Is College Admission More Simplistic under the Pandemic?

Due to the Covid-19 situation, college applications this year is hard to predict for admissions cycles.


Many colleges have delayed deadlines for applying and standardized tests, including SAT or ACT, SAT Subject Tests, etc. are no longer required for almost all colleges. 


But in January, two things are clear:

👏 Most of the colleges that had been doing well before the coronavirus are still doing well — many of them exceptionally so.

🤦‍♀️ Colleges that serve primarily low-income students are not doing well.


2020 early application


Many universities have lower application rates this year.

For example, California State University system (CSU) has a 5% decrease in application rate. They received 538,279 applications for first-time students and 256,543 for transfer students. Cal State is highly diverse and has reputation for educating low-income and minority students well. In order to provide the environment for students to apply more smoothly, they not only extended the application deadline from December 1st to December to 15th, but also do not force applicants to submit test scores. 


2020 early application


Many universities which have earlier deadlines have reported that the application rate increased drastically, such as the University of California (UC) system. Top ranking universities also released their Early Decision (ED) and Early Application (EA) admission, which is also a rising number from the previous year’s total. 


💁 Harvard University

Admitted 747 students early, out of an early pool of 10,086, application rate increased by 57% 

💁 Brown University

Admitted 885 students early, out of an early pool of 5,540, application rate increased by 22%

💁 Yale University

Admitted 836 students early, out of an early pool of 7,939, application rate increased by 38%

💁 Duke University

Admitted 840 students early, out of an early pool of 5,036, application rate increased by 16%


These other two schools also set record for Early Decision:


💁 Johns Hopkins University

11% Increase in Application Rate 

💁 University of Virginia

38% Increase in Application Rate


early application


── Hope── 

Although the new policies are only advantageous to some applicants, it gives hope to students who are bad test takers, but instead they have good grades and outstanding extracurricular activities.


── Application Rate Depends on the Financial Picture ── 

Due to the pandemic, some universities have lower application rate. Some families are putting off applying to college until they took into consideration of what their families’ financial situation will look like.


── Universities are Admitting More Students Aggresively── 

According to Katie Burns, a master admissions counselor at IvyWise, who was also a former senior assistant director of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Test optional ‘has led more students to think they are admissible.” At the same time, college would be more careful and aggressive in admitting students early due to the pandemic.


── Lower Admission Rate ── 

Although more students applied and more were accepted, the admission rate has decreased more than usual and is shown in the chart below.



Early Round Acceptance Rate 2020-2021 Early Round Acceptance Rate 2019-2020
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.8% 7.4%
Harvard University 7.4% 13.9%
Yale University 10.5% 13.8%
University of Pennsylvania 15% 19.7%
Brown University 15.9% 17.5%
Rice University 16% 19%
Duke University 17% 21%
Johns Hopkins University 19% 28%
Dartmouth College 21.2% 25.5%
University of Notre Dame 21.6% 21.1%
University of Virginia 33% 35%
Emory University 38.9% 40.2%


[Work Cited 1]

[Work Cited 2]




Vying for a place at the top colleges will only get more competitive, as they will receive thousands of applications. Although many has provided the optional of “test-optional” or “test-blind,” it doesn’t make the application process easier. Many students and parents believe that it is less difficult to get into top universities with lower threshold. However, this is a misunderstanding.


More and more people are applying for colleges and universities and it is becoming more and more competitive. With drastically increased application rate, we encourage students to still be motivated to apply. Having good grades and straight As is still crucial to the applicaiton process, meanwhile universities would look for unique and distinct characteristics from other application requirements, such as personal statement, supplemental essays, extracurricular activities, etc. Don’t be discouraged to apply for college and don’t forget to think about your future career plans carefully!



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