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Get Off the Waitlist

Thousands of college seniors are now sitting on college waitlists. What’s interesting about waitlists is that well over half of waitlisted applicants secured acceptances to other schools they love more, either in the early or regular round, and they no longer even want to take up space on a waitlist. That slices the list down quite a bit.  However, climbing off the waitlist of a top college or university is never an easy feat.

May 1st is an important date for waitlisted students –it’s deposit day. Schools will be able to quickly assess who, of their accepted applicants, is actually coming, and who either didn’t respond in time, didn’t pay up, or declined the admissions offer.

The waitlist gets another slice once waitlist response letters begin rolling in. If you’re a waitlisted student and you don’t take the time to submit a well-crafted waitlist response letter with updates on what you’ve been doing this spring and how you’re connected to and a unique fit for the university, then the admissions office can draw some serious conclusions on your love for the school, or your lack thereof.

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It would be much easier if, when you received a waitlist admissions decision, you were also given a number on a waitlist queue, i.e. you’re # 233 out of 470, or # 6 out of 380, like pulling a number out of a deli counter ticket dispenser. Alas, it’s not that simple. Thankfully, some colleges are forthright with information and their proposed steps on the waitlist process. Georgia Tech offers key input on why waitlists even exist:

“Colleges use historical trends and statistical models to predict ‘yield,’ i.e., the number or percentage of students that accept an offer of admission and choose to enroll. . . If yield drops (as it has most places in recent years), the college needs to be able to make additional offers to hit stated targets.”

Yet, hitting admissions targets has become less like target practice and more like freeze tag.

“You’re frozen, now you’re IT! You’re frozen, no, now you’re IT!” The pandemic has made admissions and yield-predicting way more complicated. Students applied to more colleges than ever before (test-optional policies across the board boosted students’ application confidence), gap year students from the Class of 2024 are now infringing on your territory, and everyone flooded the pool –actually all the pools, in the same year, at the same time.


How do you make room amongst all of those swimmers and climb out of the flooded applicant pool from the waitlist to admit territory?  Here are some key steps to take:

  1. Accept your position on the waitlist (if you want it) and prep a strong waitlist response letter for your admissions rep for the school, and perhaps the portal as well, depending on the instructions from that particular college. We can help you craft it.
  2. Lock in elsewhere. Review your list of where else you’re in, and make your final selection on the college at which you want to accept and pay the deposit (if you get off a waitlist and accept, you’ll have to forfeit that deposit though). The hope is that you make it off the waitlist, but your waitlisted college knows you’ll have to deposit elsewhere–you cannot (or should not) hold out for them and risk not accepting somewhere by May 1st.
  3. Own your April, May and June and finish school strong. Plan a scholarly summer –one that’s worth relaying to colleges.
  4. Examine your virtual touch points with the college. How in touch with them have you been and are you now? Is there a virtual conference they’re hosting in late April or May? How about a symposium in your targeted academic area?
    • EX: Did Duke waitlist you last Monday night? Is your main academic interest math?  Maybe check out this link and then mention how much you loved it in your waitlist response letter –and link it to what you did in early spring.

It’s a very stressful year to be a high school senior right now, and the parent of one too.

Getting off the waitlist as you review 4% acceptance rates (wow, Duke!) seems daunting to say the least. At some colleges it really is–and yet some students do get off of the waitlist at most schools. Last year, UPenn waitlisted 2,051 students and admitted 101. MIT typically waitlists 600 (more this year) and then accepts anywhere from 0-52 depending on the yields they obtain.

The University of Notre Dame waitlisted 3,101 students this month and they expect to take only 50-120 and will let them know in late May. Johns Hopkins University topped them slightly, waitlisting 3,400 applicants; their regular round admit rate was just 5%.

