The 2020 pandemic continues to affect college applications in 2022, with an unprecedented increase in college applicants, a decrease in college acceptance rates, the rise of test-optional schools, and the elimination of SAT subject tests, among other factors. Public perception regarding higher education continues to evolve as well. The introduction of online and hybrid learning has prompted students and parents alike to consider the cost and value of a college application more critically. 

Overall, there are lots of new college admissions trends for 2022. Whether you are a student, parent, or educator, it’s important to stay current. In this article, we will discuss the latest college admissions trends for 2022, including the increased numbers of waitlisted students, college deferrals, transfer students, and international student recruitments.


Test-Optional Admissions

Many schools adopted test-optional policies during 2020 and 2021 college admissions. This continues to be the case in 2022. As of fall 2021, 65% of colleges in the U.S. are officially test-optional, with a recent survey citing that 68% of test-optional institutions plan to make this policy permanent moving forward. That said, college admissions are becoming increasingly more competitive. Exceptional SAT and ACT scores can help distinguish your college application and set you apart from your peers. 

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Class of 2026 College Acceptance Rates

Why are college acceptance rates decreasing? This year there was an influx of college applicants, with Common App experiencing a 22% surge in total applications submitted. This can partially be accounted for by the rising trend in test-optional admissions policies. Students who did not test well and would otherwise limit their college applications to “fit” and “safety” schools are applying to more prestigious schools. 

If you are wondering, will it be easier to get into college in 2022? the answer is no. In fact, the class of 2026 college acceptance rates is at a record low. This is especially true for Ivy League colleges

Let’s look at a few statistics to get a better idea of college admissions trends for 2022: Between the 2021 and 2022 admissions cycle, Amherst College’s college acceptance rate decreased from 12% to 7%; Boston College’s college acceptance rate decreased from 32% to 16%; Colgate College’s college acceptance rate decreased from 27% to 12%; Harvard University’s college acceptance rate decreased from 5% to 3%; and Dartmouth College’s college acceptance rate decreased from 10% to 6%.


A Decline in Demonstrated Interest

Although college applications have increased significantly this year, with record low college acceptance rates, studies also show that high school students are showing lower rates of demonstrated interest in attending college. In 2020 high school students’ demonstrated interest dropped by 7%. 

Effectively, this has caused college admissions to scramble to uphold their reputations and admissions statistics. What does this mean for college applicants? Basically, there is less pressure to “play it cool” in your college applications. If you want to go somewhere and are wondering when should I apply for college in 2022?, let admissions know by applying for Early Decision.

college waitlist

Increased Numbers of College Deferrals

There has been an increasing number of college admissions deferrals since the beginning of the pandemic, with more and more students electing to take a gap year. Students are hesitant to start college amidst various COVID-19 restrictions and are especially resistant to taking online classes and having limited socialization. Due to these factors, a record number of students have chosen to send college deferral letters, with the hope that attending college will feel more “normal” in another year’s time. 


Longer College Waitlists

Due to the increase in college deferrals, colleges no longer have stable admissions statistics to help them plan accordingly for their incoming classes. Because of this, there has been a significant increase in the number of waitlisted students to help account for this recent increase in college deferrals. While receiving a college waitlist letter can feel disappointing, you are probably wondering how does a college waitlist work? or do waitlisted students get accepted? your overall odds of admissions are higher this year than in previous years.


Increased Number of Transfer Students

There is also an increased number of college transfer students in 2022 as well. This is partly because many first-year college students were unable to schedule in-person college tours due to COVID-19 restrictions. Choosing a college is a difficult decision so it makes sense that there are higher rates of transfer students this year. As campuses slowly reopen and allow more in-person college tours, transfer students are making more informed, mindful decisions about where they want to earn their undergraduate degrees.


An Increase in International Student Recruitments

As COVID-19 international travel restrictions are lifting, college admissions are increasing their efforts to recruit international students. In 2020 and 2021 international student populations took a significant hit. International students contribute significantly to colleges in the U.S., both culturally and financially. Because of this, colleges are eager to increase their international numbers and diversify their college campuses.


AP Classes Become More Significant

The SAT subject tests have been eliminated. Effectively, this has placed an increased focus on AP classes and AP test scores. Elite institutions prioritize high academic achievement. In previous years this was gauged by SAT scores, ACT scores, SAT subject tests, AP test scores, and high school transcripts. With the rise of the test-optional admissions trend and the elimination of SAT subject tests, AP classes and high school GPAs have become the main indicators of academic success. 


College Essays Become More Significant

College essays are also becoming increasingly significant in the college application process. College essays, particularly supplemental college essays, help to personalize the admissions process. Colleges want to admit diverse, vibrant student bodies. This is why “holistic” admission standards are so important. Stellar test scores and impressive GPAs are important, but with the rise of college admissions, it is important to take every opportunity to stand out. Focus on writing a sincere, unique college essay. Let your passion and personality shine through! Use your college essays to give admissions officers a reason to want to admit you.


Legacy Preferences are Becoming Outdated

As college is becoming more popular and more accessible, admission standards are shifting. In the past, legacy students had a clear competitive edge when applying to schools, especially Ivy League institutions. In 2022, this is changing. Now cultural diversity is taking precedence over legacy status. 

Other Factors and Key Takeaways

There have been countless cultural changes in light of the pandemic — for companies, workers, students, and families. College admissions are adjusting to the times as they navigate shifting COVID-19 protocols and anticipate college admissions trends for 2022. 

Vaccination and COVID-19 outbreak statistics are also playing a significant role in where students are choosing to apply. Statistically, students are less likely to apply to schools in high-risk states and counties. Online classes and limited socialization have also become deterrents for many college applicants and play a large factor in deciding where to apply. 

college admissions deferral

It’s important to stay up-to-date on trends in college admissions. As you navigate college admissions season, continue to do your research and learn more about how to decide which colleges to apply to and how to write a successful college essay