As more and more college decisions are released (congratulations to our seniors who have already heard some good news!), some data points have emerged around the rapidly increasing competitiveness of what is already a very challenging application process. Many admissions counselors (ourselves included) had predicted that the pandemic, and especially the degree to which it has affected the United States, would lead to a decrease in applicants this year, and that has not been the case. Applications have risen dramatically across the board, especially to elite schools:
These types of numbers are true for other schools as well. Our conversations with admissions officers from other American Universities like Northeastern and Tulane, as well as from universities in the United Kingdom and Japan, have revealed similar stories – many had initial concerns that the pandemic would decrease applicant numbers, but then received an unprecedented amount of applications this year.
There are many theories as to why this might be. The shift to testing policy has certainly encouraged more students to apply. The increasing cost of a college education has also led families to prioritize elite schools with strong international name-brand value. These are trends that most expect to continue.
What does this mean?
Regardless of the reasons behind it, these surges mean that gaining successful admissions is even more competitive than before. The changes to standardized testing – both the shift to test-optional and test-blind policies as well as the removal of the SAT Subject Tests – also means that there are fewer ways to distinguish oneself as a uniquely qualified student in an increasingly competitive field. As a result:
Of course, given the complexity and competitiveness mentioned above, it cannot hurt to have a little support. Whether it be course selection or test preparation planning or figuring out your extracurriculars, there’s a lot to weigh when applying to colleges this year.