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COVID19 Chaos in College Admissions

Updated: Aug 17

2020 was a crazy year. Kathleen and I were starting a project on Jesuit colleges last March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit like a sledgehammer. In April, I began listening to many podcasts of experts who were predicting what would happen, but even their forecasts were not completely on point. Here is a brief summary of the changes that have occurred in just 12 months.

1. Test cancellation happened throughout 2020, with some of my students having 8 testing dates cancelled, resulting in having to drive or fly hundreds of miles to secure a test. The SAT cancelled the writing portion of the test for 2021. Subject tests were cancelled in May, 2021. Only 44% of Common App users submit test scores. This is highly unusual as about 75% of students usually submit test scores.

2. Highly selective colleges (including the UCs) were overwhelmed with applications. Harvard’s early admissions applications were up 57%; Yale had an increase of early applications of 38%; MIT increased 61%; UCLA received 168,000 applications, a 24% increase; UCs in total had a 16.1% leap in total applications with 21.8% increase in African American applications, 12.2% increase in Chicano/Latino students. For a complete version of how colleges' application rates varied here is the complete article in Inside Higher Ed.

3. The SAT Subject Tests were eliminated with the College Board changing focus on AP tests to demonstrate subject mastery. The SAT with writing was cancelled, so the importance of taking that portion of the test has declined. While I still believe in the importance of the writing portion in the ACT, it is possible the ACT will eliminate this option as well. We will see.



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