A recent piece in The Columbia Daily Spectator by Carmen Sherlock paints a dark portrait of this Early college admissions cycle, one that’s taking place at another height of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. In the piece, entitled “Columbia may look whiter and wealthier next year. Here’s why.,” Sherlock writes, “Final application deadlines are yet to come, but data from the Common App shows that through Nov. 2—the day after most early decision deadlines—first-year applications are down 8 percent nationally, a number that doubles for first-generation students and students eligible for application fee waivers. Early decision applications allow schools like Columbia, which rely heavily on tuition revenue, to reliably calculate enrollment numbers and financial aid awards. For this reason, experts have predicted that schools will admit more early decision applicants this year. As with many selective schools, Columbia’s early decision acceptance rate is higher than its regular decision acceptance rate. The binding nature of early decision—in which a student ostensibly commits to enrolling, except in extenuating circumstances—requires a level of certainty that low-income students and their families may not be able to afford, especially now.”
Contrary to Reporting, We Expect Applications to Be Up at the Vast Majority of Elite Universities
But while much of what Sherlock has written is not untrue, it is rather misleading. Because, as our readers know all too well, that which is true at the 900+ universities across America is not necessarily true at the 25 or so most selective universities. And Columbia University is certainly one of our nation’s most selective universities. Yes, applications are down at the vast majority of universities this Early cycle. But we anticipate they’ll be up at the vast majority of our nation’s most selective universities. In fact, every highly selective school that has thus far reported Early application figures to the Class of 2025 has reported skyrocketing applications — and more of these schools, like the University of Pennsylvania, we expect will report similar figures in the days to come.
We Do Not Anticipate Columbia’s Class of 2025 Will Be “Whiter” or “Wealthier”
So, no, we do not anticipate that Columbia’s Class of 2025 will be whiter or wealthier than in years past. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see increases in minority enrollment. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see increases in low-income enrollment — or first-generation college student enrollment for that matter. Indeed, we anticipate seeing increases in minority and low-income enrollment for the Class of 2025. And why? Because even though fly-in programs were canceled this year, elite universities didn’t just give up on these young people. No, they arranged virtual sessions. They did everything they reasonably could to encourage these deserving young people to apply. They got out the vote — or, rather, they rallied students to apply from across the nation and around the world.
We Anticipate Columbia’s Class of 2025 Will Have Increased Minority and Low-Income Enrollment
Heck, they even dropped a major barrier to admission for many underrepresented minority and low-income young people by making testing optional this year. While we firmly believe “test-optional” policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on in that a student with a great SAT or ACT score will always have an advantage over a student who doesn’t submit an SAT or ACT score, these schools are going to have to admit some applicants without test scores. Of course they are! And who do our readers think will be the ones to — rightly — benefit from this policy? You got it: underrepresented minorities and/or low-income applicants. As it should be!
Students Can Gauge Financial Aid Offers in Advance of Applying
Long ago, we put the kibosh on the argument that low-income students shouldn’t apply Early because they need to weigh competing financial aid offers. The argument, of course, makes no sense since one can easily plug one’s family’s numbers into a university’s Net Price Calculator to find out what kind of aid you’ll receive in advance of applying. You don’t need to apply to compare financial aid offers at various universities, which would restrict a student’s ability to make a binding commitment to a school in the Early round. It’s a common misconception, one perpetuated by school counselors, private college counselors, and the local handyman.
We Suspect It’ll Be a Record Early Cycle at Columbia for Applications, Minority, Low-Income Enrollment
So, no, we do not anticipate that Columbia University will be whiter or wealthier than in years past. Quite the contrary. We expect Early Decision applications to the Columbia Class of 2025 to be up. We expect Early Decision applications from underrepresented minorities to be up at Columbia. And we expect Early Decision applications from low-income young people and/or first-generation college students to be up at Columbia. Ivy Coach’s famous crystal ball has a long history of accuracy in highly selective college admissions. Do stay tuned to see if it strikes again.
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