May 15, 2022

By Leanne Soulard

It’s been a year in college admissions, am I right? With May 1st behind us, data and insight into this year’s admissions cycle is beginning to surface in news articles, professional journals, and, of course, on the internet. Admittedly, it’s going to take us all summer to get through the volumes of information still to come but we’ve had a few key takeaways that we want to share as sophomores and juniors begin to formulate a college plan of their own.

Takeaway #1: Test-optional admissions have changed the game.

The pandemic caused many schools to temporarily adopt test-optional admissions policies in 2021 and 2022 and there is evidence to suggest that a majority of these schools are set to make these policies permanent beginning next year. Why? Because colleges are realizing that many high-achieving students who would have been successful at their schools in previous years weren’t applying simply because their test scores were lower than the published averages. This further supports the notion that a student’s transcript really is the best predictor of their success in college. However, we’re not quite ready to say that strong test scores don’t enhance a student’s college application, only that the debate about their role in the admissions process continues. 

Takeaway #2: Acceptance rates are decreasing at many colleges…but not at all of them.

It’s a fact that acceptance rates at Ivy League schools and other elite colleges have decreased in the past couple of years, due in large part to test-optional admissions. (See Takeaway #1 above.) The math here is simple: if applications increase by tens of thousands and colleges can’t or won’t increase the number of students they admit, the acceptance rate goes down. Many students falsely believe that their lower test scores are the only thing preventing them from being admitted so, in a test-optional admissions environment, more students decide to throw their application into the ring and hope for the best. But they do this at their own peril and at the expense of many other great fit schools that will offer them an excellent education, overall experience, and maybe even a merit scholarship. Don’t shortchange yourself by falling for the myth that all “good” colleges are well-known. There are plenty of lesser known schools out there that would love to help you reach your fullest potential and, if you’re lucky, change the course of your life. (Take my word on this one.)

Takeaway #3: Longer and longer waitlists.

Not everything can be blamed on test-optional admissions but the impact this practice has had on the business side of higher education can be seen in this year’s extraordinarily long waitlists. All colleges have a goal number of students they need to enroll and double-digit percentage increases in application rates means that colleges need to be very strategic about who they admit. Not long ago, many colleges started using algorithms to predict which students are most likely to enroll if offered admission but even a computer can’t account for the impact of such application increases. As a result, colleges are responding by waitlisting more students than usual to ensure that they “make their yield.” Which leads me to my last point…

Takeaway #4: Show your top choice all your colleges some love!

By now, most students understand the concept of demonstrated interest in admissions and they do a pretty good job of engaging with their top-choice schools to make sure colleges know they are genuinely interested in attending. After a few surprises this spring, it is crystal clear to us that students need to demonstrate the same levels of interest at their target and even their likely schools. If you’ve built a thoughtful, intentional list of schools that represents your overall ideal fit, then you must keep in mind that your likely schools are not a consolation prize! If you don’t really want to attend those schools, they shouldn’t be on your list. It isn’t enough to be a top applicant anymore…you need to be a top applicant who has demonstrated actual interest in a school if you want to be accepted, even at many of the likely ones. If you think that you can’t get waitlisted at your likely schools, let us assure you that you’re wrong and we’ve got proof to back it up. So if you haven’t yet attended an info session or tour at your likely schools now is the time to do it, if for no other reason than sometimes your Plan B suddenly becomes your Plan A. We’ve got proof to back that up, too!

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