College Unfold

Navigating the Changing Landscape: College Admissions Trends and Controversies

The Changing Landscape of College Admissions: Trends and PoliciesOver the years, the college admissions process has seen several significant changes as institutions strive to create a fair and inclusive environment for prospective students. This article explores two main topics: holistic admissions and standardized testing policies.

By delving into these subjects, we aim to provide readers with valuable insights that can assist them in navigating through the complex college admissions process.

Holistic Admissions and the Need for Affordability and Success

Holistic Admissions Approach

In an effort to look beyond test scores and GPAs, many colleges and universities have embraced a holistic admissions approach. This method takes into account various factors to assess an applicant’s potential, including personal achievements, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and leadership skills.

Holistic admissions aim to create a diverse student body that represents a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. In recent years, the Common Application and the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success have played vital roles in streamlining the college application process.

These platforms allow students to apply to multiple colleges using a single application, thereby reducing the time and effort required to submit multiple applications.

The Holistic Trend and its Impact on Standardized Testing

The shift towards holistic admissions has also led to a reevaluation of the importance of standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. Some colleges are making the tests optional, meaning that applicants are not required to submit their scores.

Instead, they are given the choice to showcase their abilities through other means. Additionally, the digital locker has emerged as a tool that enables students to showcase their talents and accomplishments beyond test scores.

This online portfolio allows applicants to showcase their work, ranging from artwork to research papers, offering a more comprehensive view of their abilities. Standards Testing Policies: Test-Optional and Flexible Approaches

Test-Optional Policies

As the holistic admissions trend gains momentum, an increasing number of colleges and universities are adopting test-optional policies. This means that students can decide whether or not to include their standardized test scores as part of their application.

This shift was pioneered by institutions like Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Bates, Dickinson, and Franklin & Marshall, followed by other prestigious universities like Wake Forest, American, GW, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Middlebury, Colby, and Colorado College. These colleges believe that a student’s academic abilities and potential can be evaluated through their high school performance and other application components, rather than solely relying on standardized test scores.

Test-optional policies aim to level the playing field, making it more accessible for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply.

Varied Standardized Testing Policies

While some colleges adopt test-optional policies, others have established flexible approaches. The College Transitions Dataverse has provided vital information regarding standardized testing policies at various institutions.

Students can access details such as superscore policies (where colleges consider the highest section scores from multiple test dates) and score choice (where students can choose which test scores to submit). It is also important to note that some institutions, such as Franklin & Marshall and Colorado College, have even eliminated the ACT/SAT writing section as a requirement.

These policies are designed to assess students based on their academic merit rather than their test-taking abilities.


In conclusion, the college admissions landscape has undergone significant changes, with a shift towards holistic admissions and reevaluations of standardized testing policies. Institutions recognize the importance of evaluating applicants holistically, considering their unique qualities and achievements beyond mere test scores.

The test-optional movement has gained prominence, allowing students to choose whether or not to submit their standardized test scores. These advancements aim to create a fair and inclusive admissions process for students from all backgrounds.

As students navigate their college application journey, it is crucial for them to understand these trends and policies to make informed decisions about their own applications.

The Power of Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions

Understanding Demonstrated Interest

In an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, demonstrating genuine interest in a particular institution has become crucial. Colleges and universities are interested in admitting students who are likely to enroll if accepted, as this helps them achieve their admissions goals and maintain healthy yield rates.

Demonstrated interest refers to a student’s efforts to engage with a college or university outside of the application itself. There are several ways through which prospective students can showcase their enthusiasm and commitment to an institution.

Social media engagement has become an effective tool for students to interact with colleges and demonstrate their interest. Following and engaging with the official social media accounts of institutions can provide valuable insights into campus life, events, and admissions updates.

Furthermore, e-mail contact with admissions officers or attending virtual information sessions allows students to establish a connection with the institution. Sharing specific aspects of the university that align with the student’s interests and goals can leave a lasting impression and signal genuine interest.

In-person visits to campus are also highly valued. By exploring the campus, attending information sessions, and meeting current students, prospective students can gain a better understanding of the institutions culture and academic opportunities.

Attending regional admissions events can also be an effective way to interact with admissions representatives and demonstrate interest.

The Importance of Demonstrated Interest and Resources for Students

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) recognizes the importance of demonstrated interest and its impact on college admissions. A study conducted by NACAC found that demonstrated interest ranks among the top ten factors considered by admissions officers when evaluating applicants.

This emphasizes the significance of making an effort to engage with and learn more about an institution beyond just submitting the application. Demonstrated interest can complement other factors such as high school performance, class rank, extracurricular activities, and standardized test scores.

It provides admissions officers with an indication of a student’s fit and dedication to the institution, helping them make admissions decisions. To further showcase their enthusiasm, some colleges offer opportunities for interviews.

These interviews allow applicants to have personal conversations with admissions officers or alumni, giving them a chance to express their interest and highlight their qualities and achievements. Furthermore, while standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are essential, some colleges may also require SAT Subject Tests.

