4 Predictions for Test Prep and Admissions in 2017

There goes another year. Seemingly no sooner than it started, 2016 has packed up and stormed off, leaving many dizzy in its wake. Now that 2017 is underway, it’s time to dust off the old Veritas Prep crystal ball and see what may be in store for 2017 in the worlds of test preparation and admissions. Odds are that we won’t be right on all of these — and we may even manage to get all four wrong — but let’s dig in and predict a few things that we expect to see in 2017:

One-year MBA programs will reach a tipping point in the United States.
For decades, one-year programs have been more popular in Europe than in the United States, although some prominent American programs, such as Kellogg, have moved to expand their one-year programs in recent years. With more and more articles appearing in the media about students and their families questioning the costs of higher education, accelerated programs will keep looking more and more appealing to applicants who don’t want to spend six figures on an MBA. The globalization of management graduate education will continue, and more American business schools will start to embrace what’s traditionally been a more Euro-flavored program type.

Video prompts will become much more common in business school applications.
Yes, we predicted this last year, and it didn’t quite come to fruition. But, schools are becoming more and more comfortable with video as a medium for learning about applicants, and — probably more importantly — applicants themselves mostly seem to be comfortable with video. In AIGAC’s 2016 MBA Applicant Survey, only 16% of applicants surveyed said that video responses were the most challenging part of the application. That’s far smaller than the percentage of applicants who said that standardized tests (61%) and written essays (46%) were the most challenging! Rotman, Yale, Kellogg, and McCombs have helped blaze a video trail that we expect others will soon follow.

An Asia-scale cheating scandal will hit the SAT or ACT in the United States.
News articles about standardized test cheating scandals like this one and this one seem to come out nearly every month. Much of the blame lies with the pressure that students — and especially their families — put on themselves to do well on these exams.

It’s also greed. For every student that will do anything to do well on an exam, there’s a person or company who’s happy to take their money and do whatever it takes to give that student a leg up. Sometimes that means legally and ethically training that student to perform to the best of their ability, but many other times it means falsifying documents or providing students with live test questions for large sums of money. This kind of greed exists everywhere in the world, and it’s only a matter of time until a similar large-scale scandal happens in the U.S.

Community colleges will gain a lot more recognition.
Did you know that more than half of students who enroll in college first do so at a community college? Most Americans don’t know that, even though community colleges have been the engine that educates millions of Americans each year. We’ll see the federal government putting more emphasis on jobs and job training in the coming year, and community colleges are perfectly positioned to serve that role. While it remains to be seen whether community colleges get all of the funding they need to keep serving their mission, we expect that, at a minimum, they’ll start to get more recognition for the job they do to train and retrain America’s workforce.

Happy New Year, everyone. We can’t wait to check back in 2018 and see how this year turned out!

By Scott Shrum

4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year

Can you believe another year has already gone by? It seems like just yesterday that we were taking down 2014’s holiday decorations and trying to remember to write “2015” when writing down the date. Well, 2015 is now in the books, which means it’s time for us to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for what 2016 will bring in the world of college and graduate school testing and admissions. We don’t always nail all of our predictions, and sometimes we’re way off, but that’s what makes this predictions business kind of fun, right?

Let’s see how we do this year… Here are four things that we expect to see unfold at some point in 2016:

The College Board will announce at least one significant change to the New SAT after it is introduced in March.
Yes, we know that an all-new SAT is coming. And we also know that College Board CEO David Coleman is determined to make his mark and launch a new test that is much more closely aligned with the Common Core standards that Coleman himself helped develop before stepping into the CEO role at the College Board. (The changes also happen to make the New SAT much more similar to the ACT, but we digress.) The College Board’s excitement to introduce a radically redesigned test, though, may very well lead to some changes that need some tweaking after the first several times the new test is administered. We don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but the new test’s use of “Founding Documents” as a source of reading passages is one spot where we won’t be shocked to see tweaks later in 2016.

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programs.
While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. In fact, 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 U.S. business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam. Right now, no publication includes GRE score data in its ranking criteria, which creates a small but meaningful implication: if you’re not a strong standardized test taker, then submitting a GRE score may mean that an admissions committee will be more willing to take a chance and admit you (assuming the rest of your application is strong), since it won’t have to report your test score and risk lowering its average GMAT score.

Of course, when a school admits hundreds of applicants, the impact of your one single score is very small, but no admissions director wants to have to explain to his or her boss why the school admitted someone with a 640 GMAT score while all other schools’ average scores keep going up. Knowing this incentive is in place, it’s only a matter of time before Businessweek, U.S. News, or someone else starts collecting GRE scores from business schools for their rankings data.

An expansion of student loan forgiveness is coming.
It’s an election year, and not many issues have a bigger financial impact on young voters than student loan debt. The average Class of 2015 college grad was left school owing more than $35,000 in student loans, meaning that these young grads may have to work until the age of 75 until they can reasonably expect to retire. Already this year the government announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, which lets borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. One possible way the program could expand is by loosening the standards of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Right now a borrower needs to make on-time monthly payments for 10 straight years to be eligible; don’t be surprised if someone proposes shortening it to five or eight years.

The number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.
Several prominent business schools such as Kellogg, Yale SOM, and U. of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (which pioneered the practice) have started using video “essays” in their application process. While the rollout hasn’t been perfectly smooth, and many applicants have told us that video responses make the process even more stressful, we think video is’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

If a super-elite MBA program such as Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School starts video responses, then you will probably see a full-blown stampede towards video. But, even without one of those names adopting it, we think the medium’s popularity will climb significantly in the coming year. It’s just such a time saver for admissions officers – one can glean a lot about someone with just a few minutes of video – that this trend will only accelerate in 2016.

Let’s check back in 12 months and see how we did. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2016!

By Scott Shrum