Are the seniors that are applying this year absolutely screwed?
I know it's unhelpful to stress over something that I can't control but I'm worried that acceptance rates will decrease significantly compared to last year because of the increased number of students who took a gap year or deferred their admissions this year due to Covid. Is my assumption true? I heard that almost 20% of students at Harvard took a gap year. How will colleges even have enough room to accept the same amount of people? Is it physically possible to maintain their acceptance rates?
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Yes. You are correct but I think elite schools will have the lowest rates.
Logically, all elite colleges that are having lower freshman matriculation rates are going to have trouble accepting the same number of students' next admissions cycle. If Harvard accepted 1980 for a class size of 1663 which is a yield of 84% and then 340 students roughly 20% have deferred for 1 year, this means that next cycle there will only be 1323 available spots at Harvard for incoming Freshman. If they hold the same 1663 spots for the class of 2025, then they will only admit 1584 students to get the same yield. 1584/40242 = 3.93% total acceptance rate for Class of 2025 versus 4.92% for Class of 2024, assuming yield stays constant and they have the same number of students applying.
Of course, they can always make an exception and admit 340 more students next cycle but if COVID-19 is still around and problematic, there will not be enough housing and safeguards in place to accommodate a larger incoming Freshman class of 2003 students. This possible lower acceptance rate scenario negatively impacts International students and other low-income students who rely more on financial aid than others. Although Harvard is need-blind, fewer students in all categories will be accepted. Near Ivy's and other Elites that are not need-blind will be accepting more students that can pay full tuition or those who require minimal financial aid packages. Although it doesn't sound fair, I hate to say it but if you come from a background of wealth you will have less inconvenience than other groups of applicants.
In conclusion, admission rates will be more competitive the Top schools in America like Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia and not so much for the rest. I also feel that since it is an unknown as to whether all campuses will be open in Fall of 2021, students may be applying to fewer schools because they don't want to apply to colleges that have botched up the on-campus experience like Penn State, Clemson, UNC-Chapel Hill, Ohio State, Michigan State, UConn, Notre Dame, Alabama.
This is the Covid-19 Tracker put out by the NYTimes covering 1600+ colleges. As of today, there are 214,000 cases. Please pay attention to this because if these schools are screwing it up right now they are going to screw it up next fall as well. Don't waste your time applying to the worst offenders unless you don't mind being in an online school paying 50,000 tuitions.