Is Fall 2021 University of California Applicant Increase Year Over Year Due to Change in SAT/ACT Policy?

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, preliminary application counts for Fall 2021 released by the University of California show a 15% increase from last year’s Fall 2020 applications, netting nearly 250,000 single applications. Yet, will increases in applications render to more acceptances and more enrollment?

Some speculate that the increase in applications is a consequence of newly implemented test blind admissions policies, where first year applicants were not required to submit SAT or ACT scores.

Without scores being required, some high school seniors may be more confident about their chances for admissions, so submit applications, as one student quoted in the Los Angeles Times article shared:

‘I thought the only thing that would hold me back [on college applications] was my SAT score,’ [Andrea] Gonzalez said, [a high school senior at Alliance Marine Innovation and Technology 6-12 Complex]

Not having to take the test and submit a score was ‘a big breath of relief and gave Gonzalez the courage to apply to some of the more competitive UCs, including UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.

UC numbers soar, CSU’s drop as pandemic upends college application season, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2020

However, more often, I hear students and their families question if a student will be fairly evaluated for admissions without test scores. Parents and students wonder if admissions officers will bias their evaluations towards applicants who do submit test scores, especially since SAT or ACT test scores have been a standard in admissions for nearly 85 years.

Students and parents have (rightfully or not) believed that SAT and ACT scores are a sign of a student’s aptitude, thus their “ranking” amongst their peers. Or more aptly framed by one high school counselor:

…tests give the illusion of a meritocracy…”

Inside Higher Ed, January 26, 2021

Furthermore, admissions officers are also questioning their evaluation process. One dean of admissions at a flagship public university recently shared with me that he and his colleagues are asking how to retool the admissions evaluation process to maintain the integrity of their decisions, as well as achieve their objective to enroll students who will matriculate for four years to graduate without considering SAT or ACT scores.

He asks:

[W]ill those students [who apply without submitting test scores] yield similarly to prior students?

Yield is the number of students who will choose to enroll in a college after being granted acceptance. Thus, admissions officers are challenged to admit the requisite number of applicants to fiscally maintain the function of the university as well as educate the next generation.

Although admissions officers contend with the challenge of yield every year, for the two-thirds of universities that implemented a one-year test optional policy, many admissions officers are now wondering about the correlation between the persistence required to prepare for and take an SAT or ACT, and the resolve to graduate from college.

So, in reviewing applicants for Fall 2021 admissions, college admissions officers are parsing through the nuances of an application, which as discussed in Fall 2021 Admissions Policies Turned Upside Down, is potentially increasing the subjectivity in the admissions process.

Yet, applicants and admissions officers alike, including myself, are wondering: although more students are applying, will more students be accepted, and what will be the subsequent impact on the quality of university education, concomitant with the historical changes in admissions policies?

For more information about how to both plan for and navigate the complex college admissions process in order to minimize the risk of educational malinvestment, check out Creative Marbles Consultancy

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
View all posts by Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy →