As we head into Spring, our current seniors are beginning the very difficult process of deciding which college offer is the one they will accept. There's no question that this past admissions cycle was stressful, chaotic, and abnormal given the unique challenges presented by COVID. That said, COVID did offer some silver linings in the admissions process - most notably the test optional policy that nearly all colleges in the country adopted.
So, with some ability to now look back on this admissions season, what trends can be identified? There have been some great recent articles highlighting national trends that I think are important to check out: https://www.wsj.com/articles/college-admission-season-is-crazier-than-ever-that-could-change-who-gets-in-11615909061
I've tried to summarize these national trends here:
On a more local level, I observed the following in working with applicants in the DC area:
Larger schools that were already selective are getting more and more selective. This means that colleges like Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland are definitely not safety schools and for many students they might be moving into the reach category.
Given the ambiguities around Covid, students are applying to more colleges than in years past. For the seniors I worked with in the fall, I’d say most applied to somewhere between 8-10, but many applied to 11-13 to be safe. I still believe 10 colleges is a nice target, but as we get further down the road, we can certainly reassess that.
It’s clear that applicants are taking the widespread test-optional policy seriously. We’ve seen significant reductions in the percentage of students submitting test scores as part of their applications (I think this is a good thing!). Once we have official scores we can make more decisions about what to do with them, but hopefully the numbers alleviate some stress about needing to score super high on the SAT or ACT.
So what does this all mean if you are a current junior?
If you've worked hard in high school you will definitely still get accepted to a bunch of great colleges, but be very careful about using the term "safety school" - nothing is guaranteed!
You should trust colleges when they say that students will not be penalized in the admissions process for not submitting SAT/ACT scores. It seems clear from the numbers that colleges truly mean it.
As applications continue to rise at more selective colleges, applying early using early action deadlines will be important.
Think early about how many schools you plan to apply to (I normally recommend 8-10). This fall it might make sense to add 2-3 more than you normally would to account for the continued ambiguity that COVID has presented in the admissions process.
Have questions about navigating the college admissions process? Feel free to reach out to us!