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Thanks to the pandemic and the wave of cancellations it brought in 2020- 21, expect college waitlists to be horribly long this year. What can high school students learn from the class of 2021 to avoid disappointment?

The pandemic changed the status quo

Student-staff ratio, revenue, classroom sizes, and dorm capacity create a cap for every college. Current college admissions data indicates a surge in admissions for Ivy League as well as for top state colleges, but an alarming drop for less-selective colleges.

Usually, college admissions officers would review your grades, test scores, essays, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters to determine selectivity. The pandemic forced extracurricular activities to shut down and the grade point averages by the spring quarter too complicated to tabulate.

Test optional or test blind

It would be normal for you to compare your GPA and test scores against that of your dream college requirements to gauge the likeliness of being accepted.

One of the biggest changes the pandemic introduced was that colleges decided to become either ‘test optional’ (you can choose to submit, or not submit your scores for consideration) or ‘test blind’ (scores will not be considered). This is great news for students with test anxiety and poor ACT/SAT skills/scores.

For the class of 2021, more than 1,600 four-year colleges did not require scores to be submitted which led to a substantial decrease in the number of students who sent their test scores to colleges. From those that submitted their college applications using the Common App, only 46% submitted their scores this year compared to 77% last year.

Adding to the numbers:

A high volume of the 2020 high school graduates decided to defer their acceptance and graduate in 2025 instead of 2024. Additionally, those who decided to take a gap year due to poor SAT/ACT scores are now applying at their dream colleges with test-optional/blind, making acceptance over rejection a strong possibility.

Adding to the confusion:

Common App saw an 11% increase in applications, but only a 2.4% increase in the number of students. This suggests students are applying to more colleges to keep their options open. Paying deposits to hold their spots at multiple colleges is a small price to pay to get into one’s dream school. No one will know your true college destination until the eleventh hour when students are forced to make a decision. When students accept or reject college offers, you might find yourself transitioning from your dream college waitlist to acceptance status in the fall.

Adding to the Unknown!

Some of the unknown factors that will still play into the game of college admissions are vaccination rates and international student travel ability.

Stand out from the rest and be a prime college candidate

Students who are diligent in finding a balance between academics and investment – and getting to know themselves and their interests – are prime candidates for top colleges. Colleges have made a criteria shift from academics to well-roundedness. Admission officers are looking for students who bring more than academic excellence to their campuses.

Standing out can make your application rise to the top and make all the difference. Here are a few tips:

  1. Get to know who you are. Ask someone to mentor you. Reflect and journal your self-discoveries through high school. This will also prove to be the best resource to help you write one-of-a-kind essays.

  2. Begin drafting your essay in the spring of your junior year. Remember that it takes months to refine and make it a piece of art.

  3. One-off activities do not look as good on your college resume. Instead of engaging in multiple activities, deep dive into one of your interests. This might require sacrificing an AP class to accommodate time for reflection, research, and investment in your interest. Invest in a sport, start a small business, conduct an experiment and write a research paper, develop and showcase your talent on Youtube…the possibilities are endless.

  4. Use all four years of your high school to plan for college. Be well informed as a freshman and create a college road map. Hurried, last-minute decisions would prove to be costly. Maintain a college prep calendar and organize all-important deadlines. If you feel behind, it’s not too late to start. Contact us to get help!

  5. Maintain a rigorous class load through high school. Meet with a career coach BEFORE your junior year, to determine the best career fits and select elective classes that match the career fields you’re interested in.

  6. Plan on taking the ACT/SAT. Build your test-taking muscles and reduce anxiety by discovering your learning style and practicing those skills that come naturally to you.

  7. Apply to your dream college the day they start accepting applications. This means:

    a. Discover your best career fits by the end of sophomore year.

    b. Commit to narrowing down your top 6-8 college choices by December of Junior year.

    c. Start a college comparison sheet (request a free copy from us) and between March and August of Junior year.

College Careers Consulting’s best advice is for current high school students to start building a unique, one-of-a-kind college profile that will make you stand out in the college admission process. We can help you do that. Contact us today for a free online consultation.