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College Admission Trends for the Class of 2024

This time of year, we always examine trends that have we observed in the college admission process for the Class of 2024, so we can begin to prepare our current junior class.

Over the last several years, we have seen an increase in both the number of schools offering Early Decision/Early Action and the students taking advantage of it. Also, schools have continued to fill a significant number of first-year seats from the early applicant pools. However, this year has offered a bit of a plot twist with standardized testing under fire, corruption uncovered and prosecuted in the admissions process and a decrease for some schools in the early applicant pool. Our experience in this admission round leads us to believe the following trends may have some future impact:

1. Standardized Testing under Fire: A California lawsuit alleging that standardized tests are biased and, therefore, unconstitutional could impact the use of standardized testing as evaluative in the admissions process for all colleges in the state. Depending on the outcome, we may see other suits challenging the constitutionality of standardized testing pop up in other states.

More colleges joined the “test-optional” ranks this year than ever before. Some believe that this may signal the real beginning of devaluation of standardized testing in the admissions process. In the past we felt that “test-optional” was only truly optional for those students who had a very compelling application package because if a majority of the applicant pool submit test scores it may prejudice your decision if you did not. However, our experience this season has shown us this may be changing. Although many schools continue to rely heavily on standardized test scores, some of our students with a very compelling application package were accepted at top colleges even though their SAT/ACT scores were in the lower 25% of applicants for that institution. For example, a student with a persuasive essay and an excellent interview gained acceptance in the early round, although his SAT score was 120 points below the average for that college.

2. Impact of the College Admissions Scandal: As a direct result of the widely publicized college admission scandal involving the children of high profile actors (see ) the National Association for College Admission Counseling was forced to change its ethics and finance rules as there is a push for more transparency in the admissions process. As such, we noticed colleges moving more toward a holistic review of applicants and often wanting validation of the student resume and achievements. A question was added to many college applications this fall asking if students received any help, including parents, in the preparation of their application.

3. Early Decision/Early Action: Applying early continues to be a viable strategy if you want to increase your chances of acceptance at some of the most prestigious colleges. Likewise, at large state schools, we have seen excellent results for both acceptance and merit awards in the early round of applicants. However, this year the early applicant pool at some institutions, like Harvard and Duke, decreased for the first time in the last several years. Regardless of whether the applicant pool increased or decreased, schools continued to fill a significant number of their spots in the freshman class in the early pool.

In addition, colleges continued to favor students of color, low income, 1st-time college, and international students in the early round of acceptances. For example, Princeton had a smaller number of early applicants this year. Still, of the 791 early acceptances, 48% were students of color, 16% were low-income students, 13% were 1st in the family to attend college, and 11% were international students.

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