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College Admissions Trends in 2024

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    Keeping up-to-date with the latest college admission trends can feel overwhelming. Especially if you (or your child) is applying to college. Thankfully, there are resources that can help you get your bearings as you prepare for college application season. In this article, we will review key changes to college admissions: from the 2023 Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, to the rise of generative AI, to the FAFSA Simplification Act, and more. 

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    01

    Affirmative action has ended

    College Admissions Trends As of June 29th, 2023, affirmative action is no longer legal. This ruling applies to both public and private schools and is by far the biggest shift in 2024 college admissions trends. Although many colleges are still committed to fostering diversity, their admissions practices are under increased legal scrutiny. Since college admissions standards are so subjective, it’s difficult to predict how colleges will adjust after the 2023 Supreme Court ruling. For further insight, check out our article, What You Need to Know About Affirmative Action in College Admissions

    As of June 29th, 2023, affirmative action is no longer legal. This ruling applies to both public and private schools and is by far the biggest shift in 2024 college admissions trends. Although many colleges are still committed to fostering diversity, their admissions practices are under increased legal scrutiny. Since college admissions standards are so subjective, it’s difficult to predict how colleges will adjust after the 2023 Supreme Court ruling. For further insight, check out our article, What You Need to Know About Affirmative Action in College Admissions

    College Admissions Trends in 2024

    02

    Colleges recruit from low-income zip codes

    Now that affirmative action has been banned, colleges are beginning to recruit from low-income zip codes in order to foster greater diversity. Since zip codes aren’t race specific, this new admission practice does not violate the recent Supreme Court affirmative action ruling.

    03

    Legacy admissions are under scrutiny

    In the past, legacy students had a clear competitive edge when applying to schools — especially Ivy League institutions. In 2024, this is changing. Now cultural diversity is taking precedence over Legacy College Admissions. Legacy admissions have been slowly being phased out over the last couple of years, but now that affirmative action has been banned, more people are putting pressure on colleges to ban legacy admission practices outright. People are also questioning the income-based biases reflected in Early Decision admission practices. 

    To learn more about Ivy League admissions, check out our articles, How to Get Into an Ivy League School and Breaking Down The Ivy League

    04

    Test-optional becomes the new norm

    Test optional norm Many schools adopted test-optional policies during 2020 and 2021 college admissions. This continues to be the case in 2024. In fact, only 4% of Common App member schools require standardized test scores. Prior to the pandemic, during the 2019-20 college admission cycle, 55% of Common App member schools required standardized test scores. 

    Despite the growing test-optional admission trend, some students believe that submitting SAT/ACT scores will give them the competitive edge they need to gain admission to a top school. According to an article by Forbes, however, only half of 2023 Common App applicants reported standardized test scores, as opposed to in 2019-20 when 80% of applicants submitted standardized test scores. 

    It has long been argued that standardized tests are biased and discriminate against minority students. Therefore, one of the reasons why the test-optional admissions trend, prompted by the Covid 19 Pandemic, has continued to persist is because test-optional admissions encourages greater diversity.

    Many schools adopted test-optional policies during 2020 and 2021 college admissions. This continues to be the case in 2024. In fact, only 4% of Common App member schools require standardized test scores. Prior to the pandemic, during the 2019-20 college admission cycle, 55% of Common App member schools required standardized test scores. 

    Despite the growing test-optional admission trend, some students believe that submitting SAT/ACT scores will give them the competitive edge they need to gain admission to a top school. According to an article by Forbes, however, only half of 2023 Common App applicants reported standardized test scores, as opposed to in 2019-20 when 80% of applicants submitted standardized test scores. 

    It has long been argued that standardized tests are biased and discriminate against minority students. Therefore, one of the reasons why the test-optional admissions trend, prompted by the Covid 19 Pandemic, has continued to persist is because test-optional admissions encourages greater diversity.

    Test optional - College Admissions Trends in 2024

    05

    Record low acceptance rates

    Acceptance rates are at a record low. 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. 

    So while what colleges are looking for in students largely remains the same, unfortunately, your odds of getting admitted to your dream school have become slimmer, simply due to competition. Check out these Ivy League Acceptance Rates 2023 for more information on how overall acceptance rates are being impacted by 2024 college admission trends. 

    06

    Popular majors become more competitive

    Some of the Most Popular College Majors in 2024 are as follows: Computer Science, Engineering, Biology, Business, and Nursing. These majors are becoming increasingly competitive. In fact, students interested in pursuing one of these majors may have more difficulty being admitted into certain schools. 

    Students interested in pursuing a popular college major should keep in mind that a college’s overall acceptance rate may not be reflective of the college major’s acceptance rate. For example, a school with a 40% overall acceptance rate may have a 10% acceptance rate for Nursing students. For more information and further insights, check out our article, Does Your Major Affect Your College Acceptance?.