Hopefully, you’ll hear your final response sooner rather than later (either you’ll get off the waitlist and be admitted OR you’ll be released from the waitlist). Brown confirmed this week they’re aiming to tell waitlisted students if they’re in by the close of June.  That’s way better than early August, which Stanford has been known to do.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re in the Class of 2025, you didn’t have it easy.

Admissions officers know this; they’re mindful of it and they feel it too. Vanderbilt confirmed this week that “the students on our waitlist now would have been our top scholarship recipients five years ago.”


Try to focus on the good and on your admissions WINS.

A waitlist is infinitely better than a straight rejection, and you likely secured other acceptances that you can lock in just in case. Also, you have people in your corner who want to see you land at a college you love this August–and you absolutely deserve to have that happen! We’d love to assist you on your admissions path –consider our Waitlist Analysis Program and reach out to us for a consultation. We’re pretty great at playing admissions freeze tag and ready to help!

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Waitlisted? Take Focused Action Now.

In a normal year, the Waitlist follows a predictable process of waiting until students accept offers of admission and then going down the waitlist to admit students. Thanks to COVID and the tremendous surge of applicants at all top schools, colleges have been forced to waitlist more students than ever in the face of uncertain yields and super low admit rates. Schools like Cornell received 17,000 more applications than they did the previous year (Colgate was up 105% in applications, and in the early round, Columbia 49%, Harvard 57%, Dartmouth 29%).  

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We expect that waitlists will be more active than usual with delayed notification dates from the Ivies and then the ripple effect of students accepting offers, freeing up spots at other colleges.


Rather than living with the uncertainty, our Waitlist Analysis Program enables you to take focused action NOW. This program provides you with a thorough analysis of your submitted essays and applications, a personalized student report, and customized input and advice on step-by-step strategies for moving forward… into your dream school.

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Spring Academic Conference Season is HERE

It’s spring-time, and academic conference season is BLOOMING. Academic conferences exist all over the world in nearly every field you can imagine. Every academic major has a conference aligned with it and usually a professional association or university that hosts them. Conference presentation and attendance is no longer something only for faculty or working professionals/researchers –high school students (even middle school!), college students and graduate students can and should join in and take advantage of the “virtual” opportunity.


When you attend an academic conference, you gain:  exposure to advanced research topics and trends, the ability to learn from some of the most forward-thinking scholars and faculty in your targeted field, networking opportunities with peer students/applicants, newfound inspiration, access to opportunities that exist outside of just your school or your area, and valuable advice/informed input on your own research pathway, paper, project or presentation.

Almost all of the U.S. top colleges have their own version of an Annual Undergraduate Research Conference.
All too often we hear from college students who didn’t know these existed on their campus until senior year —they could have been presenting and attending since freshman year!

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Here are some spring 2021 undergraduate research conferences (all virtual this year):

  • UMichigan’s is April 9, 2021
  • Stanford’s is April 10-11, 2021 (but you don’t need to be a Stanford student to present or attend–right now they have students from 38 colleges set to present virtually this year).
  • Penn State University’s is April 24, 2021
  • NYU’s is this May 6-7, 2021

What about conferences for high school students, working professionals or current graduate students?
Don’t worry, there are plenty for you too, and often conference registration discounts if you’re in school. In years past, committing to attending an academic conference often meant a hefty registration free, a possible flight, a hotel stay and meals while traveling. But, the 2021 spring conference season flipped almost all academic conferences to virtual (with plentiful sessions recorded!) so you have unique access to a huge list of 2021 academic conferences that can boost your credentials, exposure to your field, depth of knowledge, and networking opportunities. 

Case in point: In my role as Top Tier Senior Private Counselor, I recently urged an international high school student to attend an Ivy League faculty member’s international conference presentation on Zoom –she enjoyed a one-on-one chat after the session where she was free to ask questions about the lecture, connect with the faculty member about his institution and discuss research topics and trends.

