The landscape of university admissions is ever-changing, as always. However, over the past two years, we’ve seen more changes than most of us can keep up with due to the many effects of the global pandemic.
Here at Aiglon, the most noticeable trends since Covid-19 appeared in our lives have been: a transition to the virtual world for university research, admission interviews and testing; an increase in the number of applications each student sends due to the heightened selectivity; and many students wanting to study in countries closer to home, therefore, leading to more applications at European and Asian universities or considering back-up options in their home countries.
1. A Virtual World & A World of Data
From virtual campus tours to student panels and online information sessions to Zoom interviews, the university admissions world has made itself available to more students in unique ways. When travel was first paused in March 2020, universities scrambled to find new ways to help accepted students decide which university and courses were right for them. Open Days in the UK were offered online as students considered their firm and insurance course options, and many US universities pushed back the traditional, nationwide enrolment deadline of May 1st to give students more time to research and make educated decisions using virtual resources which quickly became numerous.
During the summer of 2020, admissions representatives from around the world adapted their recruitment styles. Travel was still limited, yet access to more remote areas increased as representatives were suddenly able to present to students in Asia, Europe and the US, on the same day, without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes thanks to virtual platforms which appear to be here to stay (although the live ones are also slowly returning).
Technology has helped universities reach more students; it is also being used to gather data points and inform how likely a student may be to enrol at a university if accepted, and students need to be aware. An example of this technology, seen at US universities, in particular, is universities tracking electronic marketing materials: does a student open our emails and how long do they keep them open, did the student click on any of the links within an email, or has a student attended any virtual information sessions? Demonstrated interests is the term used when a university wants to know how much a student “loves” them, and universities are typically very straightforward about whether or not they consider demonstrated interests in their admissions review process, so be sure to ask!
One downside to so much information being available virtually is that it becomes overwhelming and can be difficult to navigate. Also, virtual meetings and interactions can be challenging with the details and information from one presentation blurring into the next. Parents can help with this by watching virtual tours with their children as they research university options, or by attending virtual info sessions remotely from separate locations and then discussing what you learned about specific programmes together.
2. Understanding the Competition
The increased selectivity, due to an increase of applications across institutions, has been one of the most talked-about recent trends in US admissions. Even prior to the pandemic, many selective US universities were reporting record application numbers and lower acceptance rates year after year. According to their website, NYU (a popular option many Aiglonians consider) is now in its fifteenth year of record-setting application numbers including increases in first-generation, underrepresented, and international applicants which is allowing for some of their most diverse incoming classes ever! The past two years, in particular, have shown a significant increase in applications likely due to the “test-optional” policy most universities have adopted which no longer require applicants to submit standardised testing scores (SAT or ACT).
These new policies, of which many are temporary, were put into place because many students worldwide could not safely access testing centres during the pandemic, but it has also hugely benefited students who had previously been unable to access this testing due to their remote locations or financial barriers, given that each exam cost approximately $100 at international test centres. Now that universities have seen the quality of these applicants and many have been able to increase the diversity of accepted students, it is possible that test-optional is here to stay.
To clarify, test-optional means students are still encouraged to test and submit successful scores, however, if they are unable to do so (regardless of the reason) their applications will not be disadvantaged if they do not submit test scores.
In the UK, as stated on HEPI’s website, inflated A-level grades in 2021 produced an unprecedented number of students with exam results allowing them to access the most demanding undergraduate courses and leading to oversubscribed courses which some fear could lead to potential caps on student numbers. With more competitive admission pools, students should consider applying to universities with a range of selectivity. It is just as important to love your backup options as it is your top choice, and the harsh reality is that admissions worldwide are becoming more selective, especially at universities with strong global recognition.
3. It's a Small World
“How easy is it to travel home from there?” has become a much more important question over the past two years. At Aiglon, we have seen a rise in applications to English-speaking undergraduate programmes outside of the US and UK, in particular for the Netherlands, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy and Spain. This increase is likely not only due to the pandemic but also the change in fee status and stricter visa regulations for European students following Brexit. The Netherlands’ popularity has been growing even prior to the pandemic thanks to their courses’ competitive global reputations, attractive liberal arts options within their University Colleges, and excellent value for money. The number of Aiglon students considering the Netherlands has significantly increased in the past five years.
Students can also now choose to attend some of the world’s most renowned universities in new locations as we are seeing more US universities open global campuses and/or partner with universities from different parts of the world. Some examples of this are: Duke Kunshan University in China, NYU’s Global Campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus, Qatar’s Education City, and the very unique World Bachelor in Business (WBB) programme which allows students to study at each the University of Southern California, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Bocconi in Italy.
I believe having so many options is a luxury, however, more options does require more research and guidance to better understand which are best suited to helping a student achieve their future goals and ultimate success. Please keep in mind, the points mentioned in this article are simply a snapshot of the current trends we’ve noticed within our community; the world of university admissions remains very dynamic and ever-changing!
Thinking about the future, making a plan and setting university goals can be intimidating and overwhelming, but remember at Aiglon you have a dedicated team of knowledgeable professionals to help. The University Advising Department supports students throughout the entire university application process including research, creating university lists, essay writing, CV-building, mock interviewing and overall strategy. We look forward to working with you and helping your children find success after Aiglon!
About Edith Miletto
Mrs Miletto is Assistant Director in Aiglon's University Advising Department. Edi grew up in North Carolina, USA before moving to Switzerland in 2003. She is a member of the International Association for College Admission Counselling (ACAC) as well as CIS and SGIS. Edi regularly visits university campuses around the world in order to help Aiglon students.