Finally Some Data on the Effect of Covid on College Admissions

Nine months into the pandemic, we're finally starting to get information on how COVID affected college-bound students.

Yesterday, the University of California reported that the number of applicants applying to their nine campuses increased up to 250,000 during this year's application cycle. That's a 15% increase from last year. Campus-specific data won't be available until a few months into 2021, but for now we know that the removal of the standardized test score might have played a huge role.

At the 23 Cal State University campuses, the news was quite different, with a 5% decrease in applications from last year. In fact, many of the CSU campuses have extended their deadlines in the hopes of getting more applications. The one exception was Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which saw a 4% increase in applications since the last cycle.


The following CSU campuses are still accepting applications for Fall 2021:

  • Channel Islands – December 31, 2020

  • Chico – January 15, 2021 - All First-time Freshman and non-impacted transfer programs

  • Dominguez Hills - January 15, 2021

  • East Bay - March 2, 2021

  • Humboldt – February 28, 2021

  • Los Angeles – January 19, 2021 -Except for Nursing for transfer students

  • Maritime – January 15, 2021

  • Monterey Bay - January 15, 2021

  • Sacramento – January 8, 2021

  • San Bernardino - February 1, 2021

  • San Francisco - non-impacted programs until January 31, 2021

  • San Jose – January 8, 2021

  • San Marcos – January 31, 2021

  • Sonoma – January 15, 2021

  • Stanislaus – February 1, 2021

Increases in application numbers were seen across many top tier universities for the Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) rounds and we believe that being test-optional was a big factor in this uptick of applications. For my sophomores and juniors, we're finally starting to see a glimpse of what would happen if you don't have test scores to report.


During this past week, many EA and ED decisions were released. The following is information I've received over the past week. I am merely sharing the information that I've come across to better help juniors understand what to expect as the year goes on. A common question that kept coming up with my current seniors was whether ED would give them a boost and whether applying regular decision (RD) would be sufficient.


Boston University: The ED I pool was much stronger and more diverse than in past years. They saw a 12% increase with 2,900 applications. 75% of those were without test scores and 71% of those admitted didn't have test scores.


Tufts University: ED I numbers increased by 17% from last year. Tufts also extended their ED I deadline from November 1st to November 17th. 57% of these applicants didn't report a test score and 56% of those admitted didn't have a test score. Tufts reported a 30% increase in international applicants right after President-Elect Biden won the election.


Northeastern University: ED I saw a 5% increase to 1,900 applicants out of which two thirds didn't have test scores. 1,000 students were offered admission which filled about a third of the freshman class. EA saw a 14% increase to 36,000 applications and the applicants were divided fairly evenly with half reporting test scores and half going test optional. Results of EA will come in mid-January.


Duke University: ED increased by 18% and 16% of those were offered admission. 40% of applicants didn't report test scores.


Brown University: Brown also broke records this year by accepting only 15.9% of ED applicants. The number of accepted students and the number of applicants — 885 and 5,540, respectively — are the largest in University history.


Notre Dame University: Out of 7,744 Restricted Early Action (REA) applicants, 1,672 were admitted, out of which 31% didn't have test scores.


Georgetown University: Last year they admitted 11.6% of 7,305 REA applicants, this year they admitted 11% of 8,710 REA applicants. They have filled more than 50% of their freshmen class. The RD acceptance rate is approximately 14%.


Harvard University: Last year, they admitted 895 out of 6,424 EA applicants, this year they admitted 747 students out of a whopping 10,086 EA pool.


Yale University: Another university that broke a record. They had 7,939 EA applications out of which 837 students were offered admission. 50% were deferred to the spring and 38% were denied admission.


U Penn: Received 7,962 applications under ED out of which 1,194 students were offered admission. They filled approximately 50% of their incoming freshman class through ED. 24% of the ED admitted students did not include testing as part of their application. For the admitted students including testing in their application, the middle 50% testing ranges are 1470-1560 on the SAT and 34-35 on the ACT.


University of VA: At UVA, residency is a major factor in admissions.

Total number of Early Decision applications: 2,937 (2,159 last year) . Overall admitted: 965

Total number of VA apps: 1,573

Total number of Out of State (OOS) apps: 1,364

Total VA offers: 617 (39% offer rate)

Total OOS offers: 348 (26% offer rate)


I will keep you informed as more data comes out. Getting deferred or being denied admission is never just about the student. Many factors go into these decisions and this year is no exception. Sometimes universities have certain needs to fill and look for certain applicants -- full pay, first generation, minorities, athletes, majors, etc.

For my juniors and seniors, the good news so far is that test optional is clearly test optional and colleges and universities have kept their word that applicants will not be disadvantaged if they don't have a test score.