Will the COVID-19 pandemic inspire real, lasting change in the highly selective college admissions process or are the changes for this admissions cycle only temporary? There’s an editorial in today’s New York Times by Frank Bruni, “The Coronavirus May Change College Admissions Forever,” that praises the release of a forthcoming book on college admissions by Jeffrey Selingo and offers up two predictions for the world of college admissions post-pandemic: (1) elite colleges will fill more slots through Early Decision / Early Action than ever before and (2) these schools will no longer value test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, as they once did.
Elite Colleges Will Rely More Heavily on Early Round
As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we’ve got a crystal ball at Ivy Coach. And our crystal ball happens to agree with both predictions. With respect to Early Decision / Early Action, Bruni writes, “Selingo predicts that many schools that allow ‘early decision’ applications, with which a student sets his or her sights on one preferred institution and commits to attending it if accepted, will fill more of their slots that way than ever, meaning that these applications will have better odds of success than ones submitted later. Schools leaned extra hard on early decision in the shadow of the Great Recession, he said, and now face the same economic anxiety, the same motivation to figure out as soon as possible which new students will be arriving and how much financial aid they’ll need.” Ding ding! The assessment is spot on. The more anxious a school is about its bottom line, the more that school will wish to fill slots in its incoming class with Early candidates.
Elite Colleges Will Rely Less Heavily on SAT, ACT Scores
And with respect to standardized tests, Bruni writes, “‘The SAT’s downgrade won’t be fleeting,’ Selingo said. ‘We’re going to have a whole admissions year with scores of places going test-optional,’ he said. ‘Once their world doesn’t come crashing down and they still recruit a class, those colleges are not going to flock back to the test. I think it’s been knocked off the pedestal permanently.'” Ding ding again! The world is not going to collapse because elite colleges are being forced to admit students without certain test scores and many of these universities that went test-optional this year will choose to remain test-optional. That said, regular readers of our college admissions blog know how we feel about test-optional policies: they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. As long as students are allowed to submit scores, all else being equal, students who submit great scores will always have an advantage over students who don’t submit scores — in spite of what these schools tell you to the contrary.
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