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“The sophistication of the student population is the biggest change in admissions trends I’ve seen,” MSU Admissions Director Jim Cotter tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. “Through social media and their maturity, they’ve put a lot more thought into the college admissions process in the last 10, 15 or 20 years than we did.

“When they go to the marketplace, they’re very wise and thoughtful in making their decisions.”

Hollis and Cotter are both MSU alumni, and they reflect on how they saw their alma mater differently when they became Spartan parents. And Cotter advises students and parents to start thinking about and preparing for the college admissions process in middle school.

“A seventh or eighth grader should begin to acknowledge that college is part of their future,” says Cotter. “They should define what they’re good at and passionate about and nurture those things.

“We encourage students to stretch and challenge themselves and to be strong academic performers, but we also encourage them to reach out to others around them – just like MSU does all the time.”

Cotter says MSU continues to be a model for diversity across the Big Ten.

“We live in a state that a few years ago produced 123,000 to 125,000 high school graduates,” Cotter says. “By the time we get to 2025 we’re going to be around 83,000 graduates.”

That’s one of the reasons MSU has expanded its recruiting beyond the state’s borders – and the country’s borders.

“We’re always looking to improve the quality of the cohort, while remaining true to our land-grant mission of opportunity for students,” says Cotter. “One of the things I always strive to do is make students aware of the vastness of opportunities available to them at Michigan State University.”

Cotter says the college admissions process isn’t just about what MSU is going to do for a student.

“It’s important for us to look at students and wonder how they’ll make MSU better.”

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