The Ivy Coach Daily

August 27, 2021

Columbia University Class of 2025 Admissions Statistics

Columbia has released the percentage of students in its Class of 2025 who submitted test scores (photo credit: Andrew Chen).

Columbia University, historically always the last Ivy League institution to release its overall admissions statistics, has published the figures for the Class of 2025. In all, 60,551 students applied to Columbia University this past year — including to both to Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The total number of applicants marked a 51% year-to-year increase from the Class of 2024. And while it’s cute that Columbia’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio attributed this spike to “the appeal of Columbia’s generous financial aid program and the unexpected benefit of moving to all-virtual admissions outreach” in a Columbia Spectator article, let’s be clear: the spike in applications was attributable to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that so many students were stuck at home with time on their hands to submit more applications, and the school’s test-optional policy which inspired many applicants we termed squeakers to roll the dice and give an application to Columbia the old college try.

Most Elite Universities Have Not Revealed the Percentage of Students Who Got In Without Test Scores

But as we’ve long suggested on the pages of this college admissions blog, test-optional admissions policies aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. In fact, last year when we suggested that all else being equal a student with a great test score has an advantage over a student with no test score, we faced some criticism. Well, the results are in and as it turns out, we were spot on. The admissions statistics that Columbia released this week only further substantiate our claim. After all, most highly selective universities are cryptically — and unsurprisingly — not releasing the percentage of students admitted with and without scores. As an example, Duke University bragged that 44% of applicants didn’t submit test scores but the school didn’t release the all-important figure of the percentage of students admitted without test scores. Of the few elite universities that have released such data — you’ll note most don’t include such pertinent information in their press releases about their incoming classes — the numbers point to the significant advantage students with test scores enjoy in admissions. As an example, at the University of Pennsylvania, about 66% of Early Decision applicants to its Class of 2025 submitted test scores. And about 75% of Early Decision applicants who earned admission submitted test scores. So students who submitted test scores to UPenn this past Early Decision cycle held a statistically significant advantage in the admissions process over those who did not. As another example, at Georgetown University, 7.34% of Early Action applicants to the Class of 2025 who did not submit test scores earned admission. This compares to Georgetown’s 10.8% overall Early Action admit rate for the Class of 2025.

Columbia University Has Revealed the Percentage of Members of the Class of 2025 Who Submitted Test Scores

And now Columbia has joined in on the small party of schools reporting the percentage of students who earned admission with test scores. As Irie Sentner reports for The Columbia Spectator in a piece entitled “The class of 2025 is the most selective in Columbia’s history. Was the admissions process more equitable?,” “In a survey of 548 students admitted to the Barnard, Columbia College, SEAS, and School of General Studies classes of 2025, 70 percent reported submitting standardized test scores despite the test-optional policy. SEAS first-years had the highest proportion of submitters, with 74.2 percent of the incoming class choosing to submit test scores. Despite being test-optional, the average SAT score for the Columbia College and SEAS class of 2025 increased for the third consecutive year. It is at its highest, at 1535, since 2017…Despite its small total admittance, at 2,358 students—186 more than the class of 2024—the class of 2025 is the largest in recent years.” Let’s repeat the key data point for good measure: 74.2% of students who enrolled at Columbia this fall as members of the Class of 2025 applied with test scores.

Don’t Ignore the Freudian Slips of Admissions Leaders on Test-Optional Policies

Yet if you don’t think the numbers tell the story, take a look at some of the Freudian slips admissions leaders have made to press outlets in recent months, highlighted by the gem Cornell University’s Vice Provost for Enrollment Jonathan Burdick offered to The New York Times. In a piece entitled “Interest Surges in Top Colleges, While Struggling Ones Scrape for Applicants,” Amelia Nierenberg writes, “Prestigious universities like Cornell never have a hard time attracting students. But this year, the admissions office in Ithaca, N.Y., is swimming in 17,000 more applications than it has ever received before, driven mostly by the school’s decision not to require standardized test scores during the coronavirus pandemic. ’We saw people that thought ’I would never get into Cornell’ thinking, ’Oh, if they’re not looking at a test score, maybe I’ve actually got a chance,’” said Jonathan Burdick, Cornell’s vice provost for enrollment.” Oh, Mr. Burdick, who ever would have given these applicants the crazy idea that they had an equal chance of admission without test scores? Yet it’s not like Mr. Burdick is the only admissions leader with loose lips. In a recent CNN piece by Yon Pomrenze and Bianna Golodryga entitled “College applications in pandemic year show deepening inequities in access to higher education,” NYU’s admissions leader offers a most interesting quote. As CNN reports, “’You might find more students applying to an Ivy League or a school like NYU because they feel like they have a chance (now that test scores are optional),’ says MJ Knoll-Finn, senior vice president for Enrollment Management at New York University.

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