2021 School Admission Predictions


As this unfathomable yr attracts to an in depth, in case you are like me, you’re extra thinking about trying ahead quite than making an attempt to make sense of the mess that lies behind us. This time final yr, the school admission world was nonetheless coming to phrases with the repercussions of the Varsity Blues scandal and the Division of Justice’s investigation into the moral tips of the Nationwide Affiliation for School Admission Counseling (NACAC). On the shut of 2019, I requested school admission leaders about their visions for the yr forward. Realizing what they did at that second, amongst different predictions, they steered probably adjustments in entry, monetary sustainability, and testing. Then got here 2020, a yr that made any hindsight blurry, at greatest.

What is going to 2021 carry? With a presidential election behind us, a coronavirus vaccine starting to inoculate the nation, and a renewed dedication to problems with racial justice, hopefully, the approaching yr will carry unity and therapeutic. Once more, I requested school leaders to supply their prognostications for the following 12 months, and amongst different projections, the final consensus was that digital admission is right here to remain, standardized testing will fade away, and enrollment unpredictability will rule the day. Here’s what they needed to say:

Enrollment Traits

Jerry Lucido is a professor of observe and affiliate dean of strategic enrollment companies for the College of Southern California’s Rossier College of Schooling. He’s additionally govt director of the USC Middle for Enrollment Analysis, Coverage and Apply (CERPP), the place they’ve a grant from the Invoice and Melinda Gates Basis to review the impression of the Covid-19 pandemic on scholar enrollments throughout increased schooling. Whereas we are going to know extra as their analysis unfolds this yr, Lucido factors out that, “lots of the analytics that admission workplaces use to foretell enrollment and to make admission choices are in flux.” For instance, he says, “testing is non-compulsory at greatest and lacking in most recordsdata. The flexibility to journey to and expertise campuses is extremely restricted. Actions data are harder to evaluate.” Lucido provides, “which means the power of the curriculum accomplished and the grades achieved, at all times crucial components in admission, will play an ever stronger position.” He predicts that “with different components being tough to evaluate, all however probably the most extremely selective schools will hedge their bets and open the doorways wider. The much less selective the varsity, the farther open the door will swing.” He additionally explains that “households that may exhibit a capability and a willingness to pay shall be coveted, “ saying “from the perspective of the general public good, this opening of doorways might create alternatives for some college students who’ve been considered as too dangerous prior to now, however financing them shall be a problem.”

Charles Lloyd is the president of White Mountains Neighborhood School in New Hampshire. He says, “after seeing a yr of unpredictability from all views, fall 2021 might show to be a brighter season for neighborhood school enrollment.” He’s fast so as to add, “in fact ‘brighter’ is relative after the sector nationally was down over ten % year-over-year within the fall of 2020.” Lloyd believes that “many college students selected the preferred various to going to neighborhood schools this fall, which is our long-time rival No School. Many college students selected to not attend college in favor of a spot yr, helping kids with distant studying, or having to work extra hours to make up for different misplaced family earnings.” He predicts that within the fall of 2021, “among the unpredictability shall be eliminated although some will definitely stay because the economic system slowly recovers,” including, “I foresee much less of a year-over-year decline nationally with the hopes of even flat enrollment.” He factors out that “neighborhood schools are recognized for being nimble and in a position to reply shortly to the wants of enterprise and trade. This makes neighborhood schools much more essential within the workforce coaching space.”

Digital Actuality

Mike Drish, director of first-year admissions on the College of Massachusetts Amherst believes that “most admission workplaces will fortunately return to in-person visits and occasions.” He factors out, nonetheless, that “there’s a consolation now with digital engagement (webinars, social media, digital excursions) – for each admission workplaces and potential college students/households – and that may enable many schools to have a broader attain than ever earlier than and higher entry for years to come back. Everybody has the set-up at dwelling, so it appears probably {that a} return to in-person recruitment shall be accented by digital engagement.”

Although many admission methods will proceed to learn from what we now have discovered about digital recruiting, Grant Gosselin, director of undergraduate admission at Boston School predicts that “place-based schooling shall be in excessive demand.” He says that “after years of predictions that on-line universities will change bricks and mortar establishments, highschool and school college students are exhausted by on-line studying. They lengthy for the non-public connections that on-line studying merely can not present.” He provides, “in fact, on-line universities will proceed to have a task to play, however residential establishments with a confirmed observe document of fostering each college students’ educational and private growth will thrive.”


