• Dr. Thom

2022 College Admissions Trends


Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

“Just once, I would want the admissions cycle to be just like last year.”


This was the repeated and wistful daydream of simplicity of a good friend of mine and (now former) Director of Admissions at a highly selective university. The near constant shifting of conditions, whether it was changes in population dynamics, a failing Common Application platform, a Supreme Court case that could dramatically impact how admissions evaluations would work, and of course COVID-19, make admissions work a perpetual guessing game for the admissions professional.


As we enter the 2022-23 admissions cycle, we are again anticipating considerable shifts in how admissions works and operates across the country. Here’s the trends we will be monitoring:


ACT/SAT Testing Disclosure: To Send or Not to Send Becomes Clearer


Over the past two years, one of the biggest uncertainties students have faced is knowing if they should disclose a test score to a college with test optional policies. We are now starting to see some data that provides some guidance on the decisions that students have been making nationwide as to whether to send in their ACT/SAT scores. Obviously, the higher a student's test score, the more likely it is that the student will submit a score, but exactly what score seems to be the tipping point for sending in a score? The College Board has provided some insight using applicant data from a sample of 50 selective public and private universities.


Overall, a student with an A+ average high school gpa (HSGPA) and an ACT/SAT that matches the average ACT/SAT of a college is about 51% likely to submit their score to that college. Whereas a student with an identical ACT/SAT who has a B+ average HSPGA is 68% likely to submit their score to that same college.

There is clearly a strong connection between the average score of the institution and the likelihood that a student is going to submit their standardized test score. At the same time, the fact that the lower end of the test taking pool at each of these universities is dwindling, it is very likely that the ACT/SAT averages will continue to increase, potentially meaning that less and less students will submit scores moving forward.


The Rise of Predictive Admissions


For many years, a handful of universities utilized “demonstrated interest” as a means of informing admissions decisions. This is where a college will evaluate your level of engagement with their school to determine if you are genuinely interested in attending. For these schools, visiting the college, emailing the admissions officer, or attending a local presentation by the college, all played a role (albeit a marginal one) on whether you would be admitted.


COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns that accompanied it, completely changed demonstrated interest. Without campus visits to use as a barometer of interest, colleges have begun looking to the application as a means of gathering interest data.


Colleges are starting to do this in two ways:


  1. Including more optional essays on applications. This makes sense, as students who take the time to write an essay that is not required are clearly more interested.

  2. Asking if students would be interested in being considered for a /global campus of the university. We are seeing an increase in universities asking students if they would consider enrolling in special programs located at additional campus locations, in some cases in other parts of the world. Some are even asking students if they would be interested in a fall semester freshman year study abroad program. By indicating that a student is interested in a somewhat non-traditional beginning to their education, a university can assume an increased level of interest.


In each of these instances, colleges are tracking who elects for these optional and incremental commitments towards their university, and often, incorporating those data into the admissions evaluation.


Virtual college visits are here to stay


While the admissions officers are starting to make more in-person visits to high schools all across the country, we are also seeing a dramatic increase in “virtual high school visits” where a college will host a zoom call attended by students at school. Nearly every college is now hosting regular live online information sessions, student panels, and even some live virtual tours using GoPro cameras.


Highly selective colleges are getting even more highly selective


With the nearly 22% increase in applications submitted via the common application, combined with the continued popularity of test optional policies, nearly all of the 100 most selective institutions saw increases in applications last year. As a result, admit rates at many of these institutions have reached cartoonishly low levels.


For example, here is a sample of 2021admit rates from among the most selective universities in the United States.

University

Location

2021 Overall Admit Rate

​Stanford University

​Stanford, California

4.8%

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

5.4%

Juilliard School

New York City, New York

6.2%

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

6.3%

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

6.5%

Waitlists continue to get longer as do the odds of being admitted from one


The number of students offered a spot on a college waitlist increased approximately 15% over last year, while the number students admitted from those waitlists decreased 46% over last year. This is reason number 10,001 why we strongly discourage our students accepting spots on a wait list.


The American politician, Frederic Coudert, once wished a colleague, “May you live in interesting times.” I am sure my colleagues working in college admissions offices these days may wish for a little less interesting times.


But here is what has not changed from last year:


We always move forward seeking to control the things that are controllable in the college admissions process.


We commit to helping the young people in our lives learn how to tell their stories to the world with authenticity and care.


Higher education in the United States remains among the most beautifully diverse and transformational systems of education in the world with a college fit for just about any student.


Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.



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