Understanding the reality of today’s college application process is an important element in managing expectations. For instance, the notion that great grades and test scores will automatically guarantee entry into highly selective colleges no longer holds true. Strong stats certainly open doors at the vast majority of schools, but colleges lucky enough to be ranked in the top 25 or even 50 expect more: a uniqueness, one that distinguishes the student at the national and even international level of accomplishment in some area of the sciences, arts or athletics, as well as a concrete connection to a school’s mission and institutional goals.
Below are some trends worth mentioning, as they will impact your experience applying to colleges next year.
More colleges continue to allow self-reported grades and test scores, only requiring an “official” report if you choose to attend. You’ll need to be super accurate, otherwise you risk having an acceptance rescinded.
Offering a student admission in the spring instead of the fall is gaining momentum as an enrollment management tool. Some students may even be selected to start on a different campus – perhaps internationally. This option comes as a surprise to most students who never knew it was an option. Don’t let this possibility throw you off course. Your ability to be flexible will create more possibilities. Instead, explore the advantages of taking a break between high school and college. You can plan a hiking excursion, get a job or land an internship that will begin to build your resume before you even get to college!
More students will take gap years. Colleges appreciate the maturity and perspective that gap year students bring to campus.
Test-optional is here to stay for the Class of 2022. With almost 1,400 colleges already on board, it is possible to apply to college without ever taking an ACT or SAT. (Visit www.fairtest.org to see which colleges offer this.) However, submitting a really good score allows admissions one more puzzle piece to consider. Submitting a strong score that compliments your grades and rigor of coursework is an advantage. Deciding what a “really good score” is will depend on the college you apply to and a question to bring to your college advisor. Remember, test optional does not mean test blind.
Test blind, where a college does not consider standardized tests in admissions even if submitted, is gaining momentum. Last year 69 institutions were test blind, including the entire UC and CSU systems. UCs and CSUs will again be test blind for the Class of 2022.
AP exam scores will rise in importance. Colleges will now buy names of sophomores and juniors who are taking APs for marketing purposes and some will examine AP scores with greater scrutiny.
Colleges that offer merit aid tend to award money to students who take advantage of the early action and priority dates. Regular decision applicants are often the last in line for merit aid consideration. While most schools will award money without standardized tests, there are still some schools and programs that require them. Be sure to check out each college’s policy, since going test optional may help you gain admission but hurt your chances for financial aid.
Applying early action is losing some of its luster. Whereas in the past students were given a significant advantage if they applied early, quite a few schools in 2021 elected to defer students into the regular pool. This may have been due to the surge in applications and a temporary phenomenon, or it may be here to stay. Early decision, though, seemed to give an advantage. Data from top colleges this year showed that a larger percent of the applicants were admitted through the binding early decision program.
Applications to top colleges exploded this year, making it CRITICAL that you add more target and anchor schools to your list. Rick Clark from GA Tech believes the trend will continue into 2022. Here are some current application growth numbers in percentages: Colgate- 104, MIT-66, Columbia-51, BC-36, Tufts- 35, UCB and UCLA-28, U of WI-17. It means the tippy top colleges will remain nearly impossible for most, while the high-end target schools will be reaches for many.
The UCs now routinely deny or waitlist smart, qualified California students. Be sure your college list includes other options. Resist the urge to apply to every UC—you must be a good fit for the UC major and program you apply to.
More online interviews will be offered. Some might include a prompt to which a student will give a video response. Work with your advisor on interview skills.
Now that you know some of these trends, you will be well prepared to apply more thoughtfully to colleges in the fall.
(Article adapted from College Find Newsletter Vol. 20 #9 by Gael Casner and Elizabeth LaScala.)