Will College admissions be more competitive than ever?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on February 04, 2021

Will college admissions be more competitive than ever for 2021-2022 high school graduates?

With application deadlines nearing for some, students and parents have shared a fear that college admissions will become more competitive as a result of the pandemic. A number of factors are contributing to this fear, such as a theoretical increase in international student applicants that were unable to attend US colleges and universities last year, and those taking “gap years” flooding the applicant pool for fall 2021 admission in hopes that the pandemic will “clear.”

On the flip side, financially-strapped families and those who don’t believe that remote learning is worth the extreme financial commitment of college might be hesitating about certain applications. They also might be more heavily considering colleges that are closer to home, to facilitate any potential future problems should another lockdown occur.

From what we’ve seen so far, despite these conflicting factors across populations of students, all indications from many colleges are that they do not expect a boom in applicants for the next couple of years. Some suggest that the reticence of certain families and the risks of others will end up with a balance in the applicant pool.

Starting from last week, some colleges have been releasing information about either the surge or decline in their admissions. According to an article in InsideHigherEd, these statistics can be explained by a variety of reasons.

Certain colleges, especially the more competitive ones, have been seeing a surge in applications, which might be explained by increased flexibility in the application process. With many going “test-optional,” they’re opening the pool up to candidates that normally would have had poor test scores. In addition, some are also waiving application fees, which entices students in a more delicate financial situation, making these selective institutions suddenly more accessible to the wider public. However, that’s not to say that these students have a better chance of getting in, necessarily. Colleges are also exercising more flexibility in regards to deadlines because they want more students to apply.

According to an article in Forbes, “with other factors being difficult to assess, all but the most highly selective colleges will hedge their bets and open the doors wider. The less selective the school, the farther open the door will swing.”

While highly-selective colleges are seeing a boost in applications from students that might have previously been discouraged, it’s some smaller, lesser-known colleges that are taking a hit in application numbers. With families battered by the pandemic, college may be now less of a priority than it was before, and even more affordable schools may still be too far out of reach.

Also, because students may be less confident about their admission possibilities because of the fear of competition, what we’ve seen locally is students applying to more colleges than before, bettering their chances at admission somewhere. This could mean an overall increase in admissions, but also that colleges may be more reliant on their waitlists when acceptance time rolls around.

Despite the trends, the clearest determination is that there is nothing predictable about these trends. Anthony Jones of Provost University believes that “when you consider how the modalities of various secondary school systems are still experiencing some level of flux, and how unstable the jobs market continues to perform, even as we barrel into what's predicted to be a harsh winter in some areas; the conclusion of how students will react and enroll is choppy at best.” However, with “the availability of multiple vaccines on the near horizon there is hope that by the end of Spring 2021 families will feel more confident about their futures.”

So, is college becoming more competitive after all? We’d agree that even though application data is still not entirely released or predictable, that students need to stand out even more than before. College admissions teams understand that students have undergone extreme stress this past year, but without test scores and many extracurriculars, it’s the rest of the application that will matter the most. Judged in less categories, students will need to show their uniqueness through their essays and potential interviews.

With the new challenges of applying to college, our services are in full swing, offering college counseling and essay coaching to 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,

Neal Schwartz, Owner

College Planning of Westchester



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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, college interview, SAT/ACT, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, virtual tours, high school junior, test optional, college forecast


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