Could the college application process as we now know it (create an application, submit it to various colleges, await their “yes” or “no”) be a forgotten memory 5 or 10 years from now? Probably not. However, direct admissions have the potential to make a real change, and we are seeing a trend by colleges that indicates the potential for this to stick around.
What is direct admissions?
Put simply, a college informs a student that they are guaranteed acceptance if they apply. When the student receives this information, they haven’t submitted an application yet, and they already have a “yes, you’re in.” Students can then complete an application and confirm their academic credentials. They are getting a “yes” simply based on what information the college knows about them.
Students may receive a direction admission to a college they didn’t know existed, and the power of receiving an offer without fear of rejection is a strong marketing tool for colleges. The student is intrigued and flattered enough to really look into the college.
The very first direct admissions program was started in Idaho in 2015. The state notified all public high school seniors that they had a guaranteed spot at a state institution. Their academics would determine which institution; however, their guaranteed acceptance was the key message.
How are colleges finding students?
Several third-party players are making the connections between the college and the student.
- The Common App began piloting a direct admission program in 2021. Most recently, they partnered with 14 institutions who made 30,000 direct admit offers based on student-entered information.
- On Niche.com, students can make free accounts and provide answers to 30 questions about themselves. 15 colleges are currently partnered with Niche.com and are sending direct admit offers to participating students.
- Greenlight Match works directly with schools and colleges in specific cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, and Philadelphia. Students complete profiles and are notified of offers from their 80 partner institutions.
- Sage Scholars is an employer-offered benefit program that rewards credits towards tuition at private colleges based on the activities of the employee like purchasing dental or life insurance. Sage Scholars have their own direct admit program for participating students.
On all these platforms, students provide their academic information including where they go to high school, what their GPA and test scores are, what their intended major is, etc. The platform is connecting them to the colleges.
Are these direct admission programs successful?
We are reading many stories of students finding their dream college with scholarship money via the direct admission process.
Direct admissions programs are seeing the most success for lower-income and first-generation students. For this community, the completion of an application and the cost that goes along with submitting each one is a barrier. This process helps the student know there’s an automatic acceptance waiting for them.
In addition, direct admission programs might simplify the application process in the future as students are made aware of colleges where they can thrive and are only told “yes, we want you” instead of “no, we can’t take you.” This can reduce the many stresses that our students feel during the college application season.
If the application is a road block to college admission, will direct admissions be a solution? We have to wait and see, but these first efforts are producing interesting results.
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