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  • Writer's pictureMichele Coleman

Top 3 Trends in College Admissions

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

Every year NACAC (The National Association of College Admissions Counselors) delivers a report that illuminates new and existing trends in college admissions. Here are some highlights adapted from the 2019 report.

#1 - Application Numbers continue to Increase

The Common Application reports that the number of applications has increased by 13.2% from the prior year.

#2 - Test-Optional is not just a fad!

The percentage of colleges requiring test scores is down to 5% from 11% in 2021, and the number of students who are opting to report test scores has decreased from 77% in 2019 to 49%.

#3 - Colleges & Waitlists

To have a full freshman class, colleges are placing more students on Wait Lists. Think of a WL as a safety net for a college. After May 1, colleges can utilize the waitlist to fill the freshman class if not enough students have accepted offers.

Considering the trends above, many parents and students ask me, “If colleges are not requiring test scores, what are the factors that they are using to make admission decisions?” According to the NACAC State of Admission Report of 2019, colleges are using the following factors to admit students:

Most Important

Moderately Important

GPA, Strength of Curriculum in the context of a student's high school, often termed as rigor.

Essays, Demonstrated Interest, Letters of Recommendation, and Extra-Curricular Activities

The following table shows some interesting results.


% of Colleges that consider the factor Important

Grades in All Courses


Grades in College Prep Courses


Strength of Curriculum


Test Scores - ACT/SAT




Demonstrated Interest


Counselor Recommendations


Teacher Recommendations


Class Rank


Extra Curricular Activities




Subject Tests (AP/IB)






There have been some changes in the way that colleges weigh the above factors.

  • Grades from all classes have become more important – with 52% of colleges considering them important in 2007, to 73% of colleges considering all grades and classes to be important in 2018.

  • SAT/ACT scores have dropped in the level of importance from 59% in 2007 to 46% in 2018.

  • Class Rank is barely considered and has dropped from 23% in 2007 to 9% in 2018.

  • Counselor Recommendations have seen their importance drop from 21% to 15%.

  • Demonstrated Interest decreased from 22% to 16%

  • Teacher Recommendations dropped from 21% to 14%

  • Interviews 11% to 6%

And the importance of Work has increased from 2% to 4 %!

Interesting that the importance of test scores dropped with that data being from before the pandemic. It will be interesting to see results from 2020.

The above factors are largely factors that a student can control, but some schools also weigh factors that students cannot change. Private schools tend to put greater consideration on race, ethnicity, gender, high school, alumni relations, and ability to pay. Larger colleges weigh state, county, and 1st generation status as important additional factors.

Selective or highly rejective schools weigh race, ethnicity, gender,1st generation status, state, county, high school, legacy, and ability to pay as their additional deciding factors.

So what’s the message?

Students should focus on those areas where they have control to make decisions and take action. Study hard, pick challenging classes, take tests if they want, volunteer, participate in extracurricular activities and connect with teachers.

Don’t stress over those factors that you have no control over, apply early if you can, and overall apply to a well-balanced list of schools.

Book of the Month: The Price you pay for college by Ron Lieber

Questions or need help with the college search? Contact me!



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