COVID19- has revolutionized higher education in many ways, including the admissions process. Colleges have moved into virtual tours and college fairs and, more importantly, optional admissions policies for tests. The result has been a staggering increase in applications for the roughly 50 colleges and universities that accept a quarter or fewer of the people who apply. Applications increased by an astonishing 66% for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 43% for Harvard University, 51% for Columbia University and 28.5% for Vanderbilt University. Flagship state universities like Georgia and Virginia are also seeing an increase in applications.
Colleges have announced a record number of admitted students of color, first-generation college students, and those from low-income families who are eligible for federal Pell grants, meaning their household income does not exceed $ 26,000. Over-applications have moved the needle on diversity more dramatically than anything else in years. In an interview, John Latting, Dean of Admissions at Emory University, shared with MarketWatch the impact COVID-19 has had over the past year on Emory. The Atlanta-based university is among the top 25 universities in the US in various rankings. Latting, a Stanford University graduate who earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, served as Johns Hopkins dean of undergraduate admissions before coming to Emory. Your Take: While Emory hasn’t decided whether to make optional test admissions permanent, it expects most private and screened institutions to do so. “My prediction is that the majority will continue to be the optional test,” he said, although he believes that many of the major state universities will again require the tests. “I think for me personally and I suspect my counterparts, what happened on the side of the applicant pool has been revealing.” Emory received a record 33,780 applications for its class of 2025, 18% more than last year and 67% more than five years ago. Emory accepted about 20% of his applicants this year, while Harvard, Princeton and Columbia’s acceptance rates fell below 4%, meaning they accepted one person for every 25 who applied. Those extremely low acceptance rates often discouraged many bright, high-achieving students from applying, because they thought they had no chance of getting in. But when schools became optional, many apparently decided to do it, and for some, it paid off. out of the big. That can also be the case for schools like Emory. “The pool of applicants was much more diverse, really in an amazing way, with respect to family income, race and ethnicity,” Latting said. “If you look at family income or measures of socioeconomic status, educational level, this year we admitted more students at the lower end of that distribution. And when I say bass, I mean the end of the bass, it really, really widened the base. And that was revealing. “The pandemic also halted the endless series of visits to high schools by road warriors admissions officers. Going virtual, universities reached dozens of high schools that were never on their screens. This year, students from 724 other US high schools applied to Emory, which contributed to a much broader pool of applicants, Latting said. It also freed admissions officers to scrutinize the avalanche. requests. Latting said the task was demanding but not overwhelming. “We just had to do less other things and make reading requests account for a larger percentage of our work than we had planned,” he said, adding that the committee school admissions was discussed by 80% of applicants. So why keep standardized tests? It is that they have modest statistical significance in predicting future academic success, ”Latting said. Emory includes test scores, along with grade point average and the number of advanced-level high school courses a student takes, in their academic grades. Latting and his peers in higher education know well that kids in the best public and private high schools often make thousands of dollars in test prep and take it many times, while low-income kids don’t. Still, kids who submitted test scores had a clear advantage: About half of Emory applicants submitted scores, but 68.5% of those admitted did. At the most selective universities, between 60% and 70% of admitted students presented scores. When the pandemic is over, Latting said he doesn’t expect things to return to normal. Emory is likely to provide a combination of virtual and in-person contacts in high school in the future. As for staying in the elective test, he said: “Clearly, the effect on the applicant pool was fantastic, really, really exciting. But how well were we able to identify academic talent and measure academic readiness? How well will students do once they enroll in Emory? That’s unknown. ”At this time, many schools have extended elective testing policies for an additional year or two. If kids who did not submit test scores do well in their first year, colleges will weigh what Latting calls the “modest” predictive value of standardized tests with the “exciting” or “eye-opening” increases in the diversity of optional testing policies it brought in. If I were a gambling man, I’d bet my money on change. Howard Gold is a columnist. from MarketWatch. Follow him on Twitter @ howardrgold1. No-Nonsense College appears monthly. More: SAT and ACT scores may be optional on college applications this year, but many of the best schools still rely on them. Also read: COVID-19 is changing college application strategies and reducing the odds of getting into the best schools