College Applications at an All-Time High Despite COVID

By Lucas Walters

As college applications have come in over the past few months, seniors at Oak Hall are experiencing new challenges involving many aspects of the process. Despite this, Director of College Counseling at Oak Hall, Myronee Simpson says that universities both in state and out have seen record turn out when it comes to their applicant pools.

“The last couple weeks many colleges have been releasing decisions and usually they’ve been accompanying those releases with press releases about ‘here’s how many applicants we received’. Like just today, they haven’t released yet but Brown University sent an email I’m assuming to college counselors basically outlining kind of what their pool looked like this year. You know the fact that they had a record application pool this year, the largest in their history.”

In addition, Simpson says that many thought applicant pools would be smaller due to the lack of in-person learning across the country.

“You know you would have thought that there might be a decline in applicants because a lot of high school students have not been in traditional learning for over a year. You have some school districts around the country where students have not seen the inside of a high school classroom since March of last year. So, you might have thought for that reason that you might not have as many students applying to schools but in the case of a lot of these more selective schools, they actually grew their applicant pool.”

Simpson says that while applicant pools have increased, the amount of those applications that are submitted without standardized testing has also dramatically increased.

“In terms of testing, a lot of cancelations of standardized testing last spring, continuing this fall. So that prompted a lot of colleges to change their testing policies to test optional. So, you have a lot of students that have – In some cases close to half of a school’s applicant pool, the applicants did not submit testing.”

The in state versus out of state split also seems to be defying expectations, although a majority of Oak Hall seniors have not made their decision yet.

“Right now, in a class of let’s say 59 students only 14 of them have said, ‘Yes I am going to be attending here’. So that’s not a lot of – Out of the 59 that’s not a lot of people. Having said that, out of that 14, seven have said they’re attending out of state, seven have said they’re attending in state. So, it’s about a 50-50 split right now.”

(The interview with Ms. Simpson took place in March, prior to many seniors choosing which college they will attend.)

Simpson says that we may see geographic distance play more of a role as students begin to make their decisions.

“Maybe the thought process was to go a little bit further, but students might be thinking you know geographically, ‘I might decide I want to be closer to home versus then initially I thought.’ So that might be something that factors in.”

In addition, Simpson commented on the lack of availability of in-person tours and accepted student programming.

“Normally, pre-COVID time, April would be a very popular month for accepted students to go to one of these two things: either accepted student programs that were big open houses basically, at colleges for accepted students, or do individual tours and visits, again for accepted students. A lot of colleges aren’t offering that. If they’re doing accepted student programming it’s likely gonna be online.”

Simpson elaborates on this, saying that there is a mindset change between touring schools initially, and touring schools after being accepted.

“When you visit the first time a prospective student, you’re applying not knowing whether or not the school will be an option. When you visit after you’ve been accepted, at that point you know that the choice is yours to decide whether or not you want to go to this school. So the mindset when you visit a school that you plan to apply to versus a school that you visit when you’ve been admitted is very different.”

For the Talon, I’m Lucas Walters.