By Jason Vallozzi , Campus to Career Crossroads

“I am totally confused” is a phrase I commonly hear from parents contacting me for assistance with their son or daughter’s college education planning. What many parents encountered 20 to 25 years ago in their college admissions experience has gone through monumental changes. There are a myriad of admission requirements, ever-changing federal financial aid regulations, and a campus life now replete with vegan dining options and garden style apartments. Long gone are the days of a handful of forms in admissions, a few signatures in financial aid, and a trip to the book store to be ready for the first day of class.

So what are some of the changes to the modern college admissions landscape?

Application portals – If you are not familiar with the Common Application or the Coalition Application, you will quickly find out that your son or daughter needs an account to apply to many colleges throughout the country. Currently, the Common Application is the leader with over 800 colleges and growing. College applicants now have to develop a comprehensive profile in these portals, from family history to extra-curricular activities. There are still some universities that have their own application portals so a family must clearly understand the correct application channel.

Demonstrated interest – While application portals have made applying to multiple participating colleges easier than ever, colleges struggle to find out who is genuinely interested in attending. Many colleges now track an applicant’s interest from opening emails, scheduling official campus tours, and interacting with admissions representatives through high school visits to college fairs. Many admission professionals believe “demonstrated interest” is a way to predict which accepted applicants will enroll.

Net price calculators – In 2011, the Federal government required colleges that receive federal aid to have net price calculators on their website in order to create more cost transparency for families. Unfortunately, this noble idea has not worked to plan as all net price calculators are not created equally in the college world. Some are buried in college websites and not easily accessible. Also, some colleges have outdated tuition costs from prior years listed which provide inaccurate cost data. Families must now seek out the total cost of attendance and the breakdown of items such as tuition, fees, books, room and board to make informed financial decisions.

While there numerous other new changes to the admissions landscape that could easily expand this blog into a doctoral dissertation, the prerequisite for families to have proper planning is greater than ever. As an independent education consultant, I take a high level of pride in planning and educating the families that I counsel, so that they are empowered in all facets of the college admissions setting. Learn more here.