Visa Crunch

Test waivers boost applications in select colleges

As the pandemic has disrupted education, many colleges – even the most selective – have lifted their requirement for applicants to submit test scores for 2021 fall admissions.

The University of Pennsylvania has received 55,992 applications, a 34% increase from last year. Haverford College has seen a 16% increase, one of its highest in the last 15 years. Princeton’s applications increased by 15%, Swarthmore by 12%, and Villanova by 10%. Harvard received more than 57,000 applications, an increase of 42%.

Students who do not perform in their exams very well but who do well in their studies are more likely to feel empowered.

Increased applications, including many from students who do not have SAT or ACT scores, will make the selection process more rigorous, as counselors will zero down on grades, essays, recommendations, and other aspects, knowing that high school students’ work was affected by the pandemic. Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Penn, have said they will delay announcing admission decisions until April 6, about a week after normal time, to give them more time.

With so much competition, students may find it extremely difficult to get into the best schools.

“At Swarthmore, it’s going to be more selective, even on the same sized class,” said Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions.

Bock said about two-thirds of Swarthmore’s growth could be due to international applicants. Princeton and Haverford officials also noted an increase in applicants. The Common App, a non-profit governing Common Applications, which allows students to apply to multiple schools via one application, has seen a double-digit increase in applications from India, Canada, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, although requests from China declined by 18%.

The deadline for applications came after the presidential election and when the vaccination began.

The influence of Vice President Kamala Harris, and her mother, may have helped to increase applications from India, Addington said. She also said that foreign students may apply to many colleges in many countries, waiting to see which campuses could open fully in the fall.

And that can be true of home students, too. The Common Application noted a 9% increase in the number of applications submitted by each applicant.

As a result of COVID-19, many students had difficulty taking SAT and ACT. Therefore, many colleges have started to drop the admission requirement, at least for the next year or two.

In Haverford, about 60% of applicants did not attend school. In Swarthmore, it was 47%. And more than half of the applicants in Villanova also chose not to send scores. Colleges are faced with other factors that can make the selection process more difficult, including not knowing if the willing students will choose to come, depending on the pandemic.

Some have large numbers of students who postpone final admissions due to the pandemic that could mean less space for new applicants. In Villanova, more than 20 students have postponed admissions, said J. Leon Washington, dean of enrollment management.

Villanova, which received more than 24,300 applications, held visitors to the campus, with masks and temperature tests, found that 90% of those in attendance applied, Washington said. Hence, the leeway from tests has given a boost in the number of applicants. On the contrary, the increase in competition could mean an uncompromising screening process.

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