Questions to Ask College Admissions Officers: What Are the Real Admissions Trends?

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The acceptance rates of the top universities and colleges remained near record lows this year. Rising seniors preparing to begin their application process are eager to learn from last year’s enrollment cycle.. “Are test scores still important?” “should I take the SAT or the ACT?” “Is test-optional truly optional?” “What will impress admissions officers?”

This year’s admissions and enrollment cycle ended not too long ago. Some students will be heading to their dream schools. Some may be disappointed. Those who are working hard gaining admission next year are eager to learn what is useful for them.

It can be easy for a prospective student to get intimidated by the low acceptance rate at their dream school, and then turn to the deluge of college admissions articles proclaiming new and profound “trends” in a search for answers.

It is far more difficult to understand which of these claims are accurate, and which are misleading or outright false.

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Questions About College Admissions Trends on the Internet

You may have read some of the most popular articles touting analysis of college admissions trends. These stories generally take the same form. They claim to have analyzed the admissions results from the cycle and in turn offer inside information about the future of the industry.

However, in our experience these articles generally depend on anecdotal articles and information distilled from the press releases issued by highly selective admissions offices.

As such, we’ve decided to go straight to the source and ask an admissions officer for their reflections on these forecasts.

We have identified four “trends” commonly cited in these types of articles online, and have invited Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of Recruitment for Swarthmore College, Yulia Korovikov, to weigh in as a behind the scenes expert.

  • Claimed admissions trend 1: Test-optional is here to stay
  • Claimed admissions trend 2: Students who do submit testing are at an advantage
  • Claimed admissions trend 3: International applications are on the rise
  • Claimed admissions trend 4: Given new testing landscape, AP scores have heightened importance

College admissions officer answers questions on college admissions trends

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Claimed Admissions Trend 1: Test-Optional Is Here To Stay

Admission officer, Yulia Korovikov— This decision is being made institution-by-institution with some reinstating their testing policies, others choosing to be test-optional or test-free as standing policies, and others still waiting as they evaluate data from their test-optional pilots.

Colleges and universities were already increasingly adopting test-optional and test-free policies before the pandemic, but the shift actively sped up starting in 2020 and it doesn’t look like a wholesale adoption of required testing is likely to come back soon.

Claimed Admissions Trend 2: Students Who Do Submit Testing Are at an Advantage

Admission officer, Yulia Korovikov— College Admissions can include a lot of optional materials, including arts supplements, research abstracts, interviews, extra recommendations, and more.

Admissions officers are trained to incorporate these optional materials into their holistic review of each file regardless of whether all, some, or none of the optional materials are included.

This is true for standardized testing as well! If you feel that your scores are indicative of your academic ability, you’re welcome to submit them. If you feel that standardized testing doesn’t showcase all of your talents and skills, there’s no need to submit them.

We already ask a lot of you in required materials, the optional ones really are that: optional.

Claimed Admissions Trend 3: International Applications Are on the Rise

Admission officer, Yulia Korovikov— As colleges went test-optional and test-free with the pandemic, one of the main hurdles for international applicants went away as well.

The SAT and ACT offer fewer testing dates outside of the United States, are offered at fewer locations, and are often prohibitively expensive in both travel to and registration for the exams themselves.

This led to a lot more access to American colleges for students outside of the US. Among CommonApp submitters, international applicants have grown at nearly 3x the rate of domestic applicants, though domestic applicants continue to be the vast majority of applicants to US colleges.

That being said, colleges do not admit proportionally to their applicants, so while there are more international applicants across American colleges, that does not mean that all colleges are admitting more international students.

Claimed Admissions Trend 4: Given New Testing Landscape, AP Scores Have Heightened Importance

Admission officer, Yulia KorovikovJust over one-third of high school graduates took AP examinations this past year, that’s not that many. Some colleges ask students to submit their AP scores, but for most colleges they’re optional (and were before 2020).

Much like with the ACT and SAT, if you have access to AP examinations and feel that your results are indicative of your academic ability, you’re welcome to submit them to us. If you’d rather not, we won’t question why, we’ll just assume that you saw “optional” and decided not to. Optional means optional!

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Our Advice for Seeking Answers to Your College Admissions Questions Moving Forward

We thank our guest admissions officer from Swarthmore College answered the burning questions for us. As you can tell from her answers, there are no black-and-white conclusions as you see in the most popular posts on the internet.

Understanding the full picture will empower you to make the best future plans to pursue your college education.

Doing research on the internet is necessary and helpful, but we encourage you to always pursue your questions to ask college admissions reps on your own.

You will be rewarded with the best-balanced insight, and the most reliable information to propel you forward with your academic interests, admissions process, and college search.

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