College of Massachusetts’ Drish says “giant scale SAT/ACT non-compulsory is just not a one-year phenomenon. It’s probably that at a minimal this shall be 2-3 years for a lot of universities, together with state flagship universities. He provides, “SAT/ACT non-compulsory for just a few admission cycles means a possible new regular, and risk-averse establishments could also be involved about returning to requiring take a look at scores and subsequently lose any perceived positive factors in these years.” Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment at Cornell College agrees, predicting that “lots of the tons of of selective establishments who turned test-optional for the pandemic will announce intentions quickly that they are going to keep that method for longer than that they had initially deliberate.” He provides, “a part of the gasoline for that selection and continuation shall be lively questions of college’s and admission workplace’s roles in anti-racism.” Beth Wiser, govt director of undergraduate admission at The Ohio State College highlights that “what this software cycle has offered is permission to check and alter long-held admission practices…some will change again whereas others won’t ever come again. If there could be a silver lining to this educational yr, it has given establishments the braveness, out of necessity, to interrupt these norms and make use of new approaches that we hope will profit college students and the method sooner or later.” Falone Serna, vp for enrollment administration at Whittier School agrees, saying “I do not see issues fully going again to regular, so we’ll all have to proceed adjusting our insurance policies and procedures to satisfy scholar wants.”

Talking of benefiting college students and assembly their wants, there’s a rising name from highschool counselors for schools and universities that historically have required standardized checks to make choices about whether or not they are going to retain non-compulsory testing insurance policies for the highschool graduating class of 2022. The winter and spring of the junior yr is often the time when many juniors will take the SAT and ACT and restrictions from the pandemic are making these alternatives look much less and fewer probably. That is inflicting concern from some college students and fogeys who’re making an attempt to plan and decide whether or not take a look at preparation is well worth the time, assets, and vitality. Bob Schaeffer, interim govt director of FairTest: Nationwide Middle for Truthful & Open Testing explains that 72% of all bachelor-degree granting establishments will not be requiring testing from college students making use of for fall 2021. He says, “of the 600+ schools and universities suspending test-score submission necessities since mid-March 2020, greater than 100 introduced that the brand new insurance policies can be everlasting or adopted multi-year pilots.” Schaeffer provides, “We could be sure that not less than 1,170 faculties (greater than half of all four-year faculties) shall be test-optional for fall 2022 candidates,” and he predicts that “the quantity (and proportion) is more likely to be a lot, a lot increased.” Undoubtedly, the position of standardized testing will proceed to attract plenty of consideration this yr as households and educators watch the College of California system, different state flagships universities, and extremely selective schools for cues about what the long run holds.


The challenges of entry and affordability will not be new in school admission, although a mixture of the pandemic and the nationwide dialogue about racism and fairness will hopefully hold these issues on the fore of admission work. As we glance to 2021, Ohio State’s Wiser says “we’re most involved about who is just not on this pool and who could possibly be left behind…a few of our college students from city and extra rural districts will not be making use of for admission or submitting the FAFSA on the similar charge and we need to ensure that they nonetheless have postsecondary choices after commencement.” Gil Villanueva, affiliate vp & dean of admission on the College of Richmond agrees, saying that whereas “schools and universities shall be rewarded for his or her resilience in 2021, sadly, low-income scholar functions and enrollment will proceed to lag.” He provides, “be prepared for extra monetary help functions and extra requests for benefit scholarships as a result of 2020 was no bueno.” Villanueva additionally predicts that “Technology Z will proceed to gravitate in the direction of faculties in or close to city facilities and lots of of them shall be thinking about learning well being care, political science, economics, laptop science, and STEM. 

