A reflection on 2022 college admissions

Ethan Chan ’23

After years of hard work, the culmination of one’s academic and extracurricular efforts is hidden behind the click of a button. The ecstasy of college admissions reaches its pinnacle during these tense weeks. Emotions come as decision letters are opened and schools finalize their results in another historic year in admissions results.

Across the board, the number of applicants has increased exponentially relative to last year due to myriad factors, one of which is test-optional applications. According to FairTest, 75% of colleges and universities, more than 1600, went test-optional for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. For many students, the test-optional choice essentially eliminated the pressure of fulfilling the respective “requirements” for the colleges they wanted to apply to.

Consequently, it forced admissions officers to weigh factors such as GPA, extra-curriculars, essays, etc. much more heavily. For more selective institutions, many believe the test-optional was the primary reason for the record number of applicants. Harvard College received 42,749 applications this admissions cycle, according to IvyWise, and accepted 1,962 new students. The total number of applications increased 14.59% from 2019 when the test-optional policy was not in place. Harvard has extended this policy until 2030.

While the test-optional policies were initially made to accommodate the COVID-19 testing complications, it has caused the already low acceptance rate to decrease substantially. For the next generation of Sixth Formers, the application process will only get harder.

All in all, the college admissions process has seen unprecedented change over the past two years.

Events in 2020 regarding social injustice and equality have been of great emphasis for many colleges. A push toward greater racial and gender equity is reflected in this year’s admissions cycle. Of the full pool of admitted students to Harvard’s Class of 2022, women outnumber men by 50.1% to 49.9%. This marks the first time in almost ten years at Harvard in which women outnumber men in the incoming class.

Similarly, first-generation students went up by 2.2%, 15.5% were African-American, 12.2% were Latino, and 22.7% of applicants were Asian-American. All of these percentages have gone up since the admissions cycle of 2021 for Harvard, and the trend looks to continue in the next couple of years. Harvard is also defending itself against allegations of racial discrimination against Asian-American applicants in Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University. The duality of Harvard’s efforts is shown in this admissions cycle but many applicants still and other individuals strive to see a change in this issue for not just Harvard but other universities as well.

Undergraduate Admissions at Columbia University – Joey Kauffman ’23

According to University Business, Tufts University reports that it has granted acceptances to a staggering 9% of its nearly 35,000 applicants, another all-time low in overall acceptance rates for the Class of 2022. Tufts also said acceptances went out to its most diverse group of students ever.

“We are thrilled that more students from more diverse backgrounds see themselves thriving at Tufts,” Dean of Admissions J.T. Duck said in a statement. “Given last year’s strong positive response to our offers of admission, we have made slightly fewer offers this year and hope to be able to admit some outstanding students from our waitlist in May.” 

Tufts officials say applications have not only shot up by 50% since 2020 but also the number of African-American students applying has jumped by nearly 90% since 2019, a demographic similar to that of Harvard and other colleges. 

On a similar note, Columbia University officially stated on their website on March 31 of this year that there were 4% more students of color, 3% more first-generation students, 2% more Pell Grant eligible, and 2% more international students in this year’s admissions cycle.

All in all, the college admissions process has seen unprecedented change over the past two years. Statistics indicate a different approach that will likely continue through this decade. With all these percentages and numbers, it is important to consider the achievement of every applicant in this process. A percentage doesn’t define the predicted success or worth of an individual and everyone should be proud of the next step in their journey. In an already hyper-competitive environment, only exacerbated by some of these factors, the quality of education doesn’t correspond with a lower acceptance rate; the initiative a student takes is ultimately what matters.

Author: Ethan Chan '23

Ethan Chan has contributed to The Index since September 2020. He currently serves as a Senior Managing Editor. He previously served as Neighborhood Editor. His arts section piece "Donda: A spiritual awakening" was recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards.