The Ivy Coach Daily

March 17, 2021

Two Truths and a Lie About This Year’s Admissions Cycle

We thought we’d play a fun game today of two truths and a lie as it relates to elite college admissions.

There’s a piece in The Wall Street Journal by Allison Pohle entitled “Is It Harder to Get Into College in 2021?” that we thought we’d share with our readers. The piece, of course, focuses on the changes to this year’s college admissions process as a result of the pandemic. The pandemic, after all, spurred the end — at the very least temporarily — of testing requirements in admissions. It led to application spikes at our nation’s elite universities. It led to Princeton suspending its Early Action program. It led to Common App. posing a new question to applicants focusing on how the pandemic has impacted them. And so much more. And while the piece in The Wall Street Journal gets much right about this year’s changes to college admissions, it does get one point wrong. As a fun exercise, we thought we’d leave it to our readers to guess which two assertions from the piece in The Wall Street Journal are right and which one is just plain wrong. So which one is not like the others?

1.) “Students who are waitlisted might find they have increased odds of getting admitted. ’College wait lists are expected to be very long this year. In some years, the chances are low that students will move off a wait list and get into a selective school. This year, because of the uncertainty in where students will enroll, there could be more activity off the wait list, Mr. [Todd] Rinehart said. ’It’s still very low percentages, but I think they might be slightly better than maybe a typical year,’ he said.”

2.) “Deferrals from last academic year don’t appear to have a big effect on admissions this fall. Many college officials said deferrals from the fall academic year were small in number, and wouldn’t have a large effect on the number of students admitted for the fall 2021 term. For example, the University of Michigan saw 245 incoming first-year students defer last fall compared with 52 first-year students in 2019, said Erica Sanders, undergraduate-admissions director. But the increase in deferrals won’t affect freshman admissions this year, she said.”

3.) “Selective colleges saw an overwhelming increase in the number of applicants. The nation’s most-selective four-year colleges and universities saw a record-breaking 17% increase in applications this year, according to the Common App. This included both selective public and private schools.”

Did you guess #2? If so, ding ding ding! While we do anticipate more students will be admitted off waitlists this year and while selective colleges did see an overwhelming increase in applications, the notion that deferrals from last academic year didn’t have a big effect on admissions this fall is just plain wrong. At many highly selective universities, around 20% of admits to the Class of 2024 chose to defer their enrollment. And the vast majority of these institutions did not expand their incoming class sizes. So you bet these gap year students took up seats for the Class of 2025. And you bet they had a big impact on this year’s admissions cycle!

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