College Board Forum 2023

Counselor Conversations: What's Happening in College Admissions?

On the first day of College Board Forum 2023, the dynamic session, “Counselor Conversations: What’s Happening in College Admissions,” brought together high school counselors and college admissions leaders to talk through their insights and best practice recommendations in the evolving college admissions environment.

Our panel included Carolyn Blair, college counselor and director, Counseling Services, Clayton High School; Tracey Morman, director of counseling, College & Career Readiness, Amarillo Independent School District; Joseph Montgomery, associate vice provost, Enrollment Management, North Carolina A&T State University, and Shawn Felton, executive director, Undergraduate Admissions, and deputy chief, admissions and enrollment officer, Cornell University.

The conversation kicked off with moderator Lauri Benton, executive director, Counselor Community Engagement, College Board, asking the panelists to describe what is top of mind in the current admissions climate and how they see the student pipeline. 

Shawn Felton emphasized the importance of messaging college-going to students and putting intention behind it. He highlighted the critical questions students are asking themselves: "Is college-going something that's for me? Do colleges want someone like me or with my background?"

Joseph Montgomery raised the issue of the rising cost of college education. He noted his concern that increasing college costs create a barrier in pursuing higher education. The traditional structures for serving students need re-evaluation to ensure institutions can follow through on their mission. Collaboration with neighboring institutions is also key in serving students effectively.

Tracey Morman brought the K–12 perspective into the conversation. She underscored the role of K–12 educators in guiding students toward the right fit for their higher education journey.

The discussion shifted to the recent SCOTUS decision on college admissions, effectively eliminating the use of affirmative action. According to Carolyn Blair, students aren't always aware of this decision, making it crucial for counselors to help contextualize the students' backgrounds. Felton emphasized the need for collaboration between high school and university counselors to provide families with talking points regarding the SCOTUS decision.

The question of using AI in recommendation letters sparked an interesting debate. Is an AI-generated letter truly representative of the student? Does it lack the authenticity of a human-written one? The conversation also touched on how AI will impact the way admissions evaluate students.

The speakers concluded by sharing what's currently prominent in their respective domains. Carolyn Blair highlighted the growing awareness of mental health among students. Joseph Montgomery mentioned the impact of parent communications and eliminating the cost for parent orientation. Tracey Morman emphasized the importance of helping students find the right fit, which may include certificate programs or two-year colleges. Lastly, Shawn Felton highlighted the significance of taking a chance on students who are interested in higher education.

As college admissions policies continue to evolve, these insights from experienced counselors and admissions professionals provide valuable guidance for navigating the challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing field.