Another student, who is applying to PhD programs this fall, was pleasantly surprised that her research paper proposal (abstract) was accepted for presentation at a prestigious international virtual conference in her field this spring. It will be a terrific boost for her resume, and the chair of the session happens to be a faculty member at her top targeted university.

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With that…. here are five 2021 academic conferences (all virtual) that might appeal to you this spring: (high school students typically can secure the “undergrad” rate, but you often have to email the conference contact to request this)

  1. American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting: April 5-10, 2021
    This STEM conference does a great service for students (high school students included) as they separate out their “student-focused programming.” These include sessions such as “Enabling environmentally friendly plastics” and “Goals and activities of the Warriors Chemistry Club: COVID-19 edition” (eyes on you, students seeking to launch a Chemistry Club at your school!).  ($29 online registration fee for all 5 days, though you only need to attend the sessions you want to.)
  2. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Soft Robotics hosted by Yale University: April 12-16, 2021 
    Presenters from Yale, Facebook, UC San Diego, Columbia, and more are planned. They also have optional included workshops on topics such as material intelligence and interventional robotics, as well as a robotics competition you can observe and two informative “speed networking” sessions you can partake in. ($25 online registration fee)
  3. Society for Affective Science Annual Conference (co-sponsored by Harvard, Tufts, and the Society for the Improvement for Psychological Science): April 13-16, 2021
    There are faculty presenters from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, Harvard, UMichigan, Vanderbilt, and more. This 2021 conference examines topics on psychology, neuropsychology, family dynamics, and speech and brain patterns. ($50 online registration fee)
  4. Society for Military History’s 87th Annual Meeting: May 20-23, 2021
    There is an in-person option in Norfolk, VA and also a virtual option to attend. They have not yet posted the virtual registration rate, but will soon. Their on-site rates indicate that the virtual registration rate would be on par with the other conferences listed here.
  5. Society for Freshwater Science Annual Meeting: May 23-27, 2021
    This is their first ever virtual conference and sessions topics are set to cover: freshwater science ecological changes in arctic lakes and rivers, inequitable waterscapes, environmental justice, “herstory in freshwater sciences,” and more. There are also added (included) e-workshops on “writing for aquatic scientists” (including students), and my personal favorite “Trash Talk,” on the ecology of trash in freshwater. ($30 online registration fee)

These are 5 low cost options that could make a BIG impact on your spring, and perhaps your summer and eventual college, graduate school and/or research pathway as well.

Want a more personalized list of conferences and our tips and tricks on how to take full advantage of academic conference presentation, attendance and e-networking this year?  Get in touch, whether for grad or undergrad–we’d love to work with you!

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Colleges with Strong Political Science Programs

Political science remains one of the most popular college majors each year. And for good reason. Students who study political science have the opportunity to hone their debate and public speaking skills while also becoming strong writers and critical thinkers. In today’s political climate, this major feels as timely as ever. If you have volunteered for a political campaign, listen to podcasts like Pod Save America, or watch PBS NewsHour instead of reality tv, this may be the major for you. Political science is a social science discipline with qualitative (case studies, historical analysis) and quantitative (game theory, statistics) components. At most colleges, political science/government courses not only address current events, but also delve into political theory, international relations, international law, and other subfields. After graduation, political science majors often go on to graduate school in law, business, journalism, or public policy or move to D.C. to work at think tanks, consulting firms, news organizations, or the government itself. Entry-level job titles for political science majors might include “legislative assistant,” “policy analyst,” or “public relations specialist.”


