• Debra M Shively

Reflection on the Admission Cycle 2020-21 – A Virtual Recruiting Cycle with No Testing Requirements

Updated: Apr 27


  • Begin your US university preparation as early as possible – years 9 or 10 ideally

  • New virtual opportunities at US universities for international students

The US university admission landscape is changing! The global pandemic has meant that US universities were required to shift their recruiting strategies from in-person high school visits and college expos to a virtual platform, expanding their reach but eliminating the personal opportunity to connect with prospective students. At the start of the pandemic university admission teams were required to act quickly to ensure their websites seamlessly conveyed the universities’ unique experience, academic offerings, and student life and residential opportunities. Admission teams transitioned their in-person school recruitment to virtual information sessions which could be attended by any high school student. For international students, who traditionally have less direct access to US university admission representatives, this was a welcome change as the transition created an opportunity to explore additional university opportunities.


In addition to the new norm of virtual recruiting, during this last admission cycle most US universities did not require students to submit an SAT result to be considered for admission. This monumental change in admission requirements was a result of SAT testing date cancellations due to the global pandemic. The US university holistic admission process allows admission teams to still review applicants for admission without submitting a test score. Without a test score requirement many applicants have more university options to consider which has led to an increase in applications submitted over previous years. Domestic US applicants included local and interstate universities to their shortlist along with institutions they would not have applied to had there been a testing requirement. Below is an example of the increase in applications at some of the more highly selective institutions:

  • Colgate University in upstate New York saw a 100% increase in applications in the 2020-21 application cycle and a 23% acceptance rate.

  • UCLA saw a 34% increase of applications (109,000 traditionally to 139,500 this admission cycle) and a 12% acceptance rate down from about 16%.

  • All eight Ivy League universities saw an increase in applications ranging anywhere from 12% (Princeton) to 51% (Columbia). Acceptance rates decreased by a few percentage points between 3 - 5% depending on the university.

The increase in applications means the acceptance rate to these institutions will decrease as the size of the incoming class has not increased proportionally. However, it is important not to confuse an acceptance rate with the quality of the education - only about 30 of the over 4000 degree granting institutions in the US have an acceptance rate less than 10% meaning there are literally thousands of universities that offer an amazing education and experience with more likely admission outcomes.


The bottom line – given that students are applying to more universities and inflating application numbers, the competition at the most selective institutions has become even more fierce. It is more important now than ever to begin working on your application early, as in year 10. A reminder the US admission process encompasses a holistic admission process from year nine. So, what you do now in years 9, 10, or 11 will be assessed in your application for admission – guidance sought in year 10 can make a significant impact in admission decisions.


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