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10 College Admissions Changes in 2020 to Celebrate

Eating lunch with my kids while they do virtual school at home. My husband's cooking. Family meals. Not having to worry about late night swim team practices. Waking up a little later because there's no commute. Wearing cozy sweatshirts and leggings almost every day. Playing board games with my kids.

This has been quite a year for everyone, but I refuse to focus on what we are missing. Instead, I want to celebrate what we have. What I have. What I am grateful for—both personally and professionally. While not everything has gone perfectly and not every student will get admitted to their first round choice, the college admissions process has changed—becoming more student-centric in a matter of months. And that's something to be grateful for too.
Here are my top 10 changes, observations, and realizations that I am grateful for in the world of college admissions:

1. Extended deadlines.

Many colleges have given students a little extra time to submit their applications this year due to COVID, virtual learning, and an inability to take standardized tests. Thank you to those colleges who extended their deadlines and continue to be flexible with application materials arriving later than usual.

2. An appreciation for the state universities in your home state or otherwise.

Staying close to home has never been more appealing. And most state universities offer a tremendous undergraduate education for a fraction of the cost of a private college's tuition. Honors programs are little hidden gems at these universities, and oftentimes, merit scholarships accompany the acceptance!

3. Virtual "visit" experiences.

While nothing makes me happier than a tour of a college campus, I am grateful that so many families can experience a college from their kitchen or family room. Virtual visits cost zero money and they allow a family to explore even more colleges than if they did an extensive college tour.

4. Rediscovering international universities.

Being America's College Counselor, I sometimes overlook the amazing universities outside of the U.S. But our Application Nation - Class of 2021 students have reminded me of what else is out there! A few of them have already been admitted to St. Andrews, King's College, and the University of Amsterdam. And we have a bunch of students in the group who applied to McGill, Cambridge, and Oxford which notify later. (Follow my Instagram Story to see all of the exciting acceptances happening now!)

5. Applications added a COVID section to explain any unusual circumstances.

Not every student needs to fill in this section. But it is nice to know that if you have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, you can provide more details here. The Common Application allows for 250 words in this section.

6. Application fee waivers.

A number of colleges have waived their application fees to ensure additional costs don't keep students from applying. Even though most colleges use this as a strategy to increase applications, I am grateful that some families can save a little money this year.

7. Subject Tests trending down.

MIT, Yale, and Caltech all announced this year that Subject Tests would no longer be factored into the admissions process. And there are only a few colleges remaining that expect these tests anymore. The trend is clear. Education advocates and parents are fed up with the pressure students face to take an inordinate number of standardized tests.

8. Price-matching.

Colleges don't like to admit this, but many of them will increase a student's merit scholarship or financial aid award if they know you got a better offer from a direct competitor. Make sure to provide the other offer if you are hoping for more money from another college. They'll want proof.

9. Students hold the power.

While many colleges have experienced larger applicant pools in the early round, they know that application totals don't necessarily mean they will experience better than usual yield rates (the percentage of students accepting the offer of admission). I anticipate high acceptance rates in Early Decision, generous merit scholarships, and active waitlists this year.

Related Reading: 5 Expectations for This Year's Early Decision/Early Action Round

10. Most colleges adopted a test optional policy this year!

Bravo to the colleges who did this given how difficult it has been for some students to take an SAT or ACT. I am seeing plenty of students who did not submit test scores not only getting admitted to colleges but also receiving merit scholarships as well.
It's easy to be critical in 2020. But I'd rather be grateful. I don't want to wait until 2021 to appreciate what I have. What we have. How about you?