The Final Stretch: What to Expect from College Admissions this Spring

The Final Stretch: What to Expect from College Admissions this Spring

As admissions decisions roll out this spring, we reflect on a college admission cycle unlike any other, fraught with challenges like access to testing, remote learning and of course, a global pandemic. With schools shutting down due to stay-at-home orders and health concerns, the ACT and SAT suddenly became out of reach for large swaths of students for an extended period of time leading to mass test-optional policies at colleges and universities across the country. The result added a new level of unexpected challenge: huge increases in applications at some of the country’s most selective colleges. 

With schools like NYU, Vassar and Harvard seeing jumps by 10%, 20% and even 40%, we’ve also seen schools such as Columbia, Stanford and Yale delay the release of their decisions in order to accommodate the additional reading load. Many students saw the absence of testing requirements as a new opportunity, warranted or not, and without any data to make clear predictions sans testing, it was more than challenging to say what the chances might be for students who could be competitive in these highly selective pools. Of course, the increased application numbers meant even higher levels of competition for roughly the same number of spots. 

As we wait for the final decisions to roll out, we know many students will be seeing a variety of results that may or not meet what even seasoned professionals in the field could have predicted. 

What should I expect from admission results this year?

You may see more of a variety of decisions this year than in the past and they may not correlate in the way you might expect or what you may have seen with the process of older students. Without standardized testing, all of the other application components become more important, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does open the door to far more nuance and interpretation. The influence of individual readers and institutional priorities may have more impact on the results this year than in years passed and the fine hairs the highly selective colleges were already splitting, may appear even more random to those outside of their own admission committee. The high levels of competition at these schools may also lead to some highly competitive candidates seeing more bad news than is typical. The name of the game this year is “expect the unexpected.”

What might the decisions be and what do they mean?

In Early Decision rounds, during the late fall and early winter, most commonly, schools could accept students into the class, deny them or roll them into the Regular Decision round to be reconsidered. Now in Regular Decision, the potential outcomes are as follows:

Admit – the student is being offered a place in next year’s class starting this fall.

Spring/Jan Admit – the student is being offered a place in next year’s class starting in the spring term, ie January.

Deny – the student is not being offered a place in next year’s class.

Waitlist – the student is offered a place on the waitlist and based on enrollment numbers in late April and May, the student may be offered a place in next year’s class. This process can run well into the summer months so students should deposit at another school of their choosing.

How can I support my student as they receive decisions?

  • Celebrate their wins! Hopefully, your student crafted a list that speaks to them so all acceptances, expected and unexpected, should be a cause for joy. 
  • Honor their disappointment. Bad news can be hard for teens; encourage their resilience. This may be the first time they’ve experienced disappointment on this level and it’s not something an adult can resolve. Sometimes students need to sit with this discomfort with a supportive adult so they can learn how to process through these feelings.
  • Remind them of their worth, value and strengths. An admission decision is not a personal judgement, but it can sometimes feel that way when a student gets bad news. It’s important for them to be reminded of their accomplishments and inherent worth.
  • Help them plan and get excited about their future. Whether it’s at their top choice school or their path will take an unexpected turn, help your student get their feet firmly planted and start the journey of the next steps in starting their college experience. Things like housing, classes, roommates, budgeting, laundry and how to use the dorm kitchen are fun topics to start with.

The Class of 2021 has seen unique challenges through their college admission process, but they are resilient and ready to move forward into a post-pandemic future! If your student is considering a gap year, be sure to connect with your counselor for guidance and recommendations.

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