These are some thoughts for rising seniors and juniors to think about in the next 2 cycles. Since it's a discussion, feel free to add your comments or add your suggestions/concerns to the list.
1. Large application pools at the top colleges will remain a new normal - Why? Up to 90% of colleges will be test-optional resulting in more students without test scores "taking their shot" at dream schools or "reach schools". Colleges have become virtual marketing experts offering Zoom sessions and tours increasing their marketing reach globally. Test-optional will likely continue through 2023 due to the Delta and Lambda COVID variants and future variants.
2. Admit rates will remain low at top colleges - Why?
a. More applicants equals lower admit rates to keep the class size constant. Class size has been constant at many top 50 colleges for the past 25 years.
b. There are still Class of '25 taking GAP years in large numbers so they will put a squeeze on available seats.
c. More and more International applicants will be applying to top colleges. i. travel/visa bans have been lifted ii. test-optional makes it more attractive for int'l students who can't take SAT/ACT tests. Just as a side note, China just banned all for-profit core curriculum tutoring and any kind of college prep tutoring. So many of these students might feel this is the only cycle to apply to US colleges since 80% of these firms have disappeared overnight and now are only available to wealthy families that can afford black market tutoring.
3. AP Tests will have a bigger role to play - Why? SAT Subject II tests have been eliminated permanently. In previous cycles, they were used to prop up course rigor and gaps in grades. They were used to show evidence of course mastery and college readiness. Now that they are gone, more emphasis will be placed on APs and AP test scores. (I understand that there are those that do not believe AP test scores matter at all, but since SAT IIs are gone, some college admissions officers will look to AP scores to qualify college readiness).
4. DEI policies are still a top priority for Top Colleges - All Top Colleges are looking to improve their optics with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion, therefore they will continue to implement their own DEI criteria on who should be admitted based on race, income, disability, gender and any other factors that can be deemed marginalizing to the applicant pool. Therefore, record numbers of BIPOC and/or First Generation and/or Low Income or other applicants will be a priority for admittance.
5. Personal essays and supplemental essays will continue to play a significant role - Why? These are the only data points that are hand-crafted by each applicant using their own voice and words. Since the SAT essay has been discontinued, unless you take the ACT Essay, it's difficult for Admissions officers to gauge your writing ability including grammar, word selection, flow, and other metrics about how well you can organize your thoughts in words and effectively express them. When A/Os see the same high GPA/Test Scores/Recommendations 50 times a day, sometimes the deciding factor is whether you have used your "writing audition" effectively to capture the AO's attention and advocate for you. In my humble opinion, the essay is sometimes the one thing that can connect all the dots (data points) in your application file together and explain why you are who you are and why you do what you do.
6.) Submitting a high SAT or ACT score in most cases will help you - Why? According to the published information on successful admits, it's very clear that 2/3rd of them or more submitted ACT or SAT test scores above the 50% range from the previous cycle. So this debunks 2 current theories. 1.) That not submitting a test score will not harm your chances of getting in, and 2.) That you should submit a lower ACT or SAT test score if you are not in the 50% percentile range. (I don't want to sound like a broken record but last's year's advice of submitting an ACT score 3 pts lower than the 25% percentile or an SAT score 60 pts below the 25% percentile was a good idea, no longer should be taken as advice.) We will continue to see higher ACT and SAT scores on Class of 2025 stats when they are all published as well as the next Class of 2026.
7. Passion Projects are important only if they are related to your narrative in some way - So if you are going to apply to Business Schools and your #1 major is Marketing then pick something that has to do with Marketing. Re-selling your own clothing accessories on Etsy sounds like a good passion project but maybe being a CODING tutor in Python doesn't.
8. Sports are going to be more important in the next 2 cycles - Now that many HS schools and Colleges are going to have Varsity Sports again, I feel that the long COVID break is over. More and more top colleges will be looking to recruit DIII and DI athletes. There was a lull in recruiting but I feel that more seats will go to those that can play a sport for these top colleges. I think the Tokyo Olympics activated something in colleges to make sure that for the 2024 Paris Olympics they can send some swimmers, divers, volleyball players, water polo players, rowers, fencers, sailors, tennis players, etc etc.
9. Colleges in the lagging 21 states who have the least vaccinations may suffer from demand -
This is a controversial pet peeve of mine so don't take it personally. If a top or elite college is located in a state or city where they have low vaccinations per capita or any kind of surge in Delta or future Lambda variants, I think that fewer people will apply to those schools. Maybe the HS applicants won't care as much as I think, but I'm certain the parents footing the bill are concerned whether their precious kids are going to get COVID at a frat party or hanging out in nightclubs or tailgate parties.
10. We will see more efficiency in the college admissions process - Last cycle we saw the introduction of the Mobile version of Common App so I think it's fair to say there will be more Mobile connectivity to both colleges and the services they rely on like testing services and application portals. I also think that colleges will leverage existing tech to conduct more interviews, info sessions, and other types of interfacing.
Thanks for this information. its really useful.
Can you comment on ED trends for the class of 2026. Do you think the T50 school's ED applications will continue to increase? Will ED acceptance go up
(with falling acceptance and rising yield) to secure funds for students in need?
There is no indication that ED rates will be going up to former levels. If anything, I strongly believe that there will be more HS students applying early because they feel they can improve their chances even slightly. This will put downward pressure on acceptance rates. ED/EA/SCREA at T25 schools will go down, from T26-50, I expect them to be the same or lower than last year.
I do not understand your 2nd question. There is no relationship to my knowledge with securing funds for students in need and falling acceptance rates and higher yields. The fin-aid budgets colleges have to spend on poor kids are set far in advance of whatever happens during ED/EA/SCREA timelines.
For argument's sake say Tulane and Stanford have the same Fin-aid budget of $155MM, Stanford is going to use 99% of it on need-based aid and Tulane maybe 53%. Regardless of the ED admit rate or implied yield forecast, no college is going to increase the Fin-aid budget for need based aid). If Stanford Restricted EA results in a 7% or 12% admit rate, it doesn't matter, their Finaid budget is pre-determined.
I meant that since ED is binding and students are unaware of the FA they will receive will Universities use this as a way to collect more funds for their Fiscal year to use for need-based students in the EA/RD rounds
Not at all.
1. Financial aid is pre-budgeted prior and the Admissions office has to work within their budgets.
2. All top schools are need-blind so they are not admitting early applicants based on their ability to pay. They don't know upfront who is paying full tuition or not. And at need-aware schools, budget is even more critical. At "buyer" schools, they'd rather dole out more funds as merit aid to give the middle class and upper-middle-class families a discount than worry about the poor kids.
3. There is no advantage for a poor applicant to apply only RD. Perhaps a disadvantage. They should apply to as many schools as possible where most of the aid is allocated for need-based financial support.
Do you think ECs will play a lesser role in admission decisions than they did pre-covid?
I think ECs will have the same weight as the previous cycle however if you are an Int'l student with fewer opportunities to do ECs then more importance will be placed on your academic record and test scores.
Do you think the number of applicants in T200 schools (except the T20s) will increase?
I'm not 100% sure but I think yes. As long as they go test-optional, many students will try to shoot their shot at the elite colleges.
Overall, I feel that the number of applicants in T200 will stay the same or decrease. There will be fewer applicants at 2nd and 3rd tier private liberal arts colleges because some families will not see the value there anymore and rather have their kids go to larger in-state colleges closer to home.
@CameronBameron I feel the same way. If I had to guess, I'd say that they'll say the same. 2nd and 3rd tier private LACs didn't see a rise in applications even in the 2021 cycle so I don't think it'll see one this year.
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