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4 Issues Dominating College Admissions for the 2021-2022 Admission Cycle

After attending numerous events with college Admission Office professionals over the summer, there are four themes that were oft repeated. I share them with you here in hope you can use this knowledge to better prepare for this year’s recently opened (August 1) college admission season.

1) Resiliency Concerns

Colleges are concerned about the incoming class of 2021. Colleges saw a steep decline in students grades for spring semester of their high school year. This leads colleges to question whether this incoming freshman class will have the resilience needed to succeed at the college level. Living and learning for one and a half years online, through distant learning, may have left some students not fully prepared for the rigors of college academics.

Fragile college budgets have seen many colleges have to make cuts or limit campus resources such as mental health counseling and academic tutoring. Incoming college freshman and their parents should double check the status of such resources before they are needed; and, make backup plans if necessary.

2) Standardized Testing

The nine (9) University of California campuses will remain test blind for the 2021-2022 application cycle. As a reminder, this means UC will not consider SAT or ACT test scores when making admissions decisions or awarding scholarships.

Likewise, the California State University (CSU) twenty-three (23) campuses has temporarily suspended the use of ACT/SAT examinations in determining admission eligibility for all CSU campuses f​or the 2021-2022 academic year. This means that SAT and ACT scores will not be used for determining who gets admitted into the CSU.

Private and out-of-state colleges who did not have a test blind or test optional policy in place before the Covid-19 pandemic are, in most cases, continuing with a test-optional policy for this and the following academic cycle. Studies will be conducted on campuses to measure how are students [that were admitted without test scores] doing over time. Are they successful in the classroom? Are they making progress toward a degree? Are they graduating? Faculty across the nation will be watching these metrics closely before advising whether standardized testing should or should not be re-instituted in the future.

Two states, Florida and Georgia, require that all applicants to public universities submit either ACT or SAT test scores as part of their admission application.

3) Narratives & Numbers

Without test scores, colleges and universities must rely on a multifactor review of a student’s application to answer the questions:

  1. How you have grown as a student and individual

  2. How does the student learn?

  3. Who are you?

The first two can be answered by a review of the student’s transcript. This is the numbers side of the equation. Did the student challenge themself by taking the most rigorous courses available to them? How did the student perform over time in their courses? Is there an upward trend in grades from freshman year through the end of junior year?

The narrative portion of a student’s application comes through counselor and teachers’ letters of recommendations and the student’s essays. Learning who a student is through the narrative of their school counselor and teachers is very important to admissions officers. The power of narratives also comes by the student telling the admissions officers who they are – what they value, what interests them, and what skills and qualities are they bringing to college with them – through the required (and optional) essays.

4) Fall Travel

Admission teams will be back on the road with plans to visit high schools and participate in college fairs in person. Admittedly, this will be limited with colleges traveling much closer to home with intra-state visits. College admission offices will continue to rely on virtual admission sessions, live virtual tours, and virtual student panels.

These tours are an outstanding option to in-person tours which are hampered by:

  • Limited capacity as colleges try to maintain social distancing

  • Time constraints of families/prospective students

  • Budget limitations of families/prospective students

Colleges do track who attends these virtual sessions, so students that are serious about being a competitive applicant should attend as many virtual programs that the college offers, as well as participate in virtual, or in-person high school visits from admission representatives, and college fairs. Get to know your prospective college’s Regional Representative!


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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