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My Predictions and Advice for This Year's College Admissions Cycle

The New Year is a month away, but I'm making some predictions for 2022. Given early indicators, it is fair to say that this year's admissions cycle will be another wild ride.

Knowing this data can help high school seniors make thoughtful choices before Regular Decision deadlines pass. It can also help younger students know what to expect when they apply to college.

1. Nationally-recognized public universities with Early Action programs are going to be the biggest winners in 2022. 

We are already hearing that the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and the University of Virginia saw increases in Early Action application totals from last year's record-breaking year.

2. Nationally-recognized private universities will be winners in 2022 as well.

While the private universities are more tight-lipped with data, I am anticipating record-breaking application totals both in "early" and "regular" rounds of admission. 

3. Legacy admissions will become less of a factor among elite institutions. 

Whether you agree with children of alumni getting an admissions advantage or not, some of the most selective colleges and universities in the United States have eliminated legacy admissions or reduced its influence significantly over the last few years. Johns Hopkins University, Amherst College, MIT, Caltech, and the University of California no longer factor legacy into the admissions process. It is clear that elite colleges are trying to figure out how to address issues of equity within the admissions process while preparing for some alumni to turn their backs on their alma mater.

4. Test-optional is no longer a trend; it is the new reality.

Colleges care about the number of applications they receive. And if they get a more diverse applicant pool, it's even better. So if any college wants to continue to see its applicant pool grow and become more diverse, it will need to adopt a permanent test-optional policy. When a college is test-optional, it removes real and perceived barriers for all types of students, thus encouraging more students to apply. 

5. Colleges with Early Decision will still give students an advantage in the admissions process, but applying to this binding program will not be as powerful as it used to be—especially at highly selective colleges and universities.

Despite most students not being able to step foot on a college campus last year, they applied in droves to Early Decision programs. They put aside their fears of a binding commitment, and chose to take a leap of faith on an Early Decision program, many times, sight unseen. What used to be a choice for only students who could afford to make a binding commitment has expanded to students from more racially and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. This means that while Early Decision acceptance rates are higher than Regular Decision acceptance rates, it will not be as easy getting in as it used to be.
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6. Average test scores of the admitted pool of students are on the rise at test-optional institutions. 

Look at the college's most recent data (2020-2021) to determine whether or not you should submit your test scores. Because so many colleges were test-optional this past year, students were very intentional about whether or not they submitted their test scores. This led to higher averages for most colleges. 

So what can high school seniors and younger students do? 

  • Apply to a Rolling Admissions program ASAP. 
    Most of the time, colleges with Rolling Admissions programs have higher acceptance rates. But the acceptance rates go down with each passing month so don't waste any more time. Apply now!
  • Adjust your college list if you do not get admitted to your Early Decision, Early Action, and/or Rolling Admissions programs. 
    This may be a result of application increases rather than your own competitiveness. Either way, you want to have some acceptances at the end of the process to be able to make a thoughtful decision about where to enroll. 
  • Early Decision 2 programs are a smart move to consider. 
    Most of the time, if a college has an Early Decision 2 program, it is smaller and sometimes even less competitive than its Early Decision 1 program. 
  • Be open to considering an alternate start date. 
    By listing that you would consider starting in the summer at a public university or the spring semester (or even the following fall) at a private university, if there is an option, you could be increasing your chances of admission.
  • If you are a naturally-strong test-taker, invest time in preparing for the SAT or ACT.
    If not, save your time and money, and invest in your classes and grades. High test scores will keep a student competitive within a highly selective applicant pool, and will often lead to admissions and merit scholarships for colleges with higher acceptances. However, if a student's transcript is incredibly strong, have confidence. Colleges made no bones about admitting and even giving significant merit scholarships to students who applied without test scores this past year. 
  • Don't panic by adding a ton of colleges to your list
    Instead, replace colleges with lower acceptance rates with ones with higher acceptance rates. Don't feed the greedy mouths of colleges with an application that won't be given its full due. Apply to colleges that will take the time to appreciate what you have to offer. 

READ MORE: Why Honors Programs Are the Best-Kept Secret in College Admissions

Knowledge is power. Be informed. Make thoughtful decisions about your future. When that occurs, you drive this process, not the colleges.