Just Admit It: How did the 2020-21 college admissions cycle go?
It’s safe to say that the 2020-21 college admissions cycle was unlike any other. Between canceled SAT and ACT exams and campus tours going virtual, the COVID-19 pandemic created several significant changes for applicants over the past year.
Now that this application cycle is coming to a close, our college admissions experts are sharing their top insights about the 2020-21 season and what it might mean for future applicants. Keep reading for our team’s top takeaways and, if you’re looking for even more insights, check out the latest Just Admit It! podcast episode.
An Uptick in Applications
One of the most noteworthy developments during the 2020-21 admissions cycle was the dramatic uptick in the number of applications many colleges received. Students submitted 11% more applications than the previous year, while the number of students applying only rose by 2%, indicating that some applicants chose to apply to more colleges.
While there are likely several factors that contributed to these statistics, the move to test-optional admissions is one major motivator. Some students who may have been discouraged from applying to highly selective colleges due to their SAT/ACT scores may have felt like this was no longer a limiting factor, and instead chose to hit submit. As a result, every Ivy League college reported record low acceptance rates during the 2020-21 admissions cycle, with Harvard’s admissions rate falling to just 3.4%.
Seeing Test-Optional Admissions in Action
The 2020-2021 admissions cycle marked the first time that a significant number of highly selective colleges transitioned to test-optional admissions policies, including every Ivy League school. This gave us the chance to see how test-optional admissions might work on a much larger scale. Schools handled the test-optional transition in different ways, with some institutions accepting as much as 50% of their incoming class without test scores. However, the number of admitted applicants without test scores was much lower at many colleges, particularly because there was a financial impetus for universities to accept a greater number of students with test scores, as these numbers can impact their bond ratings.
The biggest takeaway for applicants getting ready for the 2021-22 cycle? Test-optional isn’t the same as test-blind. While your best-fit colleges may not require scores as part of your application, it can be beneficial to submit your SAT or ACT scores if you were able to take the test safely and feel proud of your performance.
Not Every College Saw a Rise in Applications
While competition may have reached a new level for Ivy League institutions and other name brand colleges, some schools actually saw a drop in application numbers during the 2020-21 admissions cycle. For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) colleges reported a 20% decline in the number of applications they received and the Common App reported that within the category of “Public, small, less selective universities” applications also declined by 2%.
HBCU’s Rose on Students’ Radars
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have seen both huge increases in the number of applications they have received as well as increases in donations. One of the most prevalent examples of this occurred when MacKenzie Scott donated millions to various HBCUs across the country, including $50 million to Prairie View A&M University, $45 million to Morgan State University, and $30 million to Virginia State University. Given this uptick in press and energy, HBCU’s are likely to be on many students’ lists for best-fit options in the 2021-22 admissions cycle.
While the 2020-21 admissions cycle may be coming to a close, many students are already preparing for the next round of applications. If you are getting ready to apply to college and looking for personalized guidance, our team of admissions experts can guide you throughout the process.