5 College Admissions Trends for 2021

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In today’s episode of College Admissions Real Talk, Dr. Legatt talks about trends she’s predicting for 2021.

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VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight. Today, we are going to be talking about five college admissions trends for 2021. So, as you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how admissions works. It has changed the relationship between college bound students, families, and the institutions themselves. It might be that some of these changes are permanent from deemphasizing the standardized tests to the widening economic gap between institutions which are elite and those which are not. Only time will tell how the pandemic alters universities for future generations. But I think that these five trends will be of the greatest impact in 2021. Trend 1. authenticity and resilience are what you want to go for as an applicant. I often tell my clients that colleges are more interested in students who go all out in their extracurricular activities rather than dabble in let’s say, 10 different clubs. You want to ideally show excellence in your chosen field and follow that X-Factor formula that I gave you in another episode. This principle has never been more true than in the COVID-19 era when many students don’t have the option to participate in extracurriculars like they have in the past. In my forthcoming book, “Get Real and Get In”, I highlight students who have doubled down on their strengths. and wowed admissions committees by being themselves and truly flexing their strengths. There are plenty of ways that you can get creative and showcase your talents and hard work. You can write a book. You can conduct sophisticated research, and you can even found a national or global organization. Colleges ultimately want to see that you have the internal drive and resilience to lead something bigger and more important than you. You want to show that you’re adaptable, that you’re genuine in your interest, and that you have the best interest of others at heart. Trend 2. Standardized tests will be optional but preferred. The list of universities, which deemphasize test scores in the past year has grown to over 900 as of this podcast episode. Yet that doesn’t mean a more level playing field for everybody. Unfortunately, as we saw in the early decision round, universities are saying that their test optional but 75% of students admitted submitted standardized tests, whereas only 25% did not. You can check out this stat in their newspaper the Daily Pennsylvania. This term causes us to question what does “Test Optional” really mean if all other factors equal the universities are actually choosing applicants with standardized test scores? Make sure that you have standardized tests recorded on your schedule and that you’re ready to take them when the time comes. These tests may continue to be optional but they will be preferred at the top university. In addition, as of this podcast and actually in the past week or so, the College Board has gotten rid of the SAT II subject tests and they have also suspended the SAT optional essay. However, it is expected that you as an applicant will complete some AP tests. These tests will show that you have strong content knowledge and ability to perform academically in these subjects. Even if your school does not offer AP classes or if you’re not taking them, you can still take these tests. The only upside to this in my mind of the APs over the subject test is that at least you may qualify for some college credit if you score well enough on them. Trend 3. More students will continue to apply to early admission programs. Amazingly, in fall of 2020, MIT saw an unprecedented 62% increase in early applications over the prior year. Harvard saw an increase of 57%. This dramatic increase may be explained by the fact that many of these schools no longer required these SAT and ACT scores. Although I gave you the caveat in the last trend that they actually do prefer them. Another factor is that students had time to write all these long essays with their downtime during the pandemic. So many students just chose to throw their hat in the ring and try to apply this upcoming year. While I anticipate that students will continue applying in high numbers to these highly selective colleges, I do think that the number will decrease somewhat in the next application cycle in line with the trend of test scores, becoming more important in the next cycle and that being more explicit. Trend 4. the return of international students to campus. With the new presidential administration, I predict we’re going to see a lot more international students back on campus again. As you may know, this past year, many students were barred from getting a visa due to the online instruction which disqualifies students from getting a visa to show up in person and take classes at US universities. In fact, student visas were down about half from the years of 2015 to 2019 so they were already decreasing and that number further declined in 2020. In a pre-election poll conducted by the Graduate Management Association Council, international candidates indicated they would be more likely to matriculate in the US of Biden became president. Now that Biden is president, federal agencies will likely work hard to facilitate international students going to college in the United States. I believe we will see a significant increase in the coming years even if COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Trend 5. more students taking a gap year before college. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many students to consider a non-traditional start to college. The number of students who choose to take a gap year rose significantly in fall 2020. Class of 2021 may choose a similar path and defer college admission in order to explore other interests. I think many students will end up in a gap year and find themselves civically involved. There is also a growing trend of activism and organizing in Gen Z, which comprises people born in the late 90s. And members of Gen Z have been compared to past activist-ic generations. They’re very concerned about the environment, racism, discrimination, economic inequality, and so on. Given the unrest in 2020, there will be a strong poll for future college students to go out and make a difference in their communities. I encourage you to think about your future and think about the longstanding possibilities of it and see how college fits for you in the upcoming year. I anticipate that there will be a lot of wonderful opportunities on campus in Fall 2021 and beyond and I’ll be cheering you on through those opportunities.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222- 5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.