The Odds Were Not In Favor Of The 2021 College Applicants

Natalie Bachman

The 2021 college application season made history as one of the most competitive. Acceptance rates plummeted as the number of applicants skyrocketed, something that can be traced back to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Many universities require their prospective students to submit SAT or ACT test scores, both of which are intended to evaluate a student’s academic competency. With many schools in distance learning, however, many students have been unable to access these assessments, which must be taken in highly proctored environments. In response to this, many colleges went “test-optional” for the 2021 application season.

However, this new “test-optional” policy proved to open doors for minority students. A 2013 study from the Teachers College Record indicated that black students perform around 100 points lower on the SAT than their white counterparts of comparable income. 

Experts speculate that by going test-optional, universities encouraged thousands of competent minority students – many of whom performed poorly on standardized tests – to apply to more top colleges. After going test-optional, the University of California campuses admitted their most diverse class with 16% more Black and LatinX students.

However, the surge in college applications is not good news for everyone: many top national universities saw exponential increases in applicants, inevitably leading to some of the lowest acceptance rates in college history. Harvard admitted a record low of 3.43% of applicants, and Yale admitted 4.62%, down from 6.1% in 2020.

Being educated in an increasingly competitive society, Leigh students have been feeling an increasing level of pressure to gain admission to the top universities.

In response to the college application surge, sophomore Vaibhav Shukla commented that “I’m already feeling stressed about college applications because my grades and everything associated with it is all going towards my college application. If I mess up even once, there’s a good chance I’ll slip and fall hard, and it will be very tough to climb back up. It’s definitely stressing me out, and I’m scared about getting into college, even 2 years before I should be sending college admissions applications.”

And with acceptance rates on the decline, it’s becoming harder and harder to gain admission to selective, yet highly desirable universities. The overwhelming desire for perfection often leads students to associate their worth with the college they attended. And this pervasive mindset amounts to a lot of pressure.Despite the pressure modern high schools students are experiencing, numerous studies have indicated that top-tier colleges alone do not make a student successful: rather, it’s the student themselves. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated that students of similar academic standing had nearly identical mid-career incomes, regardless of the college they attended. With that in mind, the college application surge coupled with the decreasing acceptance rates is bound to cause stress.

But at the end of the day, no college will determine your success. Your success is yours alone, and is not determined by the opinions of a single admissions committee.

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