Class of 2023: This Year’s College Application Highlights

We are excited to share the results of this rigorous but rewarding college application season! Our seniors had an incredible year.

In this newsletter, you’ll see:

  • Highlights of graduating seniors who have been awarded some of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation
  • Colleges our scholars are attending next year
  • An analysis of this year’s college application trends including changes in student choices, changes in college testing policies, and our theory regarding the path forward
  • Alumni spotlights that are sure to make you smile

Thank you to the families, college counselors, teachers, support staff, and students who make these results possible!

As a network, DPPS students received over 2,400 college acceptances.

In addition, a growing number of students are pursuing other post-secondary pathways, such as military enlistment, cosmetology school, and direct entry into the workforce.

We particularly want to spotlight these members of the Class of 2023 for their extraordinary achievements:

Colleges where DPPS students submitted the highest number of applications, ranked by category:

The City University of New York

#1 Lehman College

#2 City College

#3 Hunter College

#4 Borough of Manhattan Community College

#5 Baruch College

The State University of New York

#1 SUNY Albany

#2 SUNY Oswego

#3 Stony Brook University

#4 SUNY University at Buffalo

#5 Binghamton University

Historically Black Colleges & Universities

#1 Morgan State University

#2 Clark Atlanta University

#3 North Carolina A&T State University

#4 Howard University

#5 Hampton University

Other Public Universities & Colleges

#1 Temple University

#2 University of Nevada, Las Vegas

#3 College of Southern Nevada

#4 Nevada State College

#5 Penn State University (University Park) and University of Arizona

Selective Private Universities & Colleges

#1 New York University

#2 Fordham University

#3 Syracuse University

#4 Boston University

#5 Northeastern University

Other Private Universities & Colleges

#1 Mercy College

#2 Manhattan College

#3 Pace University

#4 Iona University

#5 St. John’s University

Students were admitted to a wide range of colleges, including:

  • American University
  • Bard College
  • Barnard College
  • Bates College
  • Boston University
  • Boston College
  • Brandeis University
  • Claflin University
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Colgate University
  • College of Southern Nevada
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Cornell University
  • CUNY Baruch College
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • CUNY City College
  • CUNY Hunter College
  • CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • CUNY Lehman College
  • CUNY Queens College
  • Dartmouth College
  • Delaware State University
  • Dickinson College
  • Emory University
  • Fisk University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Fordham University
  • Georgetown University
  • Hampton University
  • Haverford College
  • Howard University
  • Lehigh University
  • Middlebury College
  • Morehouse College
  • Morgan State University
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Muhlenberg College
  • New York University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Occidental College
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Smith College
  • Spelman College
  • SUNY Albany
  • SUNY Binghamton
  • SUNY University at Buffalo
  • SUNY Geneseo
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • Syracuse University
  • Temple University
  • Tufts University
  • Tuskegee University
  • Union College
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Southern California
  • Vassar College
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Xavier University of Louisiana

Student application patterns are more heavily influenced by school academics, social fit, and career fit at the expense of affordability.

Continuing a trend we saw last year, fewer students felt comfortable applying Early Decision, often due to the perception that making an early, binding commitment to one college limits one’s options. Instead, DPPS students applied in higher volumes to a more diverse range of colleges, including HBCUs, out-of-state public universities, and private colleges with small endowments. However, such colleges, historically, are less likely to meet the financial needs of low and middle-income students. As a result, counselors are reporting higher numbers of students who have significant gaps in their financial aid awards and need to take out additional student loans to cover the difference.

Application volumes increased, making college admissions more competitive, especially at highly selective schools.

According to the Common Application, the portal most students use to apply to college, application volume increased by 30% from 2019–2020 to 2022–2023. NYU, for example, received 120,000 applications, a 13% increase from the previous year. This year, DPPS seniors applied to an average of 14.2 colleges, an increase from the previous year’s average of 13 colleges per student.

Students completed applications later than in previous years.

