The Ivy Coach Daily

June 24, 2020

The Toughest Year Ever in College Admissions

Toughest Year in Admissions, Tough Year in Admissions, Class of 2025
For many years, folks exaggerated that it was the toughest year in admissions ever. This coming year, it may well be no exaggeration.

At the conclusion of many admissions cycles, students and parents would sing a popular refrain: “It was the toughest year ever.” Our nation’s elite colleges, in their press releases in which they reported record application numbers, would boast, “It was the most competitive year yet.” But as we have long argued on the pages of this college admissions blog, these sorts of refrains — while popular — weren’t necessarily true. Just because an elite college boasts a lower admission rate and just because they say it was the most competitive year yet doesn’t mean it was any more difficult to get into the school than it was the year before. You see, elite colleges just get better and better at getting students to apply. As an extreme example to relay our point, more C students applying to Harvard doesn’t make the Harvard applicant pool more competitive. Over these years, such refrains only made the highly selective college admissions process more stressful. And it was all unnecessary stress since, in most instances, it wasn’t tangibly more difficult to get into an elite school one year than the year before.

The Toughest Year Yet Line Was Always An Exaggerated Superlative

But while we have long rolled our eyes at “the toughest year yet” refrain, we do believe it will be a tough year for applicants to the Class of 2025. While application numbers will likely not set records at our nation’s elite schools, we do believe there will be fewer available seats because of the number of international students from the Class of 2024 who must defer a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we have argued that the anticipated number of students taking gap years is overestimated, there still will be a sizable percentage of students — international students in particular — who defer their admission a year.

This Next Admissions Cycle Will Be Tough

So when a high school student writes in a New York Times editorial that “the high school class of 2021 just lucked out hard” because of the cancelation of in-person schooling this past spring and the decision by many elite colleges to go test-optional, we find ourselves scratching our heads. In fact, we’d argue just the opposite: this year’s group of rising high school seniors is not so lucky. There will be fewer seats available. There will be fewer opportunities to get great scores on tests like the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests — tests that still matter in highly selective colleges even if these schools have announced test-optional policies. No, the Class of 2025, a class that has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is not so lucky. This next year is going to be a tough year in highly selective college admissions. Will it be the toughest year yet? Based on application numbers and admission rates alone, likely not. But it will be a tough year nonetheless.

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