During this time of year, this is a very common question to ask any high school senior. Usually, students are excited about their future home. They’re counting the days until prom and graduation. They’re spending the summer getting to know their future classmates and roommates. They’re doing Target and Bed Bath & Beyond runs with mom or dad and getting everything just right for the dorm room.
However, this is a strange year. In this year of COVID, a number of last year’s high school seniors opted to take a gap year, causing fewer spaces for this year’s seniors. In response to the lack of availability of SAT and ACT testing, most schools decided to pursue a test optional policy. As a result, many colleges and universities witnessed double-digit increases in applications. Harvard had a 50% increase in applications. Colgate University saw its application load double. NYU became the first independent university in U.S. history to experience more than 100,000 applications for under 7,000 spots in the freshman class! It was a free-for-all, and the admission offices were in the driver’s seat.
As a result, many members of the Class of 2021 did not get the news that they sought. We saw students, who, in a “normal” year, may have gained entrance to desired schools, based on predicted parameters. Instead, they were summarily rejected or cast to admissions purgatory…the dreaded waitlist.
If this happened to your student or a family member, understand that colleges, just like any business, will accept applicants based on need. Geographic representation? If you hail from the Dakotas or Wyoming, you’re demographically coveted. Unusual academic interest? Schools don’t want to close departments. Latinx or Native American? These are under-represented demographics, especially in STEM.
If your student is one of those pining to get off a waitlist, tell them to focus on their presumed future home and immerse themselves in their future classmates and any admissions events happening. Got off a waitlist? Consider it akin to winning the lottery.
For the Class of 2022, let this season be a cautionary tale. As you compose your college list, be sure that you’ve done your research and can be happy at any school on the list. Don’t “throw your hat in the ring” just because it’s a quick or free application. You may end up at the very school you never considered attending. Expect continued unpredictability next season.
And to the Class of 2021, bloom where you’re planted. In six months, you’ll be able to say to those other schools, “Your loss!”