A senior’s perspective on this year’s brutal college admissions season

Raquel Rossi, Staff Writer

College admission rates are always a lifeline for incoming seniors to gauge their chances. Websites like Niche and CollegeVine can provide reassurance to students, especially those trying to get into competitive universities. 

This year, on top of pandemic-imposed stress, students were faced with an unexpected source of concern: college applicant counts skyrocketed for colleges, forcing acceptance rates to plummet. According to The Wallstreet Journal and Common App, some colleges saw as much as a 17% increase in applications. On average, colleges saw a 7% decrease in admitted students overall according to John Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed.

But why were there more applicants this year? And what does this mean for seniors and juniors trying to apply to college?

One reason for the increased applications are dropped SAT and ACT requirements. The high standards for standardized testing and GPA made a lot of students weary of their chances to apply to competitive schools. With dropped standardized testing requirements, more students felt like they had a chance to get into schools with only their GPA and extracurriculars.

Additionally, because it was more difficult to visit colleges this year and because parameters for accepted students were skewed with the dropped standardized testing requirement, students applied to more schools to have a sense of security. Many of the people I know committed to schools without ever having set foot there, placing blind faith in the quality of their online tours and websites.

When college decisions came out, admissions rates for the more competitive colleges in the country all plummeted, resulting in many more applicants being turned away or waitlisted from schools they deemed as achievable options for college. 

The decline in college admission rates did and likely will do a lot of psychological damage to incoming college students. Getting rejected from dream or target schools can shake the confidence of many students, while those who are admitted to competitive college may be faced with more uncertainty of their worthiness to be in the school.

Juniors will also be extremely affected by the dropped admission rates. As a senior, when I was applying to college, I used past admissions rates to gauge what my chances were of getting into certain colleges. Admissions rates are normally determined by GPA, standardized test scores, course rigor, extracurriculars, engagement and tours, and possible legacy and alumni connections. 

This year, many of these factors are obsolete: pass/fail classes in junior year, optional test score requirements, limited extracurriculars and awards by Covid-19 restrictions, and limited opportunities to show interest in schools are all curveballs to the traditional college admission process. Many of the parameters previously used to select students that are admitted to schools were thrown off, especially within more competitive ones like University of California schools or Ivy League institutions.

If anything, I think this admissions season really exposed the weaknesses of the current college screening process. College admissions choices should be much more holistic in order to get a better sense of the prospective students and their strength as candidates, especially when there is a larger pool of applicants. 

A lesser focus on stats and a greater focus on character and well-roundedness would have made the college screening process much easier and much more effective in guaranteeing the quality of incoming students.

More than ever, statistics are unpredictable, especially for colleges. Many students put all of their worth into what college they get accepted to, so the period of college admissions can be an especially stressful time. This is what made this admissions season so much more taxing for seniors, as the uncertainty and less than ideal odds placed doubt in our minds about our futures.

But as commitment season comes to a close and the dust of college decisions start to settle, we all need to go forward believing in our merit beyond statistics. If this year showed us anything, it’s that numbers are just numbers. If we keep goals for the future and strive for them, we will thrive at whatever college we end up pursuing.