    07

    Increased use of artificial intelligence

    AI and College Admissions The rise of generative AI is all over the news. These technologies are being developed at a rapid pace and it’s difficult to anticipate exactly how these technologies will affect college admissions. While it may be tempting for students to use ChatGPT to craft their college essays, experts warn against this practice. Not only are AI detecting technologies being developed, but artificial technology simply isn’t able to convey traits such as creativity, compassion, and humor. Traits that college admissions officers actively look for. For more thoughts on this topic, check out our article: Will ChatGPT Affect College Admissions and How? 

    On the flipside, college admissions offices are using more AI powered platforms to sort through college applications. This means that admissions offices are developing algorithms to score applicants according to hard data, such as high school GPA, class rank, standardized test scores, and more. That being said, this is only the first step of the college admissions process. After students are assigned a score, college admissions officers still need to review college essays, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, and other more subjective application materials. 

    The rise of generative AI is all over the news. These technologies are being developed at a rapid pace and it’s difficult to anticipate exactly how these technologies will affect college admissions. While it may be tempting for students to use ChatGPT to craft their college essays, experts warn against this practice. Not only are AI detecting technologies being developed, but artificial technology simply isn’t able to convey traits such as creativity, compassion, and humor. Traits that college admissions officers actively look for. For more thoughts on this topic, check out our article: Will ChatGPT Affect College Admissions and How? 

    On the flipside, college admissions offices are using more AI powered platforms to sort through college applications. This means that admissions offices are developing algorithms to score applicants according to hard data, such as high school GPA, class rank, standardized test scores, and more. That being said, this is only the first step of the college admissions process. After students are assigned a score, college admissions officers still need to review college essays, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, and other more subjective application materials. 

    AI - College Admissions Trends in 2024

    08

    FAFSA is being redesigned

    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is notoriously complicated. But there’s good news! Recently, The FAFSA Simplification Act has been passed. According to the Federal Student Aid website: “The FAFSA Simplification Act represents a significant overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid starting with the 2024–25 award year. This includes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, need analysis, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in federal student aid programs.” In addition to streamlining the FAFSA application, other changes are being made as well. For example, there will be expanded access to Federal Pell Grants.

    09

    Direct admissions programs are on the rise

    Do you find yourself wondering, “what is direct admission?” Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Direct admissions is a new program slowly gaining popularity among colleges. Rather than submit individual college applications, students create an application profile that is verified by their high school guidance counselor. Participating colleges then sort through these profiles and send offers of admission to eligible students. For more information, check out our article, Direct Admissions: How To Get Into College Without Even Applying.

    10

    AP classes become more significant

    College Admissions Trends in 2024 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 admissions officers also look at your level of course rigor as an indicator of your academic capabilities, as well as your desire to challenge yourself.

    If you want to know how many AP classes you should be taking, you should aim to take as many AP classes as you can reasonably manage in subjects that genuinely interest you. Talk to your teachers and high school guidance counselors about what they think is a manageable course load for you. You may also want to refer to a complete list of AP classes with their respective passing rates to help you decide on your class schedule. Remember, while it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s equally important to know your boundaries and limitations. 

    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 admissions officers also look at your level of course rigor as an indicator of your academic capabilities, as well as your desire to challenge yourself.

    If you want to know how many AP classes you should be taking, you should aim to take as many AP classes as you can reasonably manage in subjects that genuinely interest you. Talk to your teachers and high school guidance counselors about what they think is a manageable course load for you. You may also want to refer to a complete list of AP classes with their respective passing rates to help you decide on your class schedule. Remember, while it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s equally important to know your boundaries and limitations. 

    College Admissions Trends in 2024

    11

    The college essay becomes more significant

    College essays are also becoming increasingly significant in the college application process. College essays, particularly supplemental college essays, help personalize the admissions process. Colleges want to admit diverse, vibrant student bodies. This is why holistic college admissions standards are so important. In some cases, colleges such as Brown, Bowdoin, and the University of Chicago are accepting video submissions in place of certain essays. 

    Stellar test scores and impressive GPAs are important, but with the rise of test-optional college admissions, it is important to take every opportunity to stand out. Review the components of a strong personal statement and 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. You may also want to refer to our article on what college admissions officers look for in an applicant.

    Other factors and key takeaways

    There have been lots of college admissions changes in 2024. And while these changes may feel overwhelming, the most important thing to keep in mind is that holistic college admissions standards are still of the utmost importance. This means that you should still focus your efforts on crafting successful college essays and engaging in meaningful extracurricular activities that reflect your personal passions and values. 

    Depending on your college goals, you may also want to consider hiring a college counselor. A college counselor can provide you with valuable insights into the college application process, help you design an application strategy, and polish your application materials. If you are interested in attending a highly-selective college, such as an Ivy League institution, reach out to learn more about our services.

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