We thought things were bad in 2019-2020, but the pandemic actually opened many opportunities to domestic students who wouldn't mind being away from home. The next year, 2020-21, saw soaring volumes as a result of test-optional admissions, yet many students could still rely with some sense of confidence on backup choices. But 2021-22? Only a fool in April believes that the process will remain static.
Elite colleges aren't readily sharing their stats.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, selectivity is so absurd that some colleges aren't even sharing data. Of the eight colleges in our most exclusive sports conference, Princeton, Penn and Cornell won't even disclose admit rates. Whitney Soule, the new admissions dean at Penn, states, “We’re focusing not on how hard we are to get into, but on who these young people are that we chose."
“We know this information raises the anxiety level of prospective students and their families and, unfortunately, may discourage some prospective students from applying.”
- Princeton Admissions
But many continue to waitlist huge numbers of students.
We can't blame them. After all, colleges struggle with yield, that is, how many students will accept their offers of admission. This year, I had a record number of applicants to Michigan, and now some students remain on the waitlist, excited about getting a spot. But how likely is that? Last year, U-M took a mere 0.5 percent of those accepting a place on their waitlist.
Applicants should by all means pursue the waitlist if they really want that college. However, they should put down a deposit for a college that accepted them by May 1, 2022.
Others may go back to requiring tests.
Last week, MIT shared that it had admitted just 4 percent of its applicant pool. Just a few days later, we learned that the institution is reinstating testing for 2022-23: "Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT."
The Atlantic stated how most of us feel: "The College Admissions Process is Completely Broken.” Possible solutions posed in the article include breaking up the admissions reviews and even ending Early Decision. But we can't expect any of that to happen any time soon.
Meanwhile, colleges are recognizing struggles on their campuses.
As reported in Inside Higher Ed, Cornell Engineering has capped the number of courses its students may take. Big Red had already completed a formal initiative in which it looked at mental health on campus and recommended "implementing grading on a curve, mandating meetings between students and advisers, exploring pass-fail assessments, and establishing a credit limit at each college." Their deans explained, “In addition to ensuring that students are intentional about the courses they enroll in and do not overextend themselves in the short term, adherence to a reasonable credit limit signals to all students the importance of maintaining balance that will be critical for sustained success over the course of their lives and careers.”
Back in New York City, two colleges take very different directions.
Barnard College, which accepted a mere 8 percent this year, is going STEM. As a result of a whopping $55 million grant, Barnard is establishing the Roy and Diana Vagelos Science Center, which will accommodate Barnard's Summer Research Institute along with its Computer Science and Neuroscience and Behavior programs. In a statement, Barnard explained, "As New York City has become a global hub for STEM, Barnard will be able to widen and deepen its connections to the City’s rich network of entrepreneurs and innovators."
Barnard's app volume rose 16 percent.
Then there's NYU Tisch, known for producing stars like Lady Gaga. Earlier this year, students could spend their parents' money on a class about Taylor Swift. According to a WSJ article, "NYU said students, many of whom want careers in the music industry, were expected to develop their writing, critical thinking and research skills, but also learn about Ms. Swift’s creative process and her business sense." Taught by alum Brittany Spanos, the class was held at NYU's Clive Davis Institute in Brooklyn and worth 2.0 credits. Since it was open to all students, even the engineers in the nearby NYU Tandon School could chill with the Swifties.
It has been a joy working with this year's applicants. They have brought a strong work ethic, resilience, sense of humor and creativity to the process. Looking ahead to 2022-23, I will continue to help unCommon students understand the importance of differentiating their candidacy.
Our applicants told us about the sense of belonging they found when they visited campus, read JUMBO magazine or our online blogs, or spoke to students, faculty, staff, and alums,” he said. “They remind us that college is very much about feeling at home—welcomed, encouraged, and supported.”
This weekend, relax and enjoy the Final Four. But if you are the parent of an underclassman, don't hesitate to book a meeting for your student. We have a long task list.