Using data compiled from sources such as U.S. News and World Report, Rugg’s Recommendations, and Niche, we have gathered information about the strongest political science programs for undergraduates in the United States, organized by region:


  • Harvard: It comes as no surprise that Harvard, with notable alumni including eight U.S. presidents, boasts one of the best government programs in the country. The Government Department at Harvard also offers four optional programs of study as part of the degree: Data Science, Tech Science, Public Policy, and Political Economy. Students who opt into one of these themed programs take specialized courses and may participate in additional co-curricular programming. Harvard offers the opportunity to conduct research for academic credit and students benefit from career chats with alumni—perfect for post-grad networking.
  • Columbia: Political science majors at Columbia develop depth by specializing in one of the following subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. In addition to courses and seminars in these subfields, students also must complete a research methods course. One thing that makes Columbia stand out from other programs is its practical, skill-based interdisciplinary majors: Economics-Political Science and Political Science-Statistics. Interested juniors may also apply for the B.A./M.A. Program for Columbia Undergraduates. Of course, Columbia’s location in New York City is another huge perk for political science majors who want to pursue professional internships alongside their degree.
  • Dartmouth: Dartmouth’s idyllic location in rural New Hampshire might not seem like a natural place for a political powerhouse, but Dartmouth’s Department of Government has produced an impressive number of distinguished alumni in the field, including U.S. Cabinet members, members of Congress, Governors, ambassadors, and diplomats. The Government major at Dartmouth is divided into four main subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory/Public Law. The department also offers three Modified Government Majors: Government with Economics, Government with Philosophy, and Government, Philosophy, and Economics. A hallmark of Dartmouth’s Government major is its off-campus program offerings. The London program focuses on international relations and comparative politics and the Washington, D.C. program offers research opportunities and an internship in legislative and executive offices. The Russia program  offers interdisciplinary courses in government and energy policy, in partnership with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. During election years, Dartmouth is a frequent stop on the campaign trail and has hosted a number of presidential debates.

West Coast:

  • Stanford: Stanford’s political science program includes a Bachelor of Arts degree or the option to pursue a Bachelor of Arts with Honors (part of the Political Science Honors program). To complete this degree, students take introductory courses and then focus on two of five tracks: Data Science; Elections, Representation, and Governance; International Relations; Justice and Law; or Political Economy and Development. Students are encouraged to pursue research with Stanford professors through the Summer Research College where undergraduates spend ten weeks working with a faculty mentor and receive a $5,000 stipend.
  • UCLA: UCLA’s political science program includes lecture series, departmental workshops, faculty talks, and unique opportunities to study in Washington D.C. at the Center for American Politics and Public Policy (CAPPP) or at the University of California Center Sacramento. Upper division political science courses are organized into six fields: (1) political theory, (2) international relations, (3) American politics, (4) comparative politics, (5) methods and models, and (6) Race, Ethnicity and politics. Students may apply to the department honor program if they have fulfilled certain requirements and maintain a 3.5 GPA in upper division political science courses.
  • UC Berkeley: There are approximately 45 faculty, 1,000 undergraduate students and 125 PhD students in the Berkeley political science department. In addition to more traditional subfields, such as American politics or international relations, the department offers a more diverse array of courses in topics such as formal theory, public policy, political behavior, and public law. Junior year, political science majors attend faculty-led seminars to develop their research and writing skills. Student may also take advantage of the many complementary centers and institutes on campus, such as the Citrin Center for Public Opinion​, Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, Institute of Governmental Studies, Institute of Industrial Relations, and the Center on the Politics of Development. According to the department website, “The Political Science major is concerned with exploring the exercise of power in its myriad forms and consequences. Students in the major are encouraged to explore such central issues as the ethical problems attendant to the exercise of power; the history of important political ideas, such as “liberty”, “justice”, “community”, and “morality”; the impact of historical, economic, and social forces on the operation of politics; the functioning and distinctive features of the US political system; the diversity of political systems found among national and the significance of these differences; the interaction among international actors and the causes of war and peace.”

