The Trends Are In: Lessons from the 2021-2022 Admissions Cycle

Rising high school seniors are about to finalize their college list and decide on an application strategy. As they do this, it can be helpful to look back at the application cycle that just ended for guidance.

Here are a few notable trends:

  • Applications rose. According to the Common App, applications rose at all types of colleges and universities. The rise was particularly steep at selective institutions. Applications rose from both U.S. and international students.
  • Admit rates declined. 2022 acceptance rates are lower than ever, especially at highly selective colleges and universities. In fact, the admit rate is so low that some colleges, among them Princeton and Stanford, have decided not to disclose the number. Three universities – Harvard, Columbia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)- had admit rates under 4%. Sixteen colleges and universities had admit rates under 10%. Just as notable, some universities saw significant drops in their admit rate from only one year earlier – New York University, for example, went from a 21% acceptance rate in 2021 to a 12.2% admit rate in 2022.
  • Test scores rose. The “middle 50%” scores for the SAT and ACT are higher than they were pre-pandemic. While the data is not robust (because only a few colleges have been transparent in releasing information), according to a Compass Education Group report there was an admissions advantage for students who submitted test scores.


What does this mean for students in the class of 2023?

  • Have a testing plan. While most colleges that were test optional for the 2021-2022 application cycle will remain so for the 2022-2023 cycle (with MIT a notable exception), students should have a testing plan. Students with strong scores (those above the middle 50%) should submit scores.
  • Create a balanced list. Students need a balanced college list and they need to be excited about every college on their list. Students also need to be prepared to adjust their college list if they are not admitted to an early decision or early action college.The idea is not to pile on more selective colleges but rather to swap on some colleges with low admit rates in favor of colleges with higher admit rates.
  • Consider an Early DecisionII option. An Early DecisionII pool can be smaller than an Early DecisionI pool, making the admit rate potentially higher.
  • Make time for essay writing. Supplemental essays matter, and students need to carefully research colleges and set aside enough time to write strong supplemental essay,
  • Be open to a spring admit date. Many colleges offer spring enrollment as a yield management tool. Students may have the option of starting college in the fall semester abroad or at a satellite campus.