Demonstrated interest can serve as an additional factor in evaluating applicants when these tests are not available or required.

The Rise in College Applications and Decrease in Acceptance Rates

Increasing Applications and Highly Selective Colleges

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of college applications, leading to a decrease in acceptance rates at prestigious institutions. Schools like the Ivy League universities, Stanford, the University of Chicago, MIT, Pomona, Pitzer, Amherst, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Rice have witnessed record-breaking numbers of applications.

The reasons for this surge in applications are multifaceted. First, the perception of prestigious schools as pathways to success and opportunities has led more students to apply.

Additionally, online platforms and the ease of submitting applications have also contributed to the increase. However, this spike in applications has resulted in higher competition, making admissions into these schools extremely challenging.

With limited spots available, acceptance rates have plummeted, intensifying the competition among highly qualified applicants.

Superstar Students and College Application Hedging

In response to the highly selective admissions process, some students are engaging in college application hedging. This involves applying to an excessive number of schools, usually 20 or more, in the hopes of securing admission to at least one prestigious institution.

While hedge applicants may be highly accomplished in terms of academics, extracurricular activities, and other criteria, this approach is not without its drawbacks. Applying to numerous schools can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining for students and their families.

Additionally, it can create challenges in terms of decision-making and committing to a single institution.


As colleges and universities continue to evolve their admissions processes, students must stay informed about the changing landscape. Demonstrated interest is becoming increasingly vital, allowing students to showcase their commitment and alignment with an institution’s values and offerings.

Simultaneously, awareness of the rising number of applications and decreasing acceptance rates at prestigious institutions helps students navigate the competitive admissions journey successfully. By understanding these trends, students can make strategic decisions and present themselves effectively in the college admissions process.

Controversies and Legal Challenges in College Admissions

Lawsuit Against Harvard University and Affirmative Action Policies

One of the most prominent and closely watched lawsuits in recent years involves Harvard University, with the allegations focusing on the university’s admissions practices and the capping of accepting Asian-American students. The lawsuit, brought by Students for Fair Admissions, argues that Harvard systematically discriminates against Asian-American applicants by limiting their admission rates.

This case highlights the complex and controversial issue of affirmative action in college admissions. Affirmative action policies aim to promote diversity and equal opportunity by taking race into consideration during the admissions process.

However, they have been subject to heated debate and legal challenges. One significant Supreme Court case, Fisher v.

University of Texas at Austin, questioned the constitutionality of using race as a factor in admissions decisions. The Court ultimately upheld affirmative action, but with restrictions and a requirement for universities to prove that their admissions policies are narrowly tailored and necessary to achieve educational goals.

The Harvard lawsuit raises questions about potential bias and the delicate balance between diversity and equal treatment in college admissions. The outcome of this case has the potential to shape future interpretations of affirmative action policies.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Investigations into Race-Based Admissions

The U.S. Department of Justice has been involved in investigations into race-based admissions policies, specifically questioning the legality of granting African-American and Latino students an edge in the admissions process. These investigations focus on potential biases and allegations of discrimination against other racial and ethnic groups.

The racial drama surrounding these investigations has further intensified the debates around affirmative action. Supporters argue that affirmative action is essential to address historical inequalities and ensure equal opportunities for underrepresented groups.

They argue that diversity in higher education enhances the learning environment and prepares students to thrive in a multicultural society. Critics, however, believe that affirmative action can lead to reverse discrimination and that admissions decisions should be based solely on merit.

As these investigations continue, colleges and universities face scrutiny and must carefully navigate the legal landscape to ensure compliance with the law while maintaining their commitment to diversity and inclusion.


The controversies and legal challenges in college admissions highlight the complexities and tensions inherent in the pursuit of fair and inclusive admissions processes. Lawsuits against universities, such as the case against Harvard University, shed light on the ongoing debates around affirmative action and the delicate balance between promoting diversity and ensuring equal treatment for all applicants.

At the same time, investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into race-based admissions practices rekindle discussions about the legality and impact of granting an edge to specific racial or ethnic groups. These controversies demand continued examination, as they shape the future of college admissions and the pursuit of a more equitable and diverse higher education system.

In conclusion, the article has explored various important aspects of the ever-evolving college admissions landscape. Key topics discussed include the rise of holistic admissions and the reevaluation of standardized testing policies, the power of demonstrated interest in influencing admissions decisions, the increase in college applications and decrease in acceptance rates at prestigious institutions, and the controversies and legal challenges surrounding affirmative action.

These issues shed light on the complexities and tensions inherent in the pursuit of fair and inclusive admissions processes. The article serves as a reminder for students to stay informed, navigate the college admissions process strategically, and remain mindful of the changing dynamics in order to make well-informed decisions.

The pursuit of higher education requires adaptability and understanding of the evolving landscape to provide equal opportunities for all aspiring students.

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