Applying to college now is not how you remember it… Here are 7 admissions trends to watch.

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This paid content was created in partnership with Charlotte Country Day School.

This probably isn’t how you got into college.

Chances are, when you applied for college you obsessed over your SAT score. Well, now – especially in North Carolina – the ACT has surged in popularity, thanks in part to their savvy marketing. Even more interestingly, many schools have set sail away from the sea of testing acronyms and charted a new course where test scores are optional and taking a year off is encouraged.

Testing is not the best predictor of success in college.

We talked with Katie Elsasser, Director of College Counseling at Charlotte Country Day School about changing college application trends. She says, “There are more and more schools who are ‘test optional’ because the data reveals that testing is not the best predictor of success in college. Rigor of courses and grades are better predictors.” Parents can go to for a list of test optional schools.

A challenging course schedule counts.

Many students pack their schedule with advanced placement courses. However, the new approach is for a balanced individual curriculum versus pressure to maintain a top-class rank.

Katie, who is also co-chair of the Communications Committee of Southern Association of College Admission Counselors, says, “The bottom line is that college admissions offices are looking for students who challenge themselves in high school by taking the most rigorous courses available to them.

We have found, however, that each AP or IB class, demands a large amount of study and preparation outside of the school day. So, a balance of coursework with other activities is critical for the well-being of a student.”

Impact matters more than a laundry list of activities.

Katie says, “Colleges like to see a level of involvement in activities versus a long list of activities. Admissions look for students who have made an impact in their high school, city, community, or beyond. They’re interested in what a student is interested in – what is their passion; they want students who have ‘grit,’ who take something they are passionate about and make an impact.”

If it’s good enough for the President’s daughter…

While popular in many countries for decades, taking a gap year is finally on the uptick in America (Malia Obama took a gap year last year to much media fanfare before starting Harvard.) It’s a trend that’s becoming more favorably viewed as less hiding from the reality of life in your PJs, and more taking time to live life, ignite passion and recalibrate one’s internal compass.

Katie says, “The interest in taking a gap year is increasing. Gap years can be very valuable to students because they acquire another year of maturity, sometimes gain more insight into what they want to study in college, and may impact their trajectory in terms of the schools they later consider.”

Applications have skyrocketed.

The common application has significantly altered the landscape of college admissions; students can use the one application to apply to more than 700 universities worldwide.

Katie says, “Being able to apply online with a common application makes it very easy for students to apply to more schools. But what has also happened is applications to schools have skyrocketed; UCLA had 110,000+ applications this year!” Yikes.

At Charlotte Country Day, students are “encouraged to apply to at least three and up to a maximum of 10 – although we have students who apply to as many as 20. It’s possible for a student to choose to apply to only one college through an early application – if qualified, that student may be admitted and only has to apply to one.”

Most NC students apply to out-of-state colleges.

Katie says, “We have more than 60% of our students choosing out-of-state colleges and this has been true for some years. Many students choose schools in the Southeast, but we have students who select schools all over the U.S. and even outside of the United States.  We are fortunate that our school is so supportive of my staff visiting colleges to get an in-depth view of different schools; we hope that our visiting schools helps diversify where our students consider applying.”

Note: This paid content was created in partnership with Charlotte Country Day School. Cover photo via Facebook.

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