Top 7 College Admission Trends of 2021-2022

College admissions trends of 2021-2022

At the conclusion of each year’s admission cycle, the college experts at International College Counselors meet as a team to reflect on college admissions trends and the results of that year’s process. We examine our clients’ results as well as the admission data offered by the colleges themselves. The more counselors, parents, and students know, the better we can prepare to make decisions that align with our families’ needs, values, and goals.

Here is what we have learned after the college admissions cycle for the high school class of 2022.

1) Large application pools are the new normal at competitive and highly competitive schools.

In November 2021, the Common Application reported that the number of college applicants had increased by 13%, and total submitted applications have increased 22% from the previous year. For one, the number of test-optional schools resulted in more students without test scores applying to “reach schools.” Colleges have also utilized online marketing to increase their reach to underrepresented, first-generation, and low-income students, as well as international students.

2) Admit rates will remain low at competitive and highly competitive colleges.

More applicants translate to lower admit rates to keep the entering class size at a pre-determined number. Tufts University and Boston University, for example, overenrolled last year, so they were very cautious this year with their number of admits. Many colleges stated that they were actively using wait lists in order to better manage the size of the entering class.

3) Applying Early Decision makes a difference.

At Northeastern University, a hair over 50% of entering class was admitted through the binding Early Decision (ED) plan. At Boston University, 42% of the students were accepted ED. Colleges love ED because the plan makes it easier for admissions offices to “guarantee” a certain number of enrolled students. Guaranteed enrollment through ED also boosts a college’s yield rate (the yield rate is the percent of admitted students who decide to enroll). If a college’s yield rate is too low, they may get “points off” in some college rankings.

4) Submitting a high SAT or ACT score can boost a student’s chances of admission.

During the first year of COVID, approximately 800 colleges decided to join the nearly 1,100 schools across the country that were already test-optional. While MIT announced this past March that it would reinstate its SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles, they stand alone among their private peer institutions. (Important note: the public colleges in both Florida and Tennessee also require test scores!) However, college reps across the country whose schools have test optional policies in place have told us that they will not ignore a high standardized test score, and that colleges do like to see students who submit scores within or above the school averages. That said, be careful to note the rising averages of reported test scores. According to the published information on admitted students, it’s very clear from the previous cycle that many of them submitted ACT or SAT test scores well above the school’s mid-50% range.

5) Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a top priority for most colleges.

What we saw this year were that students of color, first generation, and low-income applicants were admitted at a higher rate than in past years. Members of these underrepresented groups also applied at higher rates. First-generation students alone comprised 27% of the total applicant pool. Schools like Yale, Columbia, Boston University, and NYU enrolled classes of close to 50% of students who identified as member of a group that is underrepresented in higher education. NYU expects that about 66% of domestic students on campus in fall 2022 will identify as students of color.

6) Admissions essays will continue to play a significant role.

Every day, admissions officers see hundreds of student applications with similar GPAs, test scores, and activities. The essays are one way for the readers to decide among the applicants who meet or exceed the school’s standards of GPA/test score/activities. The essay works in concert with the other parts of the application. The committee has already seen your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, etc. Now they want to see your personality, consider how you communicate, discover what’s important to you, and learn what makes you tick.

7) Demonstrated interest is important to college admissions offices.

With the rise in applications, many colleges, particularly those that are private, like to know which students are actually interested in them, and which ones are simply sending in an application as a backup. Demonstrated interest is not just important; it’s also easy for colleges to track. Simple steps like attending a virtual information session, opening emails, clicking links, and spending time on websites can show a college that you are truly interested. An in-person visit is always a good idea if it fits into your schedule and budget.