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  • Debra M. Shively

US University Admission Conference Returns to In Person

Updated: May 8, 2023

During the July school holidays I travelled to the US to attend the International Association of College Admission Counsellors annual conference which was held on the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. It was the organisations first in-person conference since 2019. Eleven hundred professional members from 89 countries made up of US and international university admissions professionals (the ones who will be reading your applications!), high school counsellors, and independent education counsellors came together for the event. While the conference is a global conference, the leading destination for inbound students continues to be the US.

The conference was opened by a mariachi band and flamenco dancers true to the New Mexico culture. Poet Hakim Bellamy, UNM alum, penned an outstanding poem about The Things Your College Admissions Counsellors Want You To Know highlighting the tireless efforts of high school counsellors in supporting students to succeed.

The three-day conference included over 55 session presentations with topics ranging from campus diversity and inclusion, student wellness, university affordability, ethics in admissions, and the test-optional landscape. It was reassuring that several US university representatives confirmed applicants will not be disadvantaged for not submitting a test score in a test-optional landscape. This was most reassuring given the SAT’s redesign to a digital format which will begin internationally from March 2023 and limited testing opportunities in Australia to sit the ACT. The ongoing test-optional landscape continues the trend and further highlights the increasing importance of beginning application thinking and planning in the middle years of high school so that extra curricular and other holistic application components are pursued and prepared for the more expansive academic AND experience-based written applications that will be required. This incidentally is exactly why Internationally Educated exists – to assist students and families through this process.

The session on cultural inclusion and diversity reinforced that US universities are very conscious of building a culturally inclusive and diverse student body. This was a strong factor in US university admissions when I recruited students for a university, and I am inspired to see its continued emphasis. This also reinforces US universities’ interest in accepting international students to join their campuses. Many US universities have allocated scholarships available to international students with an objective to diversify their student body.

It was also reassuring to learn how US universities are supporting student wellness and the recognition of increased support for mental health. This is an issue which globally has been on the rise and the need for support has become more evident following the pandemic.

My personal highlight of attending the conference, which I first attended nearly 20 years ago, is seeing old colleagues and meeting new ones. The opportunity to meet with admission representatives directly during the college fair and networking breaks allowed me to learn of new academic programs, scholarship opportunities and guidelines of student acceptances. This college fair is always a highlight as I seek new opportunities for students I am working with.

The University of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque is large state institutions with many renowned academic programs. They are one of the more accessible institutions (admission-wise) but have a large number of prestigious programs including their engineering program, fine arts program, business program and an anthropologist program including many archaeological sites. The city of Albuquerque is home the nation’s largest hot air balloon festival and only a 3 hour drive to Roswell and of course the setting of the blockbusting Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul!

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