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    What Did the 2021-22 College Admissions Cycle Teach Us?

    Posted July 19, 2022, 10:00 am by College Advisor

    The numbers from the 2021-22 college admissions cycle are in, and they can tell us a lot about what to expect this upcoming year. In this article, College Advisor takes a closer look at the information on this past admission cycle, how applicants fared, and what this all means for applicants this year. 

    This article is part of TeenLife's brand new 2022 Guide to College Admissions. Featuring more than a dozen articles from college pros and admissions experts, this new TeenLife guide is the perfect resource for tackling college admissions head on. Download it for free today

    College Admission Statistics at Ivy League Schools

    Let’s start our examination of the college admissions cycle by looking at the numbers for four Ivy League Schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Brown. 

    This past year, Harvard University saw an application increase of 7% at 61,220 total applicants. That caused an acceptance rate of just 3.19%. This is the lowest acceptance rate in school history. 

    Another Ivy League school that saw its lowest acceptance rate in school history was Brown University. Their acceptance rate for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle was just 5%. This was due to an application increase of 9%. Brown fielded 50,649 total applicants. 

    Similar to Brown and Harvard, Yale University also saw a stark increase in applications. Yale received 50,015 applicants, which put their application increase rate at 6.6%. Not as high as Harvard or Brown, but certainly significant. This led to a 4.46% acceptance rate, which is the lowest the school has seen in three years. 

    Finally, Columbia is one Ivy League that did not see a significant increase in applicants, fielding 60,377 hopeful students. Out of that number, only 3.73% were accepted, which puts Columbia’s admissions rate below both Brown and Yale.

    Where Did this Application Spike Come From?

    There are a few influential factors that pushed this application spike, leading to an increased selectivity in the college admissions process this past year. 

    First, test optional policies that were put into place during COVID remained widely unchanged. Many schools still allowed for students to choose whether their test scores would be considered as part of their application, which means one less hoop for applicants to jump through. This increase in accessibility at schools is one of the biggest causes for the overall application spike. 

    For example, Vanderbilt University is one school that has promised to remain rest optional through 2028. This past year, only about 60% of applicants submitted their test scores. Conversely, MIT announced they were returning to mandatory test score submissions included in applications. However, prior to this announcement, MIT applications were up 66% compared to pre-pandemic. That’s a huge jump!

    Another factor that may have contributed to the application spike is the economy. Unfortunately, shaky economic conditions lead to an increase in college applications. So, if the economy remains on its current trajectory, we may continue to see this application spike for the upcoming admissions cycle. 

    The final factor which could be contributing to the application spike at colleges is changing financial aid policies. Schools’ Need Blind and Need Aware policies are evolving, in order to make college more accessible for all students. This may be the reason why Dartmouth saw a 2% increase in international applications

    What Else Influences Selectivity at These Schools?

    Other than the above factors, which contribute to the application spike and subsequent low admissions rates, what else causes an increase in selectivity at colleges? Well, there are several factors to look at.

    The first is departmental needs. If you’ve been doing your research on the college admissions process, you know that applying for certain majors at certain schools can be much more selective than applying for other majors at the same college. If certain departments or programs are seeing an influx of applicants but are limited to the number of students they can accept due to the size of the program or teaching staff, then that school will ultimately have to turn away more applicants. 

    Schools also have relationships with third party programs, which can increase selectivity for other applicants. Furthermore, there are enrollment caps at some schools for students from certain geographic locations. And finally, tuition dependency can affect the selectivity of a school. If a school cannot support its students with the income from tuition, donations, etc., then they may need to just accept fewer applicants. 

    What Does this Data Mean for the Upcoming College Admissions Cycle?

    So, we’ve gone through what the data is and why it’s happening, but what does this mean for future applicants? Well, it seems unlikely that application numbers will suddenly swing in the opposite direction. It’s safe to predict that demand will continue to increase for a college education, especially at a prestigious or elite university. Applications may slow but will ultimately continue to rise, perhaps not at the current rate, but this data indicates that they likely will not drop back to pre-pandemic levels any time soon. 

    One thing this may eventually lead to is more independent movement between colleges. We can perhaps expect to see admissions practices that will become more differentiated by school, which may make the application process more complicated for students applying to many schools. Also, the return of testing requirements will lead to temporary dips for certain institutions, which may ultimately spur a new focus on mid-tier schools that remain test optional in the coming years. 

    Finally, this tells us that unique applications are increasingly important in upcoming application cycles. ​​Pressure will continue to be placed on applicants to establish their “fit” at a school, so the school can feel confident that the student will be an asset to the school environment. 

    How to Plan for the Next College Admissions Cycle

    1. Start Building an Application Strategy Now: Time is your greatest asset, so schedule application prep time throughout your high school career and use time off effectively.
    2. Follow the Data: Do you know how your applicant profile has fared in the most recent admission cycles?
    3. Verify Information: Rumors kill applications, so be sure to double check everything you hear about a school on its website.
    4. Build your Brand: Develop and share your passion - colleges want students who are bright, motivated, and inspired!
    5. Get Help: Nearly half of all applicants are getting third party assistance with their college applications today. This is the biggest decision of your life, so why risk it?
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