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May 2022 College Admissions Cycle News

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Another admissions cycle has come and gone, and Ivy Scholars bids farewell and good luck to another class of talented and promising scholars as they prepare to matriculate at top schools around the country. Now that all of the decisions are out, we can see new trends in admissions data, and new announcements that will affect the year ahead.

In this article, we will begin by discussing the UC system and cover some updates to their acceptance rates and admissions policies. We will also discuss other notable admissions news, and go over the overall trends we’ve observed this admissions cycle.  Let’s jump in!

The UC Schools are more Competitive than Ever

The UC system has released its admissions data for this cycle, and it’s remarkable. Let’s break down the numbers in a handy table for reference: 

SchoolApplicantsAcceptedAcceptance Rate
Berkeley112,83816,39514.5%
Davis87,14142,72649%
Irvine107,94431,26129%
UCLA139,48515,00410.8%
Merced27,77024,32987.6%
Riverside 52,67634,67165.8%
San Diego118,39140,61634.3%
Santa Barbara105,64430,86029.2%
Santa Cruz61,82036,37558.8%

So, what does all this tell us? 

First, admissions to the UC system are more competitive than ever, even to the schools that are generally considered safer bets. More students than ever are applying, and even though the system is under pressure to admit more students, space is still quite limited. Of course, most students who apply submit applications to multiple schools within the system; while the numbers on the table are large, the total number of applicants to the UC system as a whole was 210,840 (which is a ridiculously large number also, but smaller than the table might otherwise suggest).

We should note that most of the students who apply, and who are admitted, come from within California, and there is even more pressure to increase that percentage. While there is no news yet on whether that will happen, applying to a UC school from outside California is likely to get even more competitive, especially for UCLA and Berkeley. 

Part of the problem is that there are too many qualified students, and not enough spaces for them at UC or Cal State schools. Merced is also the only school to accept referrals; high school seniors from California schools who rank in the top 9%, and who are guaranteed a place in college. We will see how these issues are resolved going forward.

UC Admissions Standards

The UC schools use a 13-point process to review applications and determine whether students are eligible. The criteria they review are: 

  1. Your academic grade point average in all completed A-G courses.
  2. Number of, content of, and performance in academic courses beyond the minimum A-G requirements.
  3. Number taken and performance in UC-approved honors and Advanced Placement courses.
  4. Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of your high school class (this matters most for in-state students, though it is noted for others as well).
  5. Quality of your senior-year program, as measured by the type and number of academic courses in progress or planned.
  6. Quality of your academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in your school.
  7. Outstanding performance in one or more academic subject areas.
  8. Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study.
  9. Recent, marked improvement in your academic performance, as demonstrated by academic GPA and the quality of coursework completed or in progress.
  10. Special talents, achievements, or awards in a particular field, such as arts athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate exceptional promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government; or other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate your promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of campus.
  11. Completion of special projects undertaken in the context of your high school curriculum or in conjunction with special school events, projects, or programs.
  12. Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances.
  13. Location of your secondary school and residence (i.e. in state or out of state).

You should note that your test scores are not mentioned on this list. UC admissions are currently completely test-blind. Not only will they not use your ACT or SAT scores when making admissions decisions, but they also won’t even accept them. In spite of that, as the list above shows, admissions officers have plenty to consider when reviewing applications, especially in light of how many applications they receive.

Another notable change is that the UC system will accept Pass-fail grades that occurred during the winter, spring, and summer of 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated lockdowns which impacted education. 

The Admissions Paradox

The biggest trend we’ve seen over the past few years of the COVID-19 pandemic? College enrollment has decreased, by a lot. Overall, 1,000,000 fewer students enrolled in colleges than were expected to. At the same time, application numbers skyrocketed and acceptance rates at top schools dropped. So what’s going on?

The pandemic caused many students to put off college in favor of work or other opportunities. At the same time, the students who did apply applied to more schools, and more often reached for schools they previously would not have applied to, often driven by test-optional policies which gave them hope that they might get accepted in spite of poor performances on standardized tests. 

Thus, while some colleges are struggling with declining enrollment, others are seeing record interest. This does not seem to be a sustainable situation, but if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that trying to accurately predict the future is futile. In the meantime, safety schools will be safer bets than ever, while reach schools may become even harder to get into.

Archway on Princeton University's campus with trees in the background

Cornell, Princeton, and UPenn are no Longer Publishing Acceptance Rates

Stanford began not widely publicizing acceptance data in 2018, and Cornell joined them in 2020. Now, Princeton and UPenn have joined them, bringing it up to three Ivy League schools that are no longer publishing their data. 

The rationale behind this change is that both universities and prospective students are harmed by sensationalist headlines glorifying ever lower acceptance levels and spurring competition between institutions. This only causes stress for students and admissions officers alike and may discourage prospective students from applying due to the low rate of acceptance. Indeed, while a low acceptance rate does make a school look more popular, it is a double-edged sword, as it can drive away from some students even as it attracts others. 

Admissions data is still available through the Common Data Set, but this will make it harder to find for casual observers or students less versed in the admissions process. 

It remains to be seen what impact this will have, if any, on college admissions. While an attempt to reduce the stress students feel is good, we worry about a potential lack of transparency in the process. We’ve found that the better students understand college admissions, and what the application process requires of them, the less stressed they are about it. Generally, therefore, we support an increase in transparency from admissions departments in regard to their processes.

Final Thoughts

Every admissions cycle brings fresh challenges, for while the college applications landscape shifts slowly, it is a fluid environment. We hope that these updates help keep you informed about how you can prepare for college and that you will be ready when you submit your own applications. 

If you would like help on your admissions journey or are uncertain where to begin, schedule a free consultation with us. We have expertise in every aspect of the college application process and are always happy to hear from you.

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