This year has been a challenging year for students and teachers in adapting to online learning and the isolation that comes with learning outside of a classroom setting. With schools closed for a good part of a school year or in some cases its entirety, access to college counseling through students’ high schools or community colleges was most likely affected as well. As a lead College Counselor for Helping Hand College Guidance, I can assure you that there is no greater joy for me than learning that a student I have aided through the college admissions process has received a letter of admissions from their dream school. That is always our goal as private College Advisors, where we strive for the best results.
The Los Angeles Times article titled “UC Explains Admissions Decision in a Record Application Year of Much Heart Break, Some Joy” (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-04-12/covid-college-admissions-season-brings-rejection-heartbreak), highlights that there are some impressive statistics for this year. There were a record number of applications filed, both for the UC and many private colleges, leaving many students feeling disappointed. Just for perspective, 200,000 students were seeking 46,000 openings in the UC. USC had only a 12% acceptance rate from over 70,000 applicants. According to the Los Angeles Times, Harvard’s admit percentage dipped to a low of 3.4%. This situation left many students with stellar academic records, a solid extracurricular resume, and many AP and Honor classes facing rejection.
In some cases, the choice of an intended major such as business, engineering, nursing, biology, and psychology for two seemingly identical students can offer a possible explanation for an admission outcome. Schools have a capacity limit in most majors and those just mentioned appear to be more popular. Choosing a less sought-after major will most likely improve a student’s chance of admission. Students should realize that they may not be able to change majors later. Many of these competitive majors are looking for students to demonstrate strong quantitative skills and possess advanced courses in that area.
The long-term effects of phasing out the SAT and ACT for the UC, along with many private colleges eliminating them for this year or making them optional have yet to be determined. It certainly has opened the door for many disadvantaged students to have a greater chance of admission, as in some of the successes reported by individual high schools. I believe that students who might score far below average on tests will have a tough transition to a college that ordinarily would choose students with high test scores. Are these newly accepted students as prepared to succeed, or will they struggle? Only the coming years can reveal the answer. Without test scores, are well-deserving students being edged out of a coveted admission spot?
As a College Counselor, Pam Ohriner advises students to take these steps in achieving a favorable college outcome:
- Start the applications early.
- Set a course of action, mapping out a high school curriculum from 9th through 12th grades.
- Pick a few extracurricular activities that the student is passionate about and stick with them. Ensure that at least one or two of the activities are related to an academic subject or career that highly interests you.
- Pursue the most rigorous courses that feel comfortable for you, taking advantage of as many AP and Honor Classes as possible.
- Even though the UC does not require standardized testing, it is a good idea to take them anyway as many private and out-of-state colleges will either require them or make the tests optional. High standardized test scores can also potentially lead to merit scholarships. Taking standardized tests is a learning process. In studying for them, undoubtedly, the student will increase their overall knowledge and their confidence in taking a timed test, working under pressure.
- Apply to a balanced list of schools (including safety) so all your eggs are not in one or two baskets.
We can help you on this journey, whether you are embarking on freshman, transfer, or international admissions. Please contact Helping Hand College Guidance via email or phone at 310-733-8433 if you would like a 30-minute free consultation.