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  • Washington University of St. Louis: The WashU department of political science has a particular strength in political theory and environmentalism. Within the department, there are two majors offered: Political Science and Environmental Policy. Students may also select up to two subfield concentrations in American politics, comparative politics, international politics, political methodology, or political theory. Students may use AP credit to place out of an introductory course and eligible majors may choose to write a senior thesis, guided by a faculty advisor. The Department of Political Science offers several awards in recognition of special scholarly achievement by undergraduate students and many complete internships in political and community organizations. For students who are considering Law School after graduation, they may wish to pursue a minor in Legal Studies, an interdisciplinary academic program about law. High achieving political science majors can apply for research assistantships, support for honor theses, and conference travel through the Murray Weidenbaum Center Scholars Program. The department regularly hosts events such as political theory workshops and speaker series.
  • University of Michigan: The University of Michigan is the perfect choice for students who want to conduct high-level political science undergraduate research. Through supervised study, research fellowships, and honors theses, students have many chances to dive into a specific subfield of political science and prepare for graduate study. Students may also pursue internships and service learning to gain more hands-on skills to prepare for careers in law, journalism, policy development, business, or other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Classes are organized into five topical areas: American Politics, Comparative Politics, World Politics, Political Theory, and Research Methods.
  • University of Chicago: The University of Chicago has always been on the cutting edge of research in the field of political science and holds its students to a very high standard. The political science major requires twelve political science courses and a substantial research paper (either a BA Thesis or a Long Paper). All students must take three out of four introductory courses (Introduction to Political Theory, Introduction to American Politics, Introduction to Comparative Politics, Introduction to International Relations) as well as a research methods course. The political science department has designed workshops in American politics, comparative politics, East Asia, nations and nationalism, organizations and state building, political theory, Middle East politics, and international relations. Other workshops at the University of Chicago include American Politics, East Asia: Politics, Economy, and Society, Historical Capitalisms, and Political Economy. These workshops function as forums for discussion and debate and a place where students can meet classmates who share their interests.


  • George Washington University: Political science is one of GW’s most popular majors, with more than 800 students. Core focus areas include American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public policy, and research methods. The undergraduate major focuses on writing-intensive coursework and opportunities to practice producing research papers, book reviews, thought papers, and political theory writing. Students are also encouraged to participate in the Politics and Values Program, attend conferences hosted by the Pi Sigma Alpha Honors Society, and engage with GW’s many centers and institutes (for instance the Institute of Public Policy, the Institute for International Economic Policy, and the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication). Many students take advantage of GW’s location in Washington, D.C. to intern for credit on Capitol Hill, at the White House and with local nongovernmental organizations, embassies, think tanks, and other agencies. Large classes and smaller seminars within the department focus on topics that include “The Internet and Politics,” “Supreme Court Decision-Making” and “Ethnic Politics in Eastern and Central Europe.”
  • Georgetown: Georgetown offers two majors within the department of Government: Government and Political Economy. As a major, you can take classes in four subfields: American Government; Comparative Government; International Relations; and Political Theory. Undergraduates also benefit from the jointly appointed faculty and shared programming with Georgetown’s other schools with strong ties to politics and policy: the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the McCourt School of Public Policy, and the Georgetown Law Center. Due to Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C., students often spend their free time engaging in political life and pursuing internships to gain real-world experience.
  • Naval Academy: Midshipmen who pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in political science can take courses in three sub-fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. They are also taught quantitative methods for social sciences and have opportunities to specialize in a particular area of study, such as national security or violent conflict, through clusters of courses, a capstone seminar, and independent research projects. To complement their foreign language requirement, students often pursue summer internship programs sponsored by the department that allow them to work abroad or at agencies such as the State Department and Office of Naval Intelligence. Beyond their courses, students in the political science department can also take part in the annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference, Navy Debate, Model United Nations, or Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society.

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  • Duke: The political science major at Duke fosters critical thinking, writing and communication skills, and a foundation in data analysis, including quantitative skills. Many students choose to double major with complementary programs, such as history, economics, or statistics. Within the department, students may pursue one of the two certificate programs: Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, and Decisions Sciences. Courses are organized into six fields of study: Political Economy (PE), Political Behavior and Identities (BI), Political Institutions (PI), