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College Admissions 2020-2021

By Lauren Howie

Upper Dublin High School '22

As decision dates pass and letters roll out, the anxiety surrounding whether the “status update” button will read a bold “Congratulations!” or not has entered the forefront of many seniors’ minds. However, this year can be summed up to nothing more than a record breaking let down and a vivid defiance of the norms, leaving many students distraught.

The constantly changing schooling situations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the college application process. For instance, most schools were forced to adopt a test optional policy, as many students were unable to take the SAT or ACT. Furthermore, AP exams were modified and grade point averages were “complicated by the spring 2020 semester” (Pohle). The Common Application released that as of February 15, only 44% of applicants submitted their test scores, noting a substantial decline from the 77% in February 2020 (Jaschik). These factors made it harder for colleges to evaluate an applicant the way they usually do.

With these adjustments, selective colleges experienced a surge in applications and in return a plummeting acceptance rate. Harvard received 57,000 more applications at an increase of 42% from the previous year (Anderson). Their admit rate dropped from 4.9% in 2020 to 3.4% in 2021. This story was the same for every Ivy League university, each receiving dramatically more applications than expected, resulting in these schools even needing to extend their decision date because of the unmanageable influx.

More applicants also meant longer waitlists. In an effort to protect enrollment numbers while combating more applications, more students have found themselves put on a waitlist for that school. Lehigh University’s vice provost for admissions told that applications climbed 14%, and the waitlist grew nearly the same amount (Scott). In addition, the CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling explained, "With students applying to more schools, yet fewer unique applicants, enrollment officers are worried about whether or not students intend to enroll at their institutions. Students may apply to 15 schools, but in the end, they can only show up at one" (Jaschik)

Overall, these trends have been a shock to the system of the nation’s high school seniors, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping here. With similar difficulties to testing access for 2022 graduates, the extremely competitive process and ever-changing policies from colleges promises to keep students on their toes.


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