What are your top takeaways learned from the most recent admissions cycle for rising seniors about to apply?

  1. If you’re paying full price, most private 4 year colleges aren’t worth it.
  2. ‘Test-optional’ is mostly a lie.
  3. Targeted Deferrals are real.
  4. The torment and angst students go through applying to top schools is tragic and misplaced considering the AOs will spend less than 10 min looking at their application.
  1. there are many great schools out there that aren’t Top20. Don’t get stuck on “prestige”. There are a LOT of schools that give students a top notch education.

  2. Apply non-restrictive Early Action everywhere you can. The application process is very stressful and the sooner you can be done with it the better. Sooo much better to have admissions in hand by December than to still be waiting around through March or later.

  3. Limit the number of applications. Don’t apply to 50 schools or 20. Keep it under 10, ideally around 5, but make sure there are schools on your list that are “very likely” admits for you that you would be happy to go to and that are affordable.

  4. Visit as many schools as you can. The in-person visit was hugely important in the decision making process for us.


If a school says an essay is optional, it isn’t optional if you’re actually hoping for an acceptance. Also, some colleges may not require an essay, but will accept one. I heard of multiple people at Northeastern, I believe, who wrote a “Why Northeastern” essay. When people said NU didn’t have one, they said they sent one in anyway. Those people generally had better results.

:100: Yes. How old are the parents? What is their health like? How would their life and retirement look if there was a heart attack or some other unexpected health issue that arose and they were forced into early retirement? What if they lost their job or had to take a decrease in pay? If an extra $200k is negligible for your family and a financially secure retirement, that is an entirely different situation than if the $200k would be financially meaningful for them.


Lots of valuable gems in all the posts above, that future applicants and their parents should take note of and heed. However, like the OP, I’d like to specifically hear…

thanks all


Personally I don’t see that much difference between the most recent admission cycle and years past.

Schools that were historical safeties were changing even before Covid. It’s important to use current data when making a list and not remember what it used to be like with older siblings, or lord forbid, when parents were in college ; )

IMO, the big changes are understanding which schools are filling the majority of their class in ED rounds as that seems to be a trend; understanding where to strategically apply TO; and knowing how schools have handled Covid so you can predict what may happen if there is another surge.


I don’t think is is new or novel to this board, but my biggest takeaway is that the admissions process has been filled with much more uncertainty in the past two years. This is likely due in large part to 1) test optional and 2) other impacts of Covid (deferrals, higher yields, etc). Both schools and applicants are trying to address that uncertainly to minimize risk:

Schools are: 1) filling more of their classes through ED, which is the ultimate hedge against uncertainty, and 2) engaging in more yield protection by seeking more demonstrated interest (visits, essays, etc) and rejecting/deferring higher stat applicants they suspect are are applying to their school as a safety.

Applicants (and particularly those who are seeking T30 schools) on the other hand are: 1)applying to more schools in general, and especially taking a shotgun approach to their reach schools, 2) also using ED more to increase their odds of admission to a reach school.

Unfortunately, both the actions of the schools and the applicants creates a vicious cycle - the more that schools use ED to fill their classes, the more that encourages applicants to both apply ED, and, later, take the shotgun approach in the RD cycle.

From an applicant’s standpoint (I have a rising senior who’ll be applying to colleges next fall), I’m planning to hedge against uncertainty by 1) encouraging my daughter to strategically use ED (both ED1 and ED2 if necessary) to increase her chances of getting into one of her reach schools, and 2) focusing a lot more on her safeties than I would have several years ago.


For T20s, the RD round is for university window dressing. If you’re an unhooked, middle class kid, you don’t want to be there.


Agreed. Learned this the hard way this cycle.

Strong disagree. The colleges still fill much of their class in RD. While it may be more difficult for unhooked students in RD, more unhooked students get in via RD than ED.


I would still argue that those fit into the university priorities in some way

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I would argue that all students, and especially the hooked ones, are admitted to meet institutional priorities. But many hooked students, like athletes, are admitted during the early round.

Now it’s possible that by the time RD comes around that some majors are close to full, and therefore admittance into those areas might be more difficult. But on the flip side, some majors might be more empty than usual.


@Illinoisparent12 - What a great summary, I think it’s spot on. The one clarification I would make is around the term “yield protection”. In the past there was a sense that some schools were (did) look to try and maintain a higher yield to increase their rankings.

While there may be some of that, I would say today it’s more about “Yield Prediction”. All the points you outlined in the first paragraph really point out the crazy unpredictability of the whole thing

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Actually, colleges generally care about yield prediction because they want to avoid over or under enrollment. This was true before, and is true now.

Some colleges also care about yield protection, which is typically indicated by having binding early decision and/or caring about level of applicant’s interest.

Obviously, increasing early decision as a portion of the admit class improves both yield prediction and yield protection.

Colleges also likely make individual yield predictions for each applicant, since they know that (for example) the strongest admits generally have the lowest yield, while the marginal admits generally have the highest yield. Other factors can also influence individual yield.


This is not unique to this cycle but every year I see students and parents looking at admit rates of out of state publics and not understanding that:

  1. The admit rates/stats might vary widely between in-state to out of state students. So, if you’re looking at say Michigan’s admission rates and stats when you’re from Indiana, you need to be looking at the stats for out-of-state students. Some people put these large state schools down as safeties when they can be reaches if your out of state.

