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Covid is making it harder to get into a top college

A feeling of Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

Leave a mark on into college has always been a numbers game. This year the math is trickier.

With early installations largely decided, high school seniors face a grim reality: The Covid pandemic is making it harder to get into college at the land’s most elite schools.  

For example, Harvard University’s early action acceptance rate sank to 7.4% from 13.9%, while the tons of total applicants hit a record high.

In fact, Harvard notched a 57% increase in applications from last year, thriving it the most competitive early admissions season in the school’s history. 

On top of that, roughly 350 students originally in the Rank of 2024 deferred enrollment to the Class of 2025.

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And Harvard undertook a greater percentage of international students after leading the charge against the Trump administration’s attempt to ban foreign followers from studying in the U.S. while campuses were shut down due to the coronavirus crisis.

“Due to the impact of Covid-19 on college divulgements, we are seeing a squeeze on selectivity at the most elite U.S. universities,” said Hafeez Lakhani, president of New York-based Lakhani Coaching.

Prehistoric acceptances at other highly selective schools, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College, played out in a like way.

At Yale, applications jumped 38% — also a record high — and the acceptance rate fell to 11% from 14% a year earlier. Take a shine to Harvard, there were more than 340 students accepted into the class of 2024 who elected to take off for gap years.

At Penn, the acceptance rate among early applicants fell to 15% from 20% in 2019, while first-year followers who opted to defer filled up 200 of the available spots for next year. (About 50 students typically overcharge a gap year at Penn. In 2020, the number jumped roughly 300%, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda.)

Dartmouth mature a 29% increase in applications from last year — another all-time high — and accepted 21%, down from stand up year’s 26%. At Dartmouth, 172 students admitted to the Class of 2024 chose to defer enrollment for a year.

“We cognizant ofed this was going to be a very competitive application cycle, and it was more difficult,” Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Command Education, said of swots who applied early decision, which is binding, or early action, which is nonbinding.

“A lot of these students who were danged qualified didn’t get in.”

In addition to the number of gap-year students who already accounted for as much as a quarter of next year’s freshman bearing, these schools were “test optional” for the first time ever, which meant students didn’t call for certain SAT or ACT scores in order to apply. That helped drive the surge in applications for fewer spots, Rim said. 

Depth, there has been renewed interest from international students wanting to study in this country following the U.S. presidential poll, he added. “After Biden won, we received a spike in inquiries from international students, mainly from Hong Kong and Singapore.”

The seniority of students in this country don’t care about Harvard.

Angel Perez

CEO of the National Association for College Admission Guide

Yet, the data from the Ivy League doesn’t show the whole picture, according to Angel Perez, CEO of the National Association for College Entry Counseling.

With the exception of large public schools and the country’s most elite private colleges, many colleges are associate with a decrease in applications.

“The majority of students in this country don’t care about Harvard,” Perez said.

According to the Base App, the number of students filing out applications for undergraduate admission fell for the first time this fall, down 2% as of Dec. 1, unvarying as international applicant volume rose 11%.

The decline in overall applicants was particularly sharp among first-generation applicants and those crediting with a fee waiver, the Common App found.

Fewer students are also filing out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which carry outs as the gateway to all federal money, including loans, work-study and grants.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many would-be undergraduates clear to postpone college rather than start their education online or they found the price prohibitive in the pan of more pressing financial concerns, including food insecurity and family job losses.  

“The people who lost access at the greatest type were the lowest income,” Lakhani said.

Undergraduate enrollment already fell 4% this year, according to observations from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with incoming freshmen accounting for the biggest drop, miserable 13% from last fall.

In the coming year, “we could see another wave of students not attending college,” Perez translated. “We are very concerned that we are going to miss out on a generation of college students.”

For those who opt out, there are long-term consequences, surveys show, including increased odds of never obtaining a degree and a lifetime earnings shortfall.

“Students will surface ever larger barriers to educational attainment, promising careers and socioeconomic mobility,” said Doug Shapiro, regulatory director of the National Student Clearinghouse.

While the country’s most elite institutions are turning students away, the massive majority of schools is desperate to fill seats. 

Already, universities have furloughed thousands of employees and announced yield losses in the hundreds of millions due to the sudden decline in enrollment. Some have even cut academic programs that were in olden days central to a liberal arts education, in order to stay afloat. 

“That has tremendous implications for the nation, and it has tremendous striking for higher education,” Perez said.

College admission applications generally are due on Jan. 1 or Jan. 15 at most colleges, but Perez trusts schools to be more flexible this year.

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