I blame the parents. It’s not test optional colleges, it’s not c19, it’s not holistic processes, it’s not any of the things being discussed. The reason more applicants end up with options that do not appeal to them is parents.
Parents are lauded when they do the research and buy homes in certain school districts to get their kids into the “good” public K-12 system. Parents are lauded when they get their kids into advanced classes in elementary, middle, and high school, including AP classes and such. Parents are lauded when they help their kids by signing up for test prep and multiple test opportunities.
However, when it comes time to do the research necessary to find college options that might appeal to the family, all of a sudden people want to say these parents are helpless.
Let’s not conflate discrete groups of applicants. 70% of college bound HS seniors are going to attend an in-state public or a comparable OOS public - they are not part of this. 20% of students are aiming for slightly more selective universities - they are rarely a part of this. Maybe 10% are aiming for highly-selective colleges. This group, for the most part, includes students with parents accustomed to making all the right moves up to this point. I don’t accept that these parents are all of a sudden helpless in helping their students wind up in a great and appropriate univerisity well-suited for their child. I simply don’t.
This is not an issue that affects most families. In fact, it affects a very small minority of families. We do not need to figure out ways to change HS counseling simply to make sure one or two more students per school per year end up at T40s - at the expense, it is important to note, of students who might have been admitted but will now not be admitted - this is a zero sum game, and every time a student you deem as appropriate is admitted that means another student the university originally thought was appropriate is now not admitted because of standards YOU decided to implement. We do not need to remake the entire application process for hundreds or thousands of universities to ensure only the “right” students are admitted.
I think most of this hand-wringing and complaining is completely off target. It’s more venting, than a way to find a solution. And most of the solutions sound like ways to exclude certain students, instead of ways to help all appropriate applicants receive due consideration.