SAT change, SUNY fee waiver fuel growth

Haldane High School’s graduating class will be the largest since Julia Sniffen became principal in 2017.

But that does not account by itself for another five-year peak: a surge in college applications by the school’s 90 seniors.

Those students had, through Dec. 12, submitted nearly twice as many college applications, 962, as the 566 sent by last year’s seniors, Sniffen told the school board on Dec. 20. Two weeks later, she said that applications had more than doubled.

Although students usually apply to as many as 10 schools, some are sending applications to 20 or more, she said. Others are taking chances on Ivy League schools and the academically elite, small institutions that comprise the New England Small College Athletic Conference, said Sniffen, Amanda Cotchen, chair of the guidance department; and Kristen Amato, a guidance counselor for the high school.

In addition, students planning to learn a trade are not just concentrating on technical schools but also applying to colleges where they can earn a degree in their fields of interest. More students are also applying to international schools, primarily in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The growth partly reflects the retreat by nearly all schools from requiring SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions in response to the pandemic, which prevented students from taking the tests. It is also fueled by the State University of New York’s decision to temporarily waive application fees.

More options translate into more choices, said Haldane officials. (The number of applications at Beacon High School are “relatively similar” to last year, according to Corey Dwyer, the principal.)

“We have a ton more kids applying to a ton more schools,” said Sniffen. “There are kids who might have not thought about it that are like, ‘You know, what the heck. Why not?’”

Some of Haldane’s applications are part of a record-high submitted for fall 2023 to SUNY after it announced, in October, a two-week period during which prospective in-state and out-of-state students could apply to as many as five of its 64 campuses without paying the $50-per-application fee, thereby saving $250.

Applications more than doubled from last year, to 204,437 from 97,257, SUNY said in December. Haldane did its part by pushing students to take advantage of the waiver period before it ended on Nov. 6, said Sniffen.

“We had a lot of kids who, if they were [initially] only applying to one, they ended up doing five,” she said.

Although SUNY’s no-fee period ended, the system says ongoing waivers are available to students who meet certain criteria, including being in foster care, low-income or children of military veterans. Those eligible can apply for free, at any time, to as many as seven schools, according to SUNY.

Students are also trying more colleges because many schools have either instituted a “test blind” policy, meaning they no longer consider SAT scores in their admissions decisions, or have become “test optional,” meaning applicants can choose whether to send their scores.

Without the SATs, “it’s more like a holistic approach, where they’re looking at everything and weighing it all,” said Cotchen.

Haldane gives juniors a “jump-start” on the college application season by offering workshops on writing essays for the common application, said Sniffen.

On Thursday (Jan. 19), the school hosted a college-preparatory workshop for the parents of its high school juniors, who learned about the common-application process, building resumes and choosing the right courses for the senior year. A separate workshop will focus exclusively on financial aid, said Sniffen.

“It’s not the path for everybody,” Sniffen said of college. “But if it’s the path that students are choosing, and they want, we’re going to do everything we can to support them.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.