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This Week in Admissions News | Week 40

21 OCT 2021

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students planning to apply to universities, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. We’ve rounded up the latest news and given our take on what it means for future and current college students. Check back each week to see what’s new!

1. ACT reports a drop in the number of students to take the exam last year alongside a drop in average composite scores

According to a new report from the ACT profiling the nearly 1.3 million 2021 high school graduates who took the organization’s standardized test last year, 375,000 fewer students took the exam compared to the previous year. Further, the average composite score dropped by 0.3 points to 20.3, the lowest in the last five years. On the data, ACT CEO Janet Godwin pointed out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for high school students” with some speculating that the low scores in 2021 may be explained by the pandemic leaving many students unable to take standardized tests even once, “let alone the several times that are common for students” and typically result in higher final scores.

Crimson’s Take: By now it’s common knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic effect on standardized testing in college admissions, with the overwhelming majority of US universities adopting test-optional policies beginning last year and many students around the world having limited or no access to the SAT or ACT. As such, we’re not surprised to learn that the ACT saw a steep decline in the number of students to take the test last year and it makes sense to us that with many students unable to polish their scores by taking the exam multiple times, the average score would be lower. With test-optional policies continuing into the current application cycle, we anticipate similar data turning up next year — but only time will tell!

2. The Common App will now include Pre-Advanced and Advanced courses and exams from the Cambridge International curriculum

The Common Application, which 1 million aspiring college students use to apply to over 900 US universities each year, has updated its application to include the Cambridge International program, an international curriculum used by over 10,000 schools in more than 160 countries. Cambridge International was developed at the University of Cambridge and its Pre-Advanced and Advanced levels, which include IGCSE, AS and A Level subjects, will now be recognized by the Common App, helping simplify the application process to US universities for a large number of international students, including many low-income and first-generation college applicants.

Crimson’s Take: At Crimson, our mission is to level the higher education playing field for students all over the world, helping them overcome barriers of geography and legacy to pursue their dreams and world-leading universities. So of course we’re thrilled to hear that the Common App is making the college application process even more accessible by opening its streamlined application platform to even more students around the world who may have otherwise avoided applying to the US for fear of running into too many obstacles along the way! Given that we work with such a large number of students from every corner of the globe, we’re glad to know that the Common App will now recognize another international curriculum that’s so broadly utilized.

3. The US Department of Education has released a new resource designed to help educators provide better mental health support across all levels of schooling

The US Department of Education this week released a 100-page resource titled Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health that aims to provide information to “enhance the promotion of mental health” among children and students from early school years all the way through higher education. The booklet addresses key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support, including sections dedicated to the transition from high school to college as well as mental health services at institutions of higher education. In a release, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said “Amid the pandemic, we know that our students have experienced so much. We can't unlock students' potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the classroom each day. As educators, it's our responsibility to ensure that we are helping to provide students with a strong social and emotional foundation so that they also can excel academically.”

Crimson’s Take: As a company that works year-round to help students in varying stages of their journey to university — perhaps one of the most demanding undertakings they face as teenagers and young adults — we know all about the importance of mental health and emotional wellness in balancing their commitments to school, extracurricular activities, family and friends, and time for themselves. Taking an institution-based approach to helping students manage their mental health is a huge step in the right direction as they navigate even greater challenges posed by the pandemic, and we’re glad to learn about the expansion of resources being provided to schools and higher education institutions by the US government in this vein.

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