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Nancy’s Notes are reflections, observations, and pontifications of all things admission-related. Nancy is an academic counselor at Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach, CA and a proud WACAC/NACAC member for over 12 years.

I thought 2020 was behind us, but it continues to extend its tentacles into 2021. California has earned the dubious distinction of leading the country in the number of Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, according to the CDC. We also witnessed a sad day in the history of our country as protestors stormed the Capitol building. 

Yet, congratulations are in order. Congratulations to high school counselors on seeing the Class of 2021 through a very difficult and untraditional application process in the midst of a pandemic during significant political and social unrest. Congratulations to the college admission officers for chasing down supporting documents, reaching out to students who accidentally click the wrong thing on their applications, and putting up with everyone’s questions. What we have done collectively as a profession has been herculean. We should all be proud of what we’ve accomplished as it is nothing short of extraordinary.

So, what were the results of our efforts and where do we go from here? My friend, with a “normal job” outside of college admission, and I got together for a walk over the holidays. She asked me, “Is the pandemic helping or hurting the Class of 2021? What should the Class of 2022 expect?” I told her that her questions oversimplified the admission process. It isn’t a matter of “help” or “hurt” and there are no definitive answers yet for the next class. Instead, I shared with her some information I had gleaned through sorting through the copious amount of emails clogging my inbox and listening to recordings of webinars. I thought I’d share them with you as well.

According to the following admission offices (in alphabetical order):

  • Duke received over 5,000 Early Decision applications for approximately 840 places, an admit rate of about 16 percent. They also saw an increase in students considering Duke through the Questbridge National College Match process. Duke welcomed 37 Questbridge Scholars as a part of the Class of 2025 (Duke Admissions Counselors Digest: Winter 2020, December 17, 2020).

 

  • Fordham had more than 19,800 applicants for Early Action/Early Decision. Approximately 60% of applicants did not submit test scores and their mean GPA remained level at 3.64 (Fordham University’s Early Action and Early Decision Release, December 15, 2020).

 

  • Loyola University Maryland VP for Enrollment Management, Eric Nichols, shared information during the National CCAA Town Hall Meeting. He stated that as a test-optional school, they typically receive scores from 65-70% of their applicants. This year, only 35% submitted scores. A recording of the Town Hall Meeting is available here (passcode =%xu001o) for those of you who missed it or would like a recap. Mr. Nichols’ speaks from 0:5:50-0:11:30.

 

  • Marist, a test-optional school, typically receives test scores from 75% of their applicants. This year, that number is 37%. Their early applicant pool was the largest in the history of the college (Marist End of Year Update, December 21, 2020).

 

  • MIT received approximately 15,100 Early Action applications, an increase of 62% from last year’s Early Action round. They speculate the suspension of the SAT/ACT requirement this year, as well as the permanent elimination of the SAT Subject Test requirement, may have contributed to the increase in applications (MIT Early Action Decision Release Date, December 14, 2020).

 

  • Ohio State accepted more than 13,500 first-year students from their first round of early applicants. Approximately 38% of admitted students asked for their test scores to not be considered. Completed Early Action applications increased by roughly 15% (Admission News, Winter 2021, January 11, 2021).

So, it seems applications at these schools increased, submission of test scores decreased, and at some institutions, admission rates declined. Hmm. Sounds like a typical year with a test score twist. There are still so many questions that remain unanswered. Did the admitted student profile change? Was a more diverse class achieved? Deferral rates? Financial aid awarded? Admit rates for those who submitted scores versus those who didn’t? I’m sure more information will follow when the application cycle concludes and admission offices can digest it all.

What about the Class of 2022? Three days before Christmas, I received an email from Rutgers. It said, While we are focusing on the current admissions cycle, we know your rising seniors have questions about standardized tests. Due to the uncertainty of future test dates and availability of standardized tests, Rutgers will make submission of SAT and ACT test scores optional for students applying for fall 2022.”

Yes!!! I had begun to fret for the Class of 2022. A local hotel, now serving as an ACT test site, cancelled the December 12 exam and things aren’t looking good for February. Since the announcement from Rutgers, I have seen a few emails from FairTest’s Robert Schaeffer that others, such as Baylor, and the California State University system, will continue their current testing policies for the Class of 2022. Other schools have shared they will announce their admission requirements later this month or in February. It may soon be time to convince another class that test-optional really means test-optional.

It makes sense, right? About two-thirds of all four-year colleges are test-optional as a result of the pandemic. Those advocating for test-optional policies say data shows those who submit scores and those who don’t are equally as successful in college in terms of graduation rates and college GPA. The health and safety of students during this pandemic should come first and making tests optional is a step in addressing the inequities in our educational system which have been so painfully highlighted over the past 10 months in so many different ways.

So what does 2021 hold for us? All I can say is as a profession, I’m in the company of some of the most amazing people. People who are trying to serve their students the best they can, in the midst of a pandemic, while tackling big issues such as access, equity, race and injustice. We challenge each other to do better tomorrow than we did today and we show our students that in the darkest times, we keep shining. Happy New Year everyone!