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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

The 2021 College Admissions Gratitude List

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Amor fati. In Latin, it means to love one’s fate, but it represents something much more significant to me. It is easy to love life’s graceful days, months, or years, when things break your way, when the lights of life are lined up green. But at the heart of amor fati is to love your life, no matter what falls your way. We normally do the opposite. We say thanks for the things in our lives that worked in our favor and actively avoid accepting the role that negative events have in our lives. Amor fati means to love it all.

It’s a scorching hot day and I cannot put off mowing the lawn any longer. Amor fati. I am fortunate to have a home, and an able body capable of tending to it.

I struggle yet again to make sandwich bread the way that Josh Weissman says I should. Amor fati. I have learned yet another way not to make bread. That is how the learning process works.

My father passed away on his 66th birthday and I miss him dearly. Amor fati. I miss him like I do because we had a wonderful relationship and I am a better father for the years I shared with him.

Gratitude, it turns out, is in part refusing to lament the inevitable negative occurrences in our lives. Sure, celebrate the victories. But you must also be thankful for the corrective influence of your failures.

Last year we published our first The 2020 College Admissions Thanksgiving Gratitude List celebrating all of the things happening in college admissions (even in a tough year) of which we were thankful. As we enter another holiday week devoted to gratitude, here is our list of all of the things for which we are thankful in college admissions.

Test optional is here to stay

If 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic brought a flood of test optional testing policies, 2021 is proving that these policies have some significant staying power. Currently 76% of all 4-year colleges and universities, including nearly all American liberal arts colleges, feature test optional policies. More than half of U.S. colleges and universities have already committed to being test optional through at least 2023.

This trend continues to open opportunities for students to place standardized testing in proper balance with all of the rest of their applicant profile: grade point average, curricular rigor, outside-of-school activities, and college essays.

Essays get more important

Speaking of college essays: with the increase in test optional policies comes an emphasis on applicant writing by many selective admissions processes. This is a wonderful development as it places the student’s voice nearer to the center of the admissions review - where it belongs. If you think about it, among all of the application materials submitted by students, the essay is the only component that flows directly in the student’s voice, from the applicant to the admissions reviewer. Letters of recommendation, grades, and especially standardized testing, all represent a moderated assessment of the student, through another person’s perspective. These are clearly important, but are largely out of the student’s control, unlike the essay. We encourage students to embrace this opportunity to “control the controllables” and let their voice come through clearly in their writing.

Average tuition and fees actually decreased this year

You read that correctly. According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, average tuition prices increased at historically low rates and when adjusted for inflation, actually decreased. Many public colleges, such as those in Massachusetts and Michigan, and many private universities like Bucknell and Duke committed publicly to freezing tuition. Schools like Purdue are entering their 10th year of frozen tuition. While these are clearly in response to challenging economic conditions, and increasing inflation rates, it is a promising trend nonetheless.

Applying and “visiting” colleges became easier

This year, the Common Application released a well-designed app for students to manage their college applications. Many colleges added online options for visits as a response to the pandemic - and while an in-person visit is almost always preferred, virtual visits do provide students and families a method of engagement with a prospective college that often fits better into daily life. Instead of packing the family into the car and fighting traffic to a college admissions event, families can simply tune in to a live zoom Q&A with admissions staff and students. In combination with live events, it creates a more accessible college search environment in our view.


As always, the biggest aspect of our work for which we are thankful is you: the families, friends, and communities we serve. Thank you for supporting our movement to make the college search a student health-first reality. Thank you!

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

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