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This Week in Admissions News | Week 9

MAR 18, 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. Five US universities have extended their test-optional policies beyond the upcoming admissions cycle

Already this year, hundreds of universities across the US have announced that their test-optional policies will stay in place for another year as COVID-19 continues to restrict access to standardized testing opportunities for many students. While several top colleges have decidedly stated that they do not plan to adopt permanent test-optional policies, some have already declared they will extend these policies even further, to 2024, 2025 or even 2026. Some speculate that this trend will ripple through other US universities, potentially leading to a sizable decline in testing requirements for future applicants.

Crimson’s Take: There has been ongoing chatter in the college admissions sphere about the future of standardized tests in the application process. However, as ACT CEO Janet Goodwin pointed out earlier this month, “schools regard test data as too useful to abandon it altogether” and despite a decrease in students submitting test scores this year, universities still report “significant use of testing data in almost every aspect of the enrollment process.” This indicates that, especially at highly selective colleges, test scores still serve as a preliminary ‘cutting’ factor and the requirement will not likely be eliminated anytime soon.

2. The UK’s Office of Students advises universities not to accept too many students following an 8% increase in applications

The Office of Students (OfS), which regulates higher education in England, has cautioned universities not to admit too many students for fear of the quality of their course being diminished as a result of “over-recruitment and poor organisation.” OfS pointed out that with an 8% increase in UK university applications this year, alongside the possibility of higher A-level results due to teachers’ grades being used for cancelled exams, institutions will need to make a conscious effort not to “swamp courses” with too many students.

Crimson’s Take: After all the confusion associated with A-levels in the last application cycle, we understand why UK universities and other higher education organizations like OfS are proceeding with caution this year. Especially for leading institutions with highly competitive applicant pools, there is immense pressure to ensure they are better equipped should the same trends carry through to the upcoming admissions cycle. We’re optimistic that these universities’ efforts will put them in a better position to accommodate for an influx of qualified students applying in the next admissions round.

3. Study finds that top UK universities are admitting fewer wealthy students and extending more offers to minority students

A recent study from the Office of Students (OfS) found that top UK universities are accepting fewer students from wealthy backgrounds by a small margin. This year, Cambridge’s admission of students from the study’s wealthiest segment decreased by 4.5% compared to last year while Oxford’s admission of students from the same segment dropped by 2.2%. Additionally, the study found that students from the most deprived segment increased by 1.7% at Cambridge, with other leading UK universities demonstrating similar trends.

Crimson’s Take: At Crimson, our mission is to level the higher education playing field for students all over the world — so we’re always encouraged by news that universities are taking action to build more inclusive and diverse communities. Many elite universities are believed to favor students from wealthy families in the admissions process, and we hope these findings will help to eliminate that misconception. We’re thrilled to know that institutions as selective as Oxford and Cambridge are giving qualified students of lower socioeconomic status the chance at an elite education that they deserve.

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