  2. Majors can REALLY matter. For example, UIUC might seem like a safety for some students if they are applying as a psych major but as a CS or Engineering major it’s a reach for everyone.


Expanding on your point #2 - I’ve read some people here on CC dismiss such concerns by saying “XYZ college does not admit by major”. They miss the point that even if these schools don’t explicitly admit by major they will look at an applicant’s intended major (which the applicant might have listed as an area of interest or mentioned in their essay) when making offers if it’s an impacted major. They know for example how many CS kids they can accommodate and that factors into their admission decision.


Spend the bulk of your time researching, visiting, and falling in love with schools that have a 40% or higher acceptance rate.

You can visit Stanford and Yale (& the like!) AFTER you’ve been admitted! Chances are, 95% of the time it will have been a waste of time and money to visit earlier.


I think at the ivies at least, ED is still mostly filled by ALDC candidates, leaving the vast majority who applied ED left to contend for the remaining spots. For example. Something like 9,460 students applied EA at Harvard and they accepted 740? 90% of recruited athletes are accepted and they make up 20% of the admitted class, but most of that 20% probably comes from EA. Another 15% comes from legacy, so that is about 391 and 293, or a combined 684 just from the A & the L. Most of the A & the L in ALDC are probably applying EA. So, I think without even factoring in D&C, it’s safe to say EA is still mostly wrapped up by ALDC, at least at the ivies. If anything, chances have gone down significantly because EA and ED application numbers have gone up significantly, so now the non ALDC, who likely make up the vast majority of those applications, are competing against many more applicants, whereas before most of the EA applicants were ALDC. So yes, anybody can apply ED/EA, and more are than ever before, but the admitted in that pool are still mostly ALDC.

In today’s hyper competitive environment (which is very real no matter how much people try to deny it), it is ok to apply to only 5 colleges, but if your child only applies to 5 colleges I have the following advice. I would make sure 1 of them is a stat based, rolling admission, you will be accepted within 5-10 days of submitting your app and probably receive good merit scholarships. Make 1 of them an ultra safety, 1 or 2 safeties and 1 or 2 targets. Because one of the safeties is probably now a target and the target might not be a target anymore. Do not apply to 5 targets or 4 targets and 1 safety. I don’t know if I would apply to a reach with only 5 applications in todays applicant pool and environment. From everything else I have observed (results) over the last year on CC, the lines have moved. Also, although my child did very well with acceptances (with the exception of Ivy) she knows many students who were not accepted anywhere except their safeties or their auto-admits. So, whether it’s 3, 5, 8 or 10, I think as many people have said balance is key. But I think many have tried to say and people don’t want to hear, the lines have been moving the past 5 years, but especially the last two years, so don’t look at 5 or 10 year old data. Don’t look at pre-covid data. If it predates 2020, it’s probably irrelevant.

Common App- it’s a horrible tool, if somebody figures out how to make that thing useful (and yet, not as bad as apply Texas). It is restrictive and limiting and not in a good way and like everything, everything has to be about school school School. So if you are for example somebody who is possibly an Olympic hopeful or do anything at an elite level, training 20-40 hours a week outside of school, there is no good way to convey that in common app (and most scholarship applications either- yeah, throwing lots of shade at you Coca Cola scholarship app). There is no good way to convert awards and honors form outside school either. It ends up making your application look empty - if you are lucky the school accepts resumes too. People hate common app because it means kids can apply to 20 schools easily- I hate common app because its terrible. Still never understood why for some schools it sent her AP scores and for others it sent the list without the scores.

Speaking of terrible tools - beware Naviance. Keep a very close eye on what Naviance does because in my daughter’s case it sent things to schools that it should not have sent. Specifically a LoR. It was set up properly in Naviance to be unique to one school only. Noticed somewhere along the line that it had been sent to several schools. D checked with teacher and she confirmed that she mentioned the university by name in her LoR. D talked to GC and confirmed it was set up properly in Naviance - called Naviance and they couldn’t explain why it was sent to multiple schools. They were basically like “oh well”. Did it impact the decision of a couple schools? Possibly, we’ll never know.


For students possessing strong stats (GPA, SAT/ACT, APs) and who would be enthusiastic about an international experience, perhaps apply to a few non-US schools, whether in Canada (probably the most straight forward), UK (relatively straightforward except for Oxbridge), or Netherlands/Ireland/Singapore/etc.

University admissions in these countries are usually more predictable and, for families that are full-pay at US schools, studying abroad will likely be cheaper.


:100: this. To add further: In addition to making it harder than advertised for those interested in popular/impacted majors, IMO this situation can be an advantage for those interested in undersubscribed areas. It’s one anecdote, obviously, but I strongly suspect that a key factor in D22’s RD admission to a T20 (as an unhooked suburban middle-class female) was her stated interest - supported by appropriate ECs - in an uncommon major.


I concur that Naviance is possibly the worst software I have ever encountered, and I’ve seen my fair share. If you do one thing wrong, you can never undo it, that I could discover (like, for instance, indicate a LoR should be sent to all schools instead of specific schools).