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College Admission Trends 2024-2025 (Part 1)

Updated: May 3


“It was SO much easier when I went to college!” is a familiar tune echoed by parents of high schoolers.


The college admissions landscape has no doubt changed dramatically over the last few decades, and especially post-pandemic. Most universities went test-optional or test-blind, SAT subject tests flatlined, and the writing section of the SAT perished along with it. On the admissions front, a few students chose to opt for alternate pathways instead of pursuing expensive college degrees, and since the beginning of this year, on average, one college/university per week has announced that they will merge or close shop. Even as a College Counselor who is constantly tracking college admission updates, it can sometimes be challenging to keep up. So, for all my high school families who are curious about the upcoming admissions cycle, I’d like to share a few notable trends:


  • Ban on affirmative action and its consequences: The Supreme Court ruled that college admission officers will no longer have explicit access to a student’s race or ethnicity. However, students are still permitted to discuss their lived experiences, challenges they faced, and skills they developed in their college essays. Considering that this context is valuable for admission officers who are tasked with building a diverse incoming class, you can expect more colleges to introduce supplemental essays that encourage students to discuss their life experiences and their impact on personal growth.


  • Relevance of test scores: After experimenting with test-optional admissions for the last four years, a few colleges have now gone back to ‘requiring’ testing, instead of simply ‘recommending’ them. MIT and Purdue were among the first schools to lead this trend. More recently, Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Brown, UT Austin, Cornell, and Caltech have also reverted to requiring testing. I expect more colleges to follow suit.

  • College acceptance rates are falling: It’s been yet another competitive year, especially for the highly selective universities and public flagship institutions. Yale University’s acceptance rate was the lowest it has ever been: 3.7% as compared to 4.5% from the previous year. Duke University and Rice reported record-low acceptance rates too. Berkeley admitted 213 students for their Computer Science program out of 10,725 applications received, making the admit rate for CS just under 2%. According to the Common App, the number of applicants increased by nearly 6% over last year (for their member institutions). With the number of applications submitted per applicant on the rise, acceptance rates will likely continue to plummet.


  • The age of AI and ChatGPT: With students increasingly drawn to AI, it is harder for admission officers to tell the difference between AI and the student’s authentic voice. Some colleges are now asking students upfront if they used AI for support on their essays. At a conference I attended last year, the Admissions Officer at Caltech said they embrace new technology, including AI, but they expect transparency and honesty from their students. Other universities like Duke have adopted a different approach. Recently, their Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, announced that Admission Officers at Duke will no longer assign a numerical rating to essays. He went on to explain that while essays will help the admissions team understand a student’s background, the writing style will not impact the ratings. To circumvent these developments, we can expect more colleges to introduce video essays/interviews to obtain unfiltered information directly from students.

 

Amidst all these changes in the world of college admissions, I have decided to start a new initiative too! For the first time, I’m going to be leading a 4-day in-person college application workshop. Students will have the opportunity to get a jumpstart on their applications as they work on their Common Application, Activity List, and Additional Information sections, and have first drafts prepared for 5 essays. It’s mammoth task to complete in 4 days, but I’m optimistic! If you would like to explore this further, you are welcome to learn more here.

 


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