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How will the US Supreme Court's decision on Affirmative Action impact local tutoring and college advising?

Uncategorized Jul 20, 2023

The Supreme Court has eliminated affirmative action in college admissions which means race can no longer be used as a criteria for admissions.     

But don't stress; if the past two years have taught us anything, it is that the demand for excellent tutors, coaches, and mentors will continue to increase although student demand for those services is likely to shift.  

When major changes impact the normal demand cycle, it is important to anticipate the impact and intentionally plan to adapt and change the business model.  The good news?  You should already have the infrastructure needed to respond to changes in demand.  More good news...you probably also have the staff to handle whatever modifications you may decide are appropriate for the business.  But I digress...

Here are some of the ways we see the court's decision affecting college admissions. 

  1. Academic Performance: Without the consideration of race and standardized test scores, academic performance, such as high school GPA and the rigor of coursework, may become the most crucial factor in admissions decisions. Colleges are likely to more closely review a student's academic achievements and transcripts as a measure of their ability to succeed in college. 

  2. Extracurricular Activities: In the absence of affirmative action and the movement to reduce the importance of standardized tests.  Colleges may place increased emphasis on extracurricular activities in relation to the college's mission statement.  Leadership positions, community service, and other non-academic accomplishments are important but they have more relevance when viewed in context.   These factors can also help demonstrate a student's engagement, passion, and potential for contributing to the campus community.

  3. Personal Essays and Letters of Recommendation: Personal essays and letters of recommendation grew in importance during the 2021-2022 admissions cycle and they are likely to again. Admissions officers may scrutinize these materials to assess an applicant's values, perspectives, and potential impact on the college community.  

  4. Socioeconomic Background and Diversity: With the elimination of affirmative action, colleges may consider socioeconomic background as a way to promote diversity and inclusion. Admissions officers may prioritize applicants from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds or those who have overcome significant challenges.  This is basically a way (for now) that colleges can target students from diverse backgrounds without asking about a student's race.  

  5. All of this leads to the concept of Holistic Review: The holistic review process takes into account all aspects of an applicant's profile and generates an index score.  The review is highly variable (colleges will determine the relative values of each component on the college admissions list.   

    In other words, Admissions officers would still evaluate applicants' profiles comprehensively, consider their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, personal essays, recommendation letters, etc. but how they value each component on the admissions scorecard will shift. 

Now that we know about holistic admissions, let's get down to academics.  The SAT/ACT will still be critical for admissions for all non test-blind schools.  Yes, "test optional" has reduced the number of test-takers but almost all test optional schools accept and use standardized tests if submitted.  Importantly, standardized tests are still used for merit based financial aid, state scholarships, and private scholarships (to the tune of billions of dollars). 

But let's play along and say that SAT/ACT will matter less. In that case, we project that class rigor will be measured by AP performance--arguably the last "objective" measure of academic ability.

Another observation about the "test optional" movement,...expect there to be a continued decrease in demand UNLESS you are a brand with an affluent client base.  Our informal polling has about 40 elite local providers seeing a return to pre-pandemic numbers.  A common theme among these markets is that they all host competitive public high schools or/and private high schools. 

Even so, tutoring and college advising services will need to adapt their product mix, consumer messaging, and probably tweak operations to align with the expected changes to client demand. 

Here are a few big picture recommendations:

  1. Emphasize Academic Support: With academic performance becoming a key factor, tutoring services should emphasize their ability to help students excel academically through academic subject tutoring. Offer a range of tutoring services, including subject-specific support, test preparation for subject-based exams, and assistance in improving GPA and class ranking.

  2. For College Admissions suggest the Holistic Approach: Highlight the importance of a holistic approach to admissions. Position your services as providing comprehensive support that goes beyond test scores. Emphasize the value of developing well-rounded profiles through community involvement, work, leadership experiences, and personal development.  That last one, has spawned a micro-industry of "passion project" specialists.  

  3. Essay and Personal Statement Assistance: Place a strong focus on helping students craft compelling personal essays and statements. Offer guidance on topic selection, essay structure, storytelling techniques, and editing support. Emphasize the significance of these essays in showcasing an applicant's unique qualities, perspectives, and experiences. If you have well respected program, consider scaling by adding more Essay specialists to the team.

  4. Specialized Advising: Offer specialized advising services tailored to specific student needs. For example, provide guidance for students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds, first-generation college students, or those seeking to highlight their diverse experiences. Position yourself as a resource for understanding the nuances of the new admissions landscape and helping students navigate it effectively. There is a great opportunity for niche advising at this point in the history of college admissions.   

  5. Demonstrated Impact: Showcase success stories and testimonials from students who have achieved admissions success despite the changing criteria. Highlight the impact of your services in helping students gain admission to their desired colleges based on their academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, and personal narratives.  

  6. Stay Up-to-Date: Continuously monitor and stay informed about the latest developments in college admissions policies and practices. Ensure that your advisors and tutors are well-versed in the evolving landscape so that they can provide accurate guidance and support to students.

Regardless of your priorities, take a moment to make a plan driven by deadlines and deliverables and use SMART Goals to set objectives. 

If we consider the revenue concentration in the months of September, October, and November, and take into account the aforementioned guidance, we recommend focusing on the following 3 products for the fall:

  1. SAT/ACT Test Preparation: Since these months coincide with the peak period for SAT and ACT testing, offering intensive test preparation courses or tutoring services for these exams would be a strategic choice even with diminished demand. This product can cater to students aiming to improve their scores or take advantage of the optional testing policies implemented by colleges.

  2. College Application Assistance: As students typically finalize and submit their college applications during this period, offering comprehensive college application assistance would be valuable. This service can include personalized guidance on selecting colleges, strategizing application approaches, refining personal essays and statements, and optimizing the overall application package.

  3. Early Academic Support: Students who seek to bolster their academic performance during the critical months leading up to college applications would benefit from early academic support. Offering subject-specific tutoring services or academic coaching to improve grades, address challenging coursework such as Honors or AP coursework, or enhance understanding in key subjects can be highly valuable during this period.

These three specific products align with the peak demands and needs of students and families during the September to November timeframe. By focusing on SAT/ACT test preparation, college application assistance, and early academic support, the client can capture a significant portion of the market's demand and generate substantial revenue during this crucial period.

 

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