You have likely heard about the 2020-2021 college application process from your peers, TikTok, Instagram, or really any social media platform. Students at Rowland Hall and around the world have been receiving acceptances and rejections from countless colleges starting from the winter of 2020. Whether you experienced the application process firsthand this year or heard about it from others, the wide consensus was that applying to colleges this year was extremely challenging and competitive compared to previous years. Why was applying to colleges so much different and more difficult this year? Here are a couple of reasons.

 

As you might have expected, Covid-19 played a substantial role in college admissions this year. One of the most important changes was that many colleges and universities decided to be test-optional this year (i.e., they made submitting SAT and ACT scores optional). This change made the number of students applying to the most elite and selective colleges skyrocket. The increase in applications made the acceptance rates of the majority of colleges decrease significantly. For example, the acceptance rates of Ivy League schools dropped by a shocking amount. According to CBS News, the acceptance rates hit an all-time low, with the rates being: Harvard 3.4%, Columbia 3.7%, Princeton 4%, Yale 4.6%, Brown 5.4%, University of Pennsylvania 5.7%, and Dartmouth 6.2%. However, surprisingly enough, the majority of the rest of the institutions in the United States saw a decrease in enrollment.

 

Another reason for the increase in selectivity for prestigious universities was that many students in the class of 2020 opted to take a gap year to avoid having to take online classes following the pandemic. These students who took gap years filled up seats for the college class of 2025. Specifically, at Dartmouth College, 172 students took gap years and filled up the seats for the newest Dartmouth Class, says CNBC. Lastly, financial difficulties played a large role in picking the colleges, particularly for the class of 2020. CNBC says that many high-schoolers “found the price prohibitive in the face of more pressing financial concerns.” Financial difficulties have not necessarily made the process more difficult for the class of 2021, but they have definitely changed the dynamic of college admissions drastically.

 

Aside from college admissions becoming more competitive, the changing dynamic made even creating a college list astronomically more difficult. Sophie Dau, a senior at Rowland Hall, said that “the big Covid change was not being able to visit. With increased applications, I think that a lot of people applied to a more broad range of colleges just because they had no idea what the campus vibe was like.” She continued to say that, “It was also stressful to think, ‘am I picking the right list?’ Half of the colleges I applied to, I realized I probably wouldn’t want to go there anyway.” Deciding where you will spend your next 4 years is hard enough, but not being able to see where you will be attending before you commit made the process for many seniors much more complicated.

 

Overall, the college admissions process this year was more difficult for almost everyone, and even harder if students wanted to attend prestigious institutions. There were many reasons for the increase in selectivity for elite schools, most notably, Covid’s effect on the admissions dynamic. That being said, if you were a senior who may have gotten rejected from one of these institutions, know that even very qualified applicants did not gain acceptance due to the changes in the admissions process.

College applications
Ruchi Agarwal

You have likely heard about the 2020-2021 college application process from your peers, TikTok, Instagram, or really any social media platform. Students at Rowland Hall and around the world have been receiving acceptances and rejections from countless colleges starting from the winter of 2020. Whether you experienced the application process firsthand this year or heard about it from others, the wide consensus was that applying to colleges this year was extremely challenging and competitive compared to previous years. Why was applying to colleges so much different and more difficult this year? Here are a couple of reasons.

 

As you might have expected, Covid-19 played a substantial role in college admissions this year. One of the most important changes was that many colleges and universities decided to be test-optional this year (i.e., they made submitting SAT and ACT scores optional). This change made the number of students applying to the most elite and selective colleges skyrocket. The increase in applications made the acceptance rates of the majority of colleges decrease significantly. For example, the acceptance rates of Ivy League schools dropped by a shocking amount. According to CBS News, the acceptance rates hit an all-time low, with the rates being: Harvard 3.4%, Columbia 3.7%, Princeton 4%, Yale 4.6%, Brown 5.4%, University of Pennsylvania 5.7%, and Dartmouth 6.2%. However, surprisingly enough, the majority of the rest of the institutions in the United States saw a decrease in enrollment.

 

Another reason for the increase in selectivity for prestigious universities was that many students in the class of 2020 opted to take a gap year to avoid having to take online classes following the pandemic. These students who took gap years filled up seats for the college class of 2025. Specifically, at Dartmouth College, 172 students took gap years and filled up the seats for the newest Dartmouth Class, says CNBC. Lastly, financial difficulties played a large role in picking the colleges, particularly for the class of 2020. CNBC says that many high-schoolers “found the price prohibitive in the face of more pressing financial concerns.” Financial difficulties have not necessarily made the process more difficult for the class of 2021, but they have definitely changed the dynamic of college admissions drastically.

 

Aside from college admissions becoming more competitive, the changing dynamic made even creating a college list astronomically more difficult. Sophie Dau, a senior at Rowland Hall, said that “the big Covid change was not being able to visit. With increased applications, I think that a lot of people applied to a more broad range of colleges just because they had no idea what the campus vibe was like.” She continued to say that, “It was also stressful to think, ‘am I picking the right list?’ Half of the colleges I applied to, I realized I probably wouldn’t want to go there anyway.” Deciding where you will spend your next 4 years is hard enough, but not being able to see where you will be attending before you commit made the process for many seniors much more complicated.

 

Overall, the college admissions process this year was more difficult for almost everyone, and even harder if students wanted to attend prestigious institutions. There were many reasons for the increase in selectivity for elite schools, most notably, Covid’s effect on the admissions dynamic. That being said, if you were a senior who may have gotten rejected from one of these institutions, know that even very qualified applicants did not gain acceptance due to the changes in the admissions process.

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