Rachelle Hernandez, the senior vice provost for enrollment administration and scholar success at The College of Texas at Austin says, “I hope we are going to proceed to see ongoing creativity in connecting with potential college students, and assembly scholar wants. Earlier contact is essential in order that college students and households aren’t left questioning concerning the steps obligatory to arrange for school.” She provides, “I’ve been inspired by the unimaginable dedication of our admissions professionals who’re centered on supporting college students as people, on actually listening to college students and assembly their wants—in ways in which improve entry to varsity info. Hernandez, explains “This work is a human endeavor—and I particularly am hopeful that the main focus we’re seeing throughout increased schooling in encouraging and serving first-generation and low-income college students and increasing alternatives for college kids, no matter household earnings, will proceed to develop.” 

Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire College says that “the prolonged financial hangover from 2020 means traditional-age college students of restricted monetary means will now flood lower-cost on-line packages to allow them to dwell at dwelling, work, and higher afford their schooling.” In the meantime, USC’s Lucido says, “I anticipate the Biden administration to enact access-oriented insurance policies, just like the potential of doubling the Pell grant.” He argues that “greater than that’s wanted, however it will be a welcome begin.” However he factors out that “typically expressed notions of ‘free school’ which might be prolonged to those that can already pay and who already take differential benefit of upper schooling within the US, will do little to supply additional entry and success in increased schooling amongst low- and low-to-middle earnings households and amongst college students of coloration.”

Daniel Porterfield, president and CEO of The Aspen Institute, and former school president echoes others’ predictions. He says, “one of many penalties of the COVID-19 calamity is that giant numbers of low-income college students put their school hopes and plans on maintain. I predict that many schools and universities will develop complete approaches to partaking with all this expertise, particularly by growing need-based monetary help, and can recoup misplaced floor as engines of alternative.” He provides, “not all establishments will do that, in fact. People who declare this future would be the establishments that lead our society. “

Cloudy Crystal Balls

Ken Anselment, vp for enrollment & communications at Lawrence College says it greatest, declaring that “if this pandemic has taught us something, it is the folly of predictions.” Anthony Jones, affiliate provost and assistant vice-president of enrollment administration at Howard College agrees. He says, “My one prediction about school admission for the approaching yr is it will likely be extraordinarily unpredictable!” He provides, “when you think about how the modalities of assorted secondary college methods are nonetheless experiencing some degree of flux, and the way unstable the roles market continues to carry out, at the same time as we barrel into what’s predicted to be a harsh winter in some areas; the conclusion of how college students will react and enroll is uneven at greatest.” Jones says that with “the supply of a number of vaccines on the close to horizon there’s hope that by the top of Spring 2021 households will really feel extra assured about their futures.”

Talking of hope, Lee Ann Backlund, dean of admission and monetary help and vp for enrollment planning at The College of the South prefers that, quite than to try to predict. When she displays on the numerous classes the pandemic has taught her, she says “my hopes and goals embody the hope that standardized testing shall be short-lived and that schools will look past the take a look at scores as we work with college students. That the school choice course of will focus extra on a scholar’s each day work, but in addition shine a brighter mild on what every scholar will carry to our communities. That we’ll proceed to enhance our digital recruitment efforts and be extra obtainable for all college students as they search to find out about schools, even once we are assembly in particular person, touring and dealing with college students.” She provides, “the entry a part of digital recruitment is so vital to proceed.”

For college students, Backlund says, “I hope that they are going to decelerate and never return to ‘constructing a resume’ to get into school, however to give attention to what’s significant to them. Have they got new hobbies that they take pleasure in? The pandemic has pressured us all to be a bit extra inventive and to decelerate and to not be busy for the sake of being busy. My hope is that college students, and my colleagues alike, rethink what brings pleasure to them daily and know that the small issues are simply as vital if they convey pleasure and satisfaction to people.” Amy Cembor, senior affiliate dean of admission at Windfall School agrees, merely predicting that “because it at all times does, this yr will lead to college students ending up the place they’re meant to be!”

Eric Maguire, Vice President for Enrollment at Wake Forest College reminds us that regardless of uncertainty, “brighter days are forward.” So, whereas we are able to study an amazing deal from the previous 12 months, allow us to not dwell in that darkness. As an alternative, allow us to take these classes and work collaboratively as educators, mother and father, and college students to make the expertise of trying to find, making use of to, and accessing school one in every of fairness, simplicity, and pleasure in 2021. There’s hope available.


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