If there is one constant in the college admissions process, it's change. Today's landscape bears little resemblance to the procedures of even five years ago.

If you’re going through the application process, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of college admissions trends so you can leverage new technology and developments to help you through the admissions process. Here are five of the biggest trends this application season.

1. Admissions Officers Are Scoping Out Social Media

Yariv Alpher, executive director of market research at Kaplan Test Prep, reports that a 2017 Kaplan survey of more than 350 college admissions officers found that among the officers who checked applicants’ social media sites, a good quarter of them reported doing so often, a frequency that had doubled over the course of only one year. Just last year, Harvard rescinded admissions for 10 incoming students after they exchanged offensive messages in a Facebook group page. As a student, it’s always a good idea to be careful about what you post online, but be especially careful around application time. Go back and scrub any questionable pictures or posts. And since admissions officers are looking at your social media profiles, why not use them to boost your application? Post videos of impressive projects or document volunteer work you do via social media. Your social media profiles aren’t something to hide — use them to highlight the best parts of you, especially in terms of what an admissions officer might want to see, and you can turn your social media presence into something valuable for your application.

2. Technology Is Everywhere

Technology is obviously changing everything in our lives, and the college admissions process is no exception. Erin Goodnow, founder and CEO of Going Ivy, a college admissions consulting group, points to the increasing number of mobile apps rolling out that help with the application process. Scholly, a scholarship search tool with a small monthly fee, is quite popular, says Goodnow, as are SAT® and ACT® test prep apps from companies like Khan Academy and Varsity Tutors. ZeeMee is another app that lets students include a video and pictures with their college applications. More than 200 universities accept ZeeMee applications. Goodnow does warn, “They can take up a lot of your time, so my advice would be to focus on your particular needs at various stages of the admissions process.” Leverage technology that helps you in your process without getting bogged down trying out every app or advancement available. They’re tools to help you, not hinder you.

3. Test-Optional Schools Are on the Rise

Test-optional colleges are increasing. Seven hundred colleges, including heavyweight ones such as Bowdoin, Smith and George Washington University, are now test-optional. At these colleges, you can submit SAT® or ACT® scores if you want to, but standardized test scores aren’t a mandatory part of the application. Instead, the schools view the admissions process holistically, taking into account grades, high school classes, activities and essays. Use this trend to your advantage if your standardized test scores do not accurately reflect your best qualities or academic abilities.

4. You Can Negotiate Aid

According to Nick Ducoff, former vice president at Northeastern University and founder of Edmit, a company that helps students maximize their financial aid awards, students are increasingly negotiating their financial aid packages with success, especially in the past three years. If you’re not satisfied with your financial aid package, let this information give you the confidence to negotiate. While a change in your financial situation since filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is solid grounds for appeal, your financial situation doesn’t have to have changed to negotiate. Ducoff recommends leveraging other financial aid offers you’ve received. “Say you received $X from your other top college choice, but you’d attend college Y if they gave you $Z,” explains Ducoff. You’re definitely not going to get more aid if you don’t ask, so why not give negotiating a try? The worst they can say is no, and they won’t rescind their initial offer.

5. Applications From International Students Are Declining

A survey of nearly 500 campuses across the country by the Institute of International Education found that the number of new international students declined an average of 7 percent in fall 2017, with 45 percent of campuses reporting drops in new international enrollment. While this may mean that some schools could become less selective due to a smaller pool of applicants, the dip in international enrollment actually has some adverse effects on domestic students. Since international students usually pay more tuition than domestic students at public universities, losing their tuition dollars may mean that the pool of financial aid available to domestic students also shrinks at those universities. While there’s not much that you as a student can do to shift international application trends, you can be proactive about the potentially smaller pool of resources for aid and apply for private scholarships early.

The rapid velocity of changes in the college admissions process might seem dizzying, but if you understand the latest trends, you can leverage them to your advantage.

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