Early December seems like an eternity ago in the world of highly selective college admissions. Back then, some asserted that Ivy Coach’s crystal ball forecast that Class of 2025 Early Decision / Early Action applications to our nation’s elite universities would surge, admit rates would plummet, and the schools would not expand their incoming class sizes despite having to accommodate all the gap year students from the Class of 2024 was dead wrong. Well, it turns out that Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball — a crystal ball that has even been cited on the pages of America’s oldest college newspaper, The Dartmouth (we kid you not) — has struck again. In spite of headlines in some of our nation’s most respected news publications that college applications were down at America’s universities, our sources were telling us that the opposite was true at our nation’s top universities. As but one example, we projected an anticipated 60% spike in applications to MIT this fall, a forecast that proved true. In fact, just about all of Ivy Coach’s forecasts for this Early cycle proved true. “But, enough patting yourself on the back, Ivy Coach. We get it. Your crystal ball is good. Why did it play out this way? Tell us, tell us!”
More Time at Home Together Led to Surge in Early Applications
That’s an easy one. The answer? Stay at home orders. Allow us to explain. If you had to guess a day of the week in which, historically, more parents and students fill out our free consultation form, than any other day of the week, which day would you choose? “Sunday, Monday, happy days; Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days; Thursday, Friday, happy days.” Have you guessed it yet? …If you chose Monday, ding ding ding! “But, Ivy Coach, why do more people contact you on Mondays than any other day?” Duh. Because families are together over the weekends. Because parents get in arguments with their children over weekends. Because their children think they know what’s best when it comes to their case for admission to elite universities while parents think they know best. Yet both parties are often quite wrong — and both parties know it. Enter Ivy Coach to the scene to, well, prevent those slammed doors and screaming matches. And just as, historically, students and parents, so often contact us on Mondays after time at home together, the pandemic’s stay at home orders forced parents and students to spend a whole lot of time together. So what happened? Students didn’t procrastinate. They applied in the Early round — and applications surged. At least that’s our two cents.
Increased Pandemic Anxiety and Squeakers Also Contributed to Surge
Of course, it’s not the only reason applications surged this fall. The pandemic has increased everyone’s anxiety levels. Lots of folks rightly predicted it would be a tough year in admissions — with up to 20% of seats at many elite universities already filled with Class of 2024 admits who opted for gap years. And so many students wisely chose to apply in the Early round when students have increased odds of earning admission. After all, many elite universities fill over 50% of their incoming classes with Early admits. Add these students to the gap year students from the Class of 2024 and simple arithmetic suggests there aren’t going to be many slots left for Regular Decision applicants. But let’s also not forget the college applicants we’ve termed the squeakers: students who applied to absurd reach schools this Early round because they incorrectly thought they could just slip in without test scores in a year in which our nation’s elite universities went “test-optional.” And while a couple of universities, like Dartmouth College and Tufts University, were being truthful about their “test-optional” policies and while schools like the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University went test-blind for certain exams (which is very different than being “test-optional” — test-blind schools were being forthright), most elite universities were not being candid. At most of these “test-optional” universities, all else being equal, applicants with great test scores had a clear advantage over applicants who didn’t submit test scores — in spite of how loudly and vociferously their admissions officers claimed they were telling it like it is.
Surge in Applications to Elite Universities Came as a Surprise to Many, Though Not to Our Readers
We’ll leave our readers with a quote from a December 18th piece in The Duke Chronicle, the newspaper of Duke University. As Mona Tong writes in an article entitled “Duke’s Early Decision acceptance rate falls to lowest in history after spike in applications,” “In a letter to colleagues reported this month by Ivy Coach, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag wrote that Duke expected to admit fewer students than normal because of the number of students taking gap years this year. Guttentag told The Chronicle this month that this surge in the number of Early Decision applications has been ‘unprecedented and certainly unexpected.’ He wrote that conventional wisdom held that more students would wait until Regular Decision because of the challenges they faced this year, ‘with fewer feeling like they were in a position to make the Early Decision commitment.’ ‘It turns out we were wrong,’ he wrote.” It seems Mr. Guttentag, a longtime hero of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog for his candor about the admissions process, hasn’t been reading our blog of late because if he had been, well, Duke’s surge in Early Decision applications this fall wouldn’t have come as a surprise to him.
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