The Pandemic has greatly impacted the higher education sector particularly the college admissions process. One of the impactful trends in college admissions this past year has been the Test-Optional policies adopted by colleges. More than 1,600 colleges and universities announced test-optional or test-blind policies for the 2020-2021 application cycle.
As a result, the Early Action and Early Decision applications increased significantly. In the most selective institutions the surge was unprecedented. Columbia 48% , MIT 62%, Brown 29%, Georgia Tech 25%, Tufts 32%, Harvard 52% resulting in lower admit rates in the first round of decisions. As the application deadlines closed for the Regular Decisions, the same trend was apparent for the regular pool. Record breaking numbers from UCLA (139,500), NYU (100,000), Duke (49,500), Colgate (18,000), have surprised the admissions and counseling professionals. However, this hyper-activity has mostly been apparent in selective colleges. Less selective colleges did not see the same level of application increase, and in fact, the numbers for community colleges declined sharply.
Colleges with sharp increase in applications have been transparent about their applicant pool and the outcomes for the Early Decision/Action round. Tufts reported that 57% of the applicants did not have test scores, at BU only 35% of applicants submitted test scores and at BC only 42% of accepted ED students had test scores, same with Tulane and the trend was similar across the board.
Just a few weeks ago, the College Board announced the elimination of the Subject Tests entirely, as well as the SAT with Essay. I believe these new changes would heighten and prolong the test-optional policies. We already have seen announcements by colleges, including the Ivy League, for extension of the test-optional policies into the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. According to Fairtest (www.fairtest.org), as of this writing there are 1,330 colleges with test-optional or test-blind policies for the 2021-2022 application cycle.
How would all this impact HS Juniors? Juniors will be facing the challenging question of whether or not to take the Standardized tests, and to submit or not to submit test scores. If possible, Juniors should consider taking the SAT or ACT if the tests are available to them. If the student chooses to apply to a test-optional college, and fits within the middle 50% range of the college’s SAT/ACT profile, then it’s recommended to submit the test scores. However, if it is a challenge for the student to prepare and take the standardized tests, then, the student should apply without submitting a score. Keep in mind that applying to a test-optional college and submitting a weak score can negatively impact a student’s application.
The test-optional trends will be pushing applications up in selective institutions and making admissions even more selective! Juniors should compile a well-balanced list of colleges to find a right-fit college and present their best in their applications. Finding a right fit college always begins with self-assessment!
Additionally, Juniors should pay attention to their Extracurricular Activities. Colleges do understand the disruption of activities due to the Pandemic. However, they want to see if students were able to find other meaningful alternatives/ activities to grow their interests as well as contribute positively to their communities.
*Schedule a free Discovery Call to learn how I can help you navigate this process.