This Week in Admissions News | Week 30

12 AUG 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. UK Department for Education says it does not plan to require students at UK universities to get vaccinated against COVID-19

While hundreds of universities in the US have announced vaccine mandates in recent months, the higher education system across the pond is not taking the same approach. Last weekend, the UK Department for Education said although “vaccinations are important in helping to keep higher education settings safe” and they “strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses,” the government will not require vaccines for students returning to in-person learning on UK campuses.

Crimson’s Take: While we have vocally supported vaccine requirements at US universities, we are also aware of the delicate situation governments and colleges are in as they try to make in-person learning as safe as possible during difficult times. We know there are sociopolitical implications that come with implementing vaccine mandates, and from what we understand, UK government and university officials are confident that most students will get vaccinated before heading to campus even without being required to do so.

2. Urgency around COVID-19 concerns is growing in US higher education as the fall semester approaches

With most universities preparing to open their doors for the fall semester early next month, the pressure is building for US colleges to announce and enforce COVID-19 vaccine mandates — and questions are being raised about how universities’ responses to the pandemic will affect their application numbers in 2022. Varying vaccine and masking policies have some experts speculating about whether this year’s college applicants will favor institutions that have implemented stricter safety measures, noting that some students may hesitate to apply to colleges with looser restrictions for fear of contracting the virus or being sent home if another lockdown ensues.

Crimson’s Take: If there’s anything we’ve learned over the course of the pandemic, it’s that we can never predict what will happen with regard to COVID-19 and the world of higher education. We couldn’t have anticipated campus closures to drag on as long as they did, nor could we predict that university application numbers would skyrocket as a result of coronavirus limitations. As such, we understand why students may be reluctant to apply to universities that have not practiced the highest degree of caution when it comes to the virus — and we’ll be curious to learn what trends emerge during the next admissions cycle.

3. Research finds rejection rates at UK’s Russell Group universities have hit a new high, with middle-class students especially affected

According to an analysis from the former director of research at UCAS, the rejection rate at the UK’s prestigious Russell Group universities (including Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, King’s, Imperial, UCL and 18 others) “has soared to the highest point in almost a decade [with] middle-class students hit the worst.” In 2021 a reported 32% of applicants were rejected by the UK’s top universities, up from 27% last year, and “students from privileged families have seen more than twice the increase in rejection rates from top universities than their peers from deprived families.” 

Crimson’s Take: While we find this data intriguing, it’s also worth noting that the 2020-21 admissions cycle was far from typical thanks to the pandemic’s rippling effects. We saw application numbers skyrocket at most of the world’s top universities as standardized tests and entrance exams were cancelled all over the world, which naturally resulted in lower acceptance rates as available places at such universities remained stagnant. With these application increases also came a higher proportion of underprivileged students applying to unis they may have otherwise been too intimidated to apply to — so the stats reported here seem to line up with trends we’ve already been following.

Nonetheless, we foresee another ultra-competitive admissions round ahead and look forward to working with students around the world to showcase their candidacy beyond geographical, economic and other limitations in 2021!

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