5 University Application and Enrollment Trends to Watch for in Fall 2021


NOTnothing about this school year was normal for the students.

Amid the cautious campus reopenings, setbacks have occurred. In recent weeks, a college hockey game in Utica, New York, ended midway through a player’s positive test for Covid-19; the University of California, Davis, offered students $ 75 scholarships to opt out of travel during spring break; and the University of Delaware has reported a record number of campus cases.

Covid-19 has also resulted in large-scale changes in enrollment. Many colleges, for example, do not require applicants to submit standardized test results for admission in the fall of 2021 or 2022. These trends could have long-term implications for the admissions process and college experience in general.

As high school students across the country begin to receive offers of admission, here’s what the fall semester could look like and what it can show us about how college has changed in an atypical year. .

1. Optional testing policies are growing in popularity

The pandemic forced the closure of SAT and ACT testing sites and the cancellation of exams last year, prompting some high school students to apply to colleges with no results. As a result, many colleges have shifted to a “elective testing” policy, in which students can choose to submit standardized test scores for admission, but will not be penalized if they fail to do so or be rewarded. ‘they’re doing it. Some schools are even “blindly” saying that they will not review test results at all, even if a student submits them.

As of fall 2021, about two-thirds of four-year colleges are either elective or blind-tested, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a testing reform advocacy group. The trend has already spread through fall 2022. The group says 55% of four-year colleges will not require SAT or ACT scores from students applying for admission next year.

2. Selective colleges See Jump in Applications

Applications to large selective universities have skyrocketed for the 2020-21 school year, according to data from the college application organization Common App.

In particular, up to March 1, 20% more first-generation students applied to large selective schools, the ones with the lowest average acceptance rates, as did 24% more Blacks, Latinx , Native Americans or natives of Alaska and natives of Hawaii or other Pacific countries. island students compared to last year. International applicants to US colleges in general also increased by 10%.

In a letter to college members of the Common App organization, Common App President Jenny Rickard said the move towards voluntary test admission policies may have encouraged traditionally underrepresented students to apply for exams. more selective colleges. A concurrent trend, however, is that demands have not increased as much at public universities, and they have declined at smaller public colleges, especially those that are less selective.

3. Mental health on campus remains a concern

According to a September 2020 survey conducted by Boston University of 33,000 students across the country, 39% suffered from depression and 34% suffered from an anxiety disorder. Problems with emotional or mental health affected the school performance of 83% of respondents in the past month, according to the survey.

The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues that already existed – and were increasing – on campus. In 2019, for example, 20% of students reported being diagnosed or treated for depression in the past year, according to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment. This is more than double the 9% of students who reported a diagnosis or treatment for depression in 2009.

Students will experience the effects of a year and more of disruption in their daily lives, and the effects on their mental health, for years to come. Colleges have received $ 40 billion in funding to help students complete their education in Covid-19 safe environments as part of the latest federal stimulus package passed in March. The fall semester will be an ongoing test of how administrators support the mental well-being of students as the pandemic ends.

4. College Enrollment Declines Among Low Income High School Students

Another troubling trend is college enrollment numbers, as opposed to application numbers. For spring 2021, undergraduate enrollment is down 4.5% from 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community colleges saw the biggest decline: Enrollment was down 9.5% this spring from the previous year, and it was also down 9.5% in fall 2020.

Fewer students started university in 2020-2021, and low-income students were the most affected. In the fall, 6.8% fewer freshmen enrolled in college, the largest year-over-year decline recorded by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Students in low-income high schools were 2.3 times less likely to enroll in university than students in higher-income schools.

Potentially due to less academic support to pursue their college plans or the need to help fill their families’ income gaps, low-income students have not started their college studies at the same pace. in 2020, and the trends for spring 2021 appear to be similar so far.

5. Graduate enrollment is accelerating

In graduate programs, however, enrollment has increased. This spring, enrollment in graduate programs increased 4.3% from last spring, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This is an even larger increase than in the fall, when registrations rose 2.9% from the previous fall. Enrollment in graduate certificate programs rose 15.4% this spring, a particularly large margin.

This trend could be the result of layoffs and leaves, encouraging some workers to return to school. Some applicants may also have reassessed their careers or interests during an extraordinary year of confinement, resulting in changes in their professional goals.

Final result

While 2020 was unprecedented in many ways, it led colleges to double down on some existing changes, including adopting voluntary testing policies and recognizing the need for mental health services. But some emerging issues, particularly declining first-year college enrollments among low-income students, will require specific attention and intervention to prevent a temporary setback from becoming a longer-term issue.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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