The pandemic alters the dynamics of the college application process


Courtesy of BSM

In pre-pandemic times, students gathered closely to learn about the process of applying to college.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, the college application process in the United States has been getting strange. According to the data shown in CommonApp, students applying for undergraduate admissions have decreased by 2% for the first time this fall.

On the other hand, students applying for top elite universities in the U.S have increased at a great level, which results in a lower acceptance rate. For example, according to CNBC, “Harvard University’s early action acceptance rate sank to 7.4% from 13.9%, while the number of total applicants hit a record high.”

It’s not hard to understand what makes the difference this year. All students are impacted by the pandemic which results in the decrease of applications. However, people tend to believe they have better chances of being admitted to elite colleges because there are fewer people competing; there is less overall volume but a trend toward higher tier schools.

Also, another factor would be the test-optional policy. There are more applicants to many schools because of test-optional and test-blind policies. A lot of well-known universities got more applicants because students were feeling more confident applying without scores. However, with such a huge amount of applicants in the admission pool, the chance of getting admitted becomes inevitably lower for those students who want to get into their dream school. “We heard from the most highly selective schools that they had even more applicants than in previous years because students were feeling more confident applying without scores,” Guidance and College Counselor Ms. Amanda Anderson said.

Especially during the middle of a pandemic, when all the policy and plans are constantly changing, the strategy students choose to apply to school becomes a more crucial factor in the college application process. According to Anderson, many of our BSM students applied Early Action (EA) or Early Decision (ED) to colleges and have heard back from some of their colleges. “Many students have been admitted to some of their EA and ED schools, but more students than usual have been deferred to the Regular Decision process, and will have to wait to hear about decisions until March or sometimes even April,” Anderson said.

With such a competitive application process this year and probably next year, students need to pay more attention to their application strategy. Here are the tips from Anderson:

    • Do research early and really look at whether the school fits your personality. If not, why apply? You can only go to ONE school in the end – it is better to do a lot of research and apply to less schools that really make sense to apply to.
    • Narrow list to 3 – 6 colleges is possible. For sure apply to 10 or less colleges. Narrowing your list allows you to do your BEST job on applications, essays, scholarships, etc.
    • Take advantage of online opportunities, college visits to your high school, any ways that you can show interest in the college. Some keep track.
    • Do a really thorough job of filling out your counselor and teacher recommendation surveys – these letters are SO important. Really think about which teachers know you best.

Sophomore and juniors, it’s time to think about college!