College admissions difficulty spikes, along with seniors’ stress


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Harvard admits a record low percentage of students admitted for the class of 2025.

In the spring of 2020, juniors were told that the college admissions process would be “easier” than it usually was because schools were beginning to go test-optional. Except, the opposite happened. 

I thought because of Covid-19 that getting into colleges would’ve been easier but I was very wrong about that.

— Riya Kohli

As the seniors of 2020 were getting ready for college, covid-19 hit and changed their plans. In a study conducted by the Hechinger Report, roughly 16% of students they surveyed said that they were planning on taking a gap year for the school year 2020-2021; compared to 3% of students who took a gap year in previous years. This rise in students taking a year off to allow time for the Coronavirus vaccine to be produced and for college life to return to “normal” takes away freshman-entry spots for the fall of 2021 from current seniors applying to college. Senior Riya Kohli said, “I understand why the seniors last year took a gap year, I probably would too. It just worries me because now there will be less freshman-entry spots for the colleges to fill with more applications for them to choose between. I thought because of Covid-19 that getting into colleges would’ve been easier but I was very wrong about that.” 

Over 1,600 colleges have created a test-optional policy for the 2020-2021 school year, and some for longer. The new test-optional policies have put colleges under a greater amount of stress because they have to take a more holistic approach when looking at a student’s application, causing them to release decisions later than they typically would. According to Cornell, Ivy day has been pushed from its typical end of March date to April 6. They have also decided to push back when students need to commit to a school from May 1 to May 3. Senior Rozhin Fadae said, “I am anxiously waiting for Ivy day to come. I am really nervous though because the pushback of the date gives those who applied less than a month to decide where they want to go, which is hard to make that decision, especially if you haven’t gotten to see the campus yet.” 

Furthermore, the test-optional policy has caused a rise in college admissions among the top universities. Forbes states that although the number of first-time freshmen applying is decreasing, students are applying to more schools than usual. Also, more students are applying to more prestigious universities because of the lack of scores required. Eric Nichols, vice president for enrollment management at Loyola University Maryland said, “Those who are applying test-optional are way up. In a typical year, we see 65%-75% of the applicant pool submit scores (we’ve been test-optional since 2010). This year it’s currently only 35%.” 

Besides getting into the colleges being more difficult, choosing a college once you’re in has also been made more difficult. When Covid-19 hit hard last spring, it cancelled juniors’s trips to tour colleges before applying to them. Now, with Covid-19, colleges are not hosting in-person tours for the seniors to visit their future college campus. Kohli said, “I was supposed to go visit college campuses last spring break, but they were all cancelled when Covid-19 hit. I still haven’t visited most of the colleges I applied to and it is hard to tell where I want to go. Hopefully I will be able to soon, but I might have to make the decision without touring the schools.”