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This Week in Admissions News | Week 14

APR 21, 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. Many elite US universities admitted a higher proportion of underrepresented students in 2021 than ever before

Early data evaluated by the New York Times suggests that many of the most prestigious institutions in the US have extended offers to more “traditionally underrepresented students” than ever, with a higher percentage of those accepted to the Class of 2025 at Ivy League universities being Black, Hispanic, from lower-income communities or first-generation college students. Many speculate this was the result of test-optional policies making elite schools more accessible, with The Times noting admissions officers “drilled deeper into not only high school grades, but also the rigor of courses taken in high school as well as personal essays and recommendations from teachers and guidance counselors.”

Crimson’s Take: COVID-19 restrictions led to many difficulties in this application cycle, but they also had some unforeseen positive effects, as we can see in this case. As a company with a mission to level the university admissions playing field for students facing challenges out of their control, we’re thrilled to see that test-optional policies have opened the door for so many talented students who may not have otherwise applied to top universities. This trend further demonstrates the immense value of a strong application that goes beyond top grades and test scores — a principle we’ve infused into our entire approach to the application process!

2. Between test-optional policies, pass/fail grading and canceled extracurriculars and sports, admissions counselors have had to adapt

As though record-high application numbers at universities across the US weren’t already making this application cycle a difficult one for admissions officers, changes brought on by COVID-19 have caused many college admissions boards to overhaul the way they read and evaluate applications. According to an NPR interview with the director of admissions at UC Santa Barbara, more time was spent on each application this year as “things are much more nuanced now” and there was less focus on objective factors like grades and test scores, and more focus on students’ circumstances and essays.

Crimson’s Take: We predicted that test-optional policies and vague grading systems would throw a curveball at admissions officers this year — and with those policies extended for at least one more year at many schools, the next admissions cycle will likely follow a similar pattern! This is one of the reasons why we place so much emphasis on telling a compelling story in your application essays and weaving a distinct personal narrative throughout your application. With these things in mind, our students are set up for success!

3. Survey finds that US college enrollment dropped by 25% in 2020 due to financial strain worsened by the pandemic

According to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research, one quarter of high school graduates in the US last year “delayed their plans to attend college due to the pandemic,” and about half as many (12%) current high school juniors and seniors plan to do so for the same reason when their opportunity to enroll arrives. An analysis of the data found that the most prominent explanation for this trend is that students’ parents were “less able to provide financial support due to the pandemic,” in tandem with “the sky-high price” of higher education.

Crimson’s Take: A degree from a top university opens many doors and provides students with experiences, resources and connections they probably wouldn’t have access to otherwise — but the costs associated can often leave students and their parents with sticker shock. This is why Crimson provides scholarship and FAFSA support for any student in need of financial assistance, as well as the Crimson Access Opportunity program to provide economically disadvantaged students with free access to Crimson’s services. We don’t think money should ever stand in the way of opportunities like a college education, and we never want ambitious students to feel helpless in their financial situation.

4. Yale joins the list of US colleges to require COVID-19 vaccines for returning students, becoming the third Ivy League university to do so

A growing number of universities in the US have announced that their students will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to their campuses this fall. This week, Yale became the third Ivy League institution to follow suit, notifying students that the university plans to provide the vaccine for those who were unable to get it before the semester begins. Other universities that have not yet announced a vaccine requirement are reportedly “trying different methods to encourage inoculation” among students, such as offering vaccinated students exemptions from mask mandates and other campus restrictions.

Crimson’s Take: COVID-19 cases in the US have been under control for several weeks and are starting to decline now that the vaccine has become widely available. This is great news! Especially knowing that over 500,000 cases have been linked to US college campuses since the beginning of the pandemic, we’re thrilled to learn that more and more universities are doing their part to keep their communities safe. We know many students around the world are looking forward to returning to a safe, enjoyable college experience this fall and we’re excited on their behalf!

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