A Guide To College Admissions In The COVID Era

If you’re a junior or senior in high school, then a lot has changed related to the college admissions process since your freshman year. Most of the college admissions specialists at the top schools in the nation agree about some basic predictions for college enrollment and admissions moving forward in 2023. Their predictions can help answer some of the overwhelming questions you might have about college admissions, so let’s get straight to clearing things up for you!

Trends in College Enrollment

College enrollment for undergraduate programs shrank in fall of 2022, a continuation of the decline that began in 2020. In fact, the decline over the two year period added up to about 4.2%.  Community college enrollment didn’t see as big of a decline during the two year period after the pandemic hit, with only a .4% decline. All in all, young people are demonstrating a much larger tendency to attend community college and then transfer to a four year school, or they’re skipping a four year degree all together in favor of a two-year technical school that provides them with a faster route to a career with significantly less debt. If you’re wondering if a two-year technical school is a better option after high school, then you’re not alone, with 57% of college students responding in December of 2020 that a four year degree was not “worth the cost.”

Another trend that college enrollment has seen involves changes to the top college majors. In 2018-2019, the nation’s post-secondary institutions awarded 58% of all of their degrees in only six major areas of study: business, health professions and related programs, social sciences and history, engineering, biology and biomedical sciences, and psychology.  The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports a shift into ten most popular college majors today in order of enrollment size: business, health professions, social sciences & history, engineering, biological & biomedical sciences, psychology, communication & journalism, visual & performing arts, computer & information sciences, and education. Rather than concentrating in a smaller field of careers, today’s students are enrolling in a broader range of majors, with 21% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in a STEM field.

Admissions Predictions


Admissions is going to get a bit more competitive in 2023, according to some top admissions counselors. They predict that college admissions at schools with more resources will begin to enroll a higher number of students who can pay full tuition in order to try to meet their required budgetary needs. For state and smaller schools with more limited resources, they will continue to struggle to meet their needed enrollment and the amount they need to net from tuition, so they will have to figure out how to balance admissions with budget. If they don’t make the money they need from tuition, then they can’t properly serve their students. If they can’t properly serve their students, they can’t make the tuition they need. Angel Perez, Chief executive officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling stated, “Without money, there is no mission.”

New Pathways

Other top admissions experts predict easier paths to admission. Jenny Rickard, president and chief executive officer of the Common App, says, “As we begin 2023, I see different pathways to admission, like direct admissions, becoming more popular…There’s no waiting, no wondering if the institution is looking for a specific set of characteristics; instead, direct admissions puts the agency back into the student’s hands. It also allows colleges and universities to reach students they may not have been able to reach before.” In other words, colleges might start deciding to let everyone enroll in order to meet their tuition needs as well as create a more diverse campus body to meet upcoming government regulations requiring diversity in the college campus population.

Admission Essays

With the threat of AI generated essays being submitted left and right to college admissions staff, some admissions leaders are predicting that the college essay will soon be relegated to the past. Rick Clark, executive director of undergraduate admissions at the Georgia Institute of Technology says, “…due to the emergence and prevalence of artificial intelligence software such as ChatGPT, I expect more colleges to either drop their admission essay altogether or expand to the format through which students can convey their voice and demonstrate their ability to articulate their opinions and interests.” He predicts that if admissions essays stay, then they might have to be proctored, or colleges might move into a more in-depth interview process instead. 

To Test or Not to Test?

The new SAT is coming out and will be significantly easier than past tests. That doesn’t mean it won’t still challenge you or that you don’t have to prepare; rather, it means that the new test should more accurately reflect your abilities and basic knowledge. Here are the basic changes to the test:

  • • Digital options
  • • Shorter test sessions
  • • Fewer questions
  • • Calculator use now acceptable in all math sections

The topics for the most part will remain the same. You’ll still be tested on the same types of English and math skills as you have in the past, but you won’t have to endure a grueling amount of time. You can still prepare through SAT Prep Courses to make sure you’re feeling confident heading into the test.

There are a few reasons to go ahead and sign up for the test even if your college of choice doesn’t require it:

  • • If you do well, it can positively influence your admissions status.
  • • Financial aid and scholarships are still in part based on your SAT, GPA, and EFC (Expected Family Contribution) for FAFSA. If a scholarship asks for an SAT score, you’re going to want to have one.
  • • If your performance in certain courses in high school lead to your college suggesting you take not-for-credit (but still costing you money) remedial courses, then a positive SAT score can counteract that. You can show that you have the basic knowledge and don’t need the remedial course.

Like everything else in life, the college admissions process will continue to change. Stay on top of the changes, and you’ll feel much more confident as you get ready to apply – and compete – for a spot in the college of your choice.

About Excel High School

Excel High School is an accredited online school that offers many different academic program options for students grade 6 through graduation. Our fully online, self-paced programs fit around your family’s schedule, and our support team is here to help you along the way. If you’re not already a student with Excel High School but would like to learn more, feel free to check out our programs on our website. Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to us by text at 952-465-3700 or call us at 800-620-3844. Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you have and guide you to the best program for your individual needs.

Ready to start your journey with Excel High School?

It's simple. Just click the button below and we will help you begin!