In line with the drop in the number of students who apply Early Decision and students taking more time to identify good college fit, we also saw an increased number of students submit applications later in the school year. This trend comes even as we strongly encourage students to complete applications by the Regular Decision deadlines in early January. In the 22–23 school year, a significant number of students chose to apply to both schools with rolling admissions and those that offer deadlines after January 1. This trend shifted the completion of college and financial aid applications from January into February and March. Therefore, in May, many students are still waiting to receive admissions and financial aid decisions from colleges that they’ve applied to, and we are supporting these students to make final enrollment decisions by June.

The significance of the SAT and ACT continues to wane as colleges extend test-optional policies.

Earlier this year, SUNY permanently suspended SAT/ ACT testing requirements for students applying to bachelor’s degree programs, allowing students to decide whether or not to include scores for admission consideration. Columbia University did the same, becoming the first Ivy League school to do so.

While diverse perspectives on the importance of the test abound, one thing seems clear: the SAT and ACT are increasingly less relevant in determining admissions outcomes than in previous years.

This has influenced the overall test-taking patterns of our students. Students are less concerned about preparing for and taking these exams, and fewer than five students per class actually submitted test scores.

This leads us to wonder: should we amend our college-going culture to deemphasize the importance of these tests?

Perhaps, but the landscape is still undetermined. Test prep and the test itself still have value for many admission offices. A good number of schools have only suspended test score requirements temporarily and may return to the requirement in a year or more. With this uncertainty, we do not want to put our students at a disadvantage by ignoring the tests altogether. This includes continuing test preparation, which provides our students with more options when they apply to college and gives them additional ways to demonstrate their strengths to schools.

Teacher voice is an increasingly important part of the Holistic Review application process.

However, as more admission offices de-emphasize these tests—at least in the interim—we have the opportunity to also strengthen the other pieces that our students can present in a holistic review process. This includes grades, program of study, academic achievements, non-academic achievements, extracurriculars, portfolios of work and more importantly than ever, what others say about the applicant.

So, in this holistic and less test-focused future, what is one thing admission officers are paying more attention to? Teacher recommendations. Admission officers resoundingly share with us how much more closely they read these letters to understand our students in the test-optional era. To all of the teachers and counselors who spend hours writing on behalf of students: your voice matters!

In 2022–2023, we saw ongoing evolution in the college access space, which has caused us to take notice and take stock of our philosophy and execution. Two themes are prominent:

  • Structured and supported career and interest exploration needs to start much earlier to provide students with the time necessary to develop meaningful post-secondary plans.
  • Our college & career readiness curriculum needs to be as relevant as possible to keep students engaged.

What does this mean in practice? We will continue to refine the ways we train and coach school leaders and counselors. Our team is also focused on building the DP Empowered course, with a curriculum that will support students to explore and cultivate their interests starting in 9th grade. In collaboration with our high school partners, we aim to integrate DP Empowered into Democracy Prep’s core programming to better prepare our students for life after high school.

Outreach Survey

Our Alumni Captains conduct Outreach several times through the academic year. Outreach surveys are timely, targeted interventions where questions spanning our Four Focus Areas: (Financial Literacy, Social-Emotional Well-Being, Academic Excellence and Leadership & Self-Advocacy) are asked.

What Are Our Alumni Doing Now?

Alumni Captains Program

The Alumni Captains Program is a leadership development, service-oriented program in support of Democracy Prep’s mission to ensure that all students go on to pursue their post-secondary plan and change the world. A Captain is a Democracy Prep alum who supports a cohort of 10-15 near-peer Democracy Prep alumni from the same high school. With support from the Assistant Director of Alumni Support and other experienced Alumni Captains, they conduct outreach several times during the academic year in order to offer support and motivation so that all alumni can achieve their college and civic goals. They also share information related to college, career, and civic opportunities, stay in touch with each other and their cohorts, and with the College Access & Success Team (CAST).

Here are the profiles of two Senior Alumni Captains. These Senior Captains support a cohort of 1st year Captains, providing guidance and mentorship to the 1st years as they support their own cohort.

High School: Democracy Prep Charter High ‘19

Major: Economics

Minor: Psychology

College Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Economics

What’s Next: Pursuing employment in commercial real estate (Loan Service Processing Division). Jeffrey is still interviewing but is going to also travel and take time to himself before entering the workforce.

Why did you become and continue to be an Alumni Captain? As a 1st year captain, I wanted to keep in contact with the people I knew. I would set 15 minute intervals to talk with my cohort individually but the talks ended up lasting for hours. As a 2nd year captain, I welcomed a new cohort, and I was curious to know how they navigated COVID during their senior year and how I could best be a resource to them as a sophomore in college. Being a Captain came with transferable skills as well. At one point, I was interested in Human Resources, and as an HR intern, I used my cold-calling techniques to engage with potential clients. The mission of the Captains Program struck me. As a first generation Dominican, there are a lot of people who look like me who do not make it through college. Mentorship is of high importance, and I try to be a resource as best I can.

Highlight moment as a Captain: I had a full circle moment with a 1st year Captain. We had a conversation about whether a college degree is valuable or necessary. Democracy Prep taught me that mindset, but I had to navigate college myself to find that value and importance in a degree. I voiced to the 1st year my reasoning why the degree is important. It is not only about the degree but about who you meet and the preparation that you put in day in and day out. Ultimately, the first year Captain will have to find their own reason, but the conversation was spirited.

What have you learned about yourself: I have learned that I like to be a mentor and a resource. As a first generation student, I had to navigate the early stages of my schooling by myself. As I grew older and entered college, people looked to me more and more for mentorship and teaching, which has helped me mature into adulthood. I am also learning that I am constantly growing emotionally and mentally.

High School: Democracy Prep Endurance High ‘19

Double Major: Marketing & Entrepreneurship

Minor: Arts Management

College Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration

What’s Next: Pursuing employment in marketing and advertising agencies

Why did you become and continue to be an Alumni Captain? I enjoy helping, and I am big on community. College is an opportunity that not everyone gets to apply to or to attend, and I want to make sure I am helping a student’s journey.

Highlight moment as a Captain: My transition from Alumni Captain to Senior Captain. The trust from 1st Year Captains to send me their course schedules, talk through financial aid issues, interview prep, and ask general questions was a highlight. I always use my personal experience to guide them and help. Being a Captain reaffirms that the hard work I do is meaningful and leads towards success.

What have you learned about yourself: As a new college graduate, I have learned a lot about myself. Sometimes Plan A doesn’t work out, and it is okay to look at your Plan B and C. My ideal image of myself changes everyday, and I am learning to be okay with that. I’ve also learned that high school is different from college, but that’s okay. The work is 10x harder, but you find a new version of yourself through the hard work. It is okay to ask for help, and I am learning to pivot, and grow towards what success will look like for me.

Microgrant Program

For many, financial aid opens the door to attending and affording college. But a lack of support around financial aid can contribute to a student leaving college before they graduate. Stressors include things like rising tuition costs, less institutional financial aid, larger tuition balances, and student account holds.

The Assistant Director of Alumni Support provides Democracy Prep alumni support with things like financial aid application renewals, financial aid award letter reviews, and advocacy with the Bursar and Financial Aid Office. We don’t want our alumni dropping out of college because of an issue with financial aid.

The Winston Perez-Ventura Microgrant Program serves as another anchor in supporting our Alumni to continue persisting semester to semester. Graduates of a Democracy Prep high school can apply for a microgrant. The Microgrant Program issues reimbursements of $350 or less for college-related costs including textbooks, transportation, and tuition. For the 2022 – 2023 school year, the Microgrant Program received 397 submissions from undergraduate and graduate students for a total of $120,000.

Through the reimbursement, our alumni are able to do things such as save, pay forward on tuition payment plans, and have pocket money for study abroad excursions. The Microgrant Program is making a difference. Our Alumni are looking more intently at their financial aid letters for accuracy and remain engaged by reaching out more frequently when there is an issue that requires additional support beyond what they are receiving at their college. The Microgrant Program has and will continue to remain a key resource for Democracy Prep alumni.

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