Comments from the NACAC Conference

This September I attended the annual conference of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) in New Orleans.  This conference is held in a different US city each year, and several thousand high school counselors and college admissions directors and representatives meet and debate current issues on the college admissions front.  One of the most interesting sessions I attended was entitled:  “Achieving Excellence: How High Schools Without an AP or IB (International Baccalaureate) Curriculum Succeed in College Admissions.”    

It was heartening to hear the director of admissions at an Ivy League college state that the curriculum at a high school without an IB or AP program can be as challenging, if not more challenging than a high school that does offer the AP or IB program. He and the other admissions directors went on to state that the lack of AP or IB does not in the least hurt an applicant in the admissions process at their universities.  What is far more important, they said, is a demonstration of intellectual curiosity and evidence of what a student has done with his/her education, as well as examples of how a student has enlivened the classroom and school community with what he/she has learned.   In fact, the Ivy League director of admissions went on to say that schools who have given up their IB and/or AP programs have benefited from this decision, in his opinion. He also reassured the audience that colleges do not pay attention to high school ratings and rankings that periodically appear in certain publications or newspapers.  

Another session that I attended gave an update of the Common Application, which is now used by 456 private and public universities.  It is astounding to me to see the growth of this application over the last ten years.  Last year, for example, about 575,000 applications were filed through the Common Application, an increase of 18% over the preceding year, with an average of 4 applications submitted per student.   Schools such as the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Stanford University, and St. Andrews University of Scotland have all become Common Application members in the last few years.   The purpose of this application is to streamline the process for seniors, so that students do not have to fill out a separate application for each school they apply to.   The Universal application (whose founders actually started the Common Application) is also accepted by many colleges.  The Universal Application, however, is not nearly as widely used as the Common Application as it does not have as many member institutions. In addition to the formal sessions, smaller receptions and events are held where one can attend a presentation or interact in a smaller setting with admissions directors and representatives.  One very noteworthy aspect of the NACAC conference is the highly professional and respectful manner in which high school college counselors and college and university admissions counselors work with each other and learn from each other.  Exchanging information and ideas with one’s peers is as educational as the information one gains from the formal sessions.  Attending this year’s conference was a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as a professional and share what I have learned with my students and colleagues.

- Lauren Rudsten, College Counselor

From the editor: A few years ago SFWS began to offer AP Calculus AB as a senior year elective. While AP textbooks are occasionally used for other classes, we do not follow the AP curriculum exactly because it severely restricts the teacher in the presentation and approach of the course material.  We do offer seniors two very challenging science electives, Honors Modern Physics and Honors Biology.  AP tests are made available to students who express an interest in taking one or more of them.