these tests will impact college applications. 

“This application season has been so different from anything anybody has experienced. It’s unprecedented, we’re all trying to navigate this. Its hard but just remember that its not all for nothing” said Semera Kimbel-Sannit, a senior in IB and the president of IBSA.