College admissions are an ever growing, changing, evolving and increasingly competitive process. There are some tried and true principles you can operate from, but it’s always important to be aware of college admissions trends and how you can leverage those trends to your advantage as you work towards winning the college game.

Check out 5 trends we think you should know about below!

Colleges don’t want well rounded students, they want well rounded classes: As we’ve talked about before, a student doesn’t need to join every club, be a part of every activity or play every sport to have a great college application. They simply need to pick the things that they are passionate about, that matter to them, and that they can make an impact with. This is sometime referred to as the “Holistic Approach.”  Things like the The Coalition App are on the rise which point toward a holistic approach, encouraging students to “enclose writing samples, multimedia artifacts that represent their unique passions or talents, and are encouraged to connect with mentors of all varieties (guidance counselors, admissions officers, and community members) to seek out advice as early as freshman year.” 130 of the top colleges and universities now refer to this application and are taking on this approach.

TIP: Think about taking on a holistic approach as you prepare for college and your applications. When you take on this approach, you don’t have to worry about doing everything, but simply providing your own unique value and rounding out the incoming class.

Demonstrated Interest: What is this? US News refers to it as,In addition to reviewing transcripts, essays and test scores, some college admissions officers look at whether prospective students have shown enthusiasm and curiosity about a school during the application process.” How can you demonstrate interest? A school might look at things like, a campus visit, attending an information session, or engaging with them on social media. Your participation in these things can show the college or university that you are highly interested in their institution and could help your chances of acceptance.

TIP: If you’re really interested in a particular school, make sure to show interest. Plan your campus visit, ask questions, attend informational meetings, tweet your potential school or tag them on Instagram. Sincere interest shown could help to tip the scales in your favor.  

Flexibility in Standardized testing: The ACT and SAT are still extremely important indicators of a student’s ability to accel at a particular school, but we are seeing a rise in flexibility among schools during the application process. Sara Harberson of the Huffington Post said this on test flexibility: “Additionally, the test optional movement has been stronger than ever with the list of colleges not requiring standardized tests growing steadily over the past five years. Colleges are finding other ways to evaluate ability, match, and the depth of a student’s mind. This is a positive sign for students who believe they have something extraordinary to offer to colleges beyond their test scores.”

TIP: If your test scores aren’t what you’d like them to be or you find yourself struggling with standardized testing, look into schools with more flexible testing policies.

Start planning sooner: With the rise of college applications and the decline of acceptance rates, it’s more important than ever to begin thinking and planning early for college. Many college experts recommend starting the planning process in 9th grade. At CPI, we recommend beginning the conversation about a student’s future in middle school. This isn’t necessarily starting a full blown college plan, but dialoguing about  their passions and interests and how those things could affect their future.

TIP: If you’re the parent of a middle schooler, go ahead and start the conversation. It could lead to a different high school choice than you originally thought, that could better set them up for their college and ultimately career choice.

Social Media Matters: What a student tweets, likes, shares, and posts is very important to consider and think through for their future. A 2017 Kaplan survey of more than 350 college admissions officers found that among the officers who checked applicants’ social media sites, a good quarter of them reported doing so often (via, College Covered). This part of the college application process is very real and important. Staying positive and uplifting online is important. There are also certain topics to avoid that could come across negatively and hurt you. Exchanging offensive messages in a Facebook group actually cost 10 different applicants their admission into Harvard last year.

TIP: Share things on social media like your community service, a big win for your team, spending time with your family, or your involvement in school activities.

These trends are important to keep your eye on, so you can know what to expect when the time comes for you or your student’s college application. If you’d like more help on how you can perfect the application process and win the college game, check out our free video series here.