A Crazy Admissions Season in Review

Posted by Neal Schwartz on May 16, 2021

A Crazy Admissions Season - students in class cropped

As more data on college admissions this year becomes available, we’ve identified some emerging trends. We’ve been following the impacts that the pandemic has been having on student admissions, and have also explored the consequences of many colleges and universities going test-optional this year. So what are the lessons we’ve learned from this very peculiar admissions season?

First of all, test-optional policies enticed more students than ever to apply to selective colleges. While an Ivy League School may have been unattainable for a certain student due to test scores that were not within the school’s range, this year has changed all of that. So these selective schools received many more applications than usual, and therefore were forced to accept even less students than usual. This means that already low acceptance rates were being driven even lower.

Despite the test-optional policies, those students that decided to include good test scores were put at an advantage, especially for STEM and business programs. This shows that it’s a good idea to include test scores if they’re good, because they can only help you. Selective schools received many more of these scores than non-selective schools, perhaps because students wanted to give the admissions teams as much information as possible when evaluating their profiles.

Many of these schools are also choosing to renew their test-optional admissions policies, either temporarily or permanently, so this may prompt the same pattern for next year’s admission season. Additionally, many more students opted for early decision or early action, to increase their chances of acceptance by showing their commitment and interest early on. In response to increased early and regular applications, the waitlists were lengthened to make sure the schools had a safety net of students, should yield rates drop. Overall, the pandemic has been rather favorable to these schools, who have more students on their waitlists and all of their seats filled.

However, less selective schools really felt the damage of the pandemic. With students boosted in confidence, no longer having to worry about test scores, they flooded toward the more selective schools. That left many “buyer” schools financially stressed. Some had to close altogether. Others, however, decided to increase the size of their freshman class and accept more students than in years’ past to try to financially bounce back.

With more students applying in general, there was also a greater diversity in the demographics. Schools saw increases of minority and first-generation applicants. It’s a promising trend after a lot of hesitancy, changing of plans, and even opting for gap years. This shows us that college admissions has changed, and in some ways has become much more competitive than before. But without test scores, college admissions is less of a numbers game and more of a “whole picture” game.

The future is difficult to predict, but our best advice for students is to show a lot of interest early on, to put a lot of time into their essays, and to be more thoughtful than ever on their applications.

In these trying times, having an extra hand on the college application process could help put students in the best position for admission at their top schools. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation today!

Best Regards,

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Neal Schwartz, Owner

College Planning of Westchester


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Topics: College Applications, college preparation, college admissions, college wait lists, SAT/ACT, college counseling, test optional, buyer schools, highly selective colleges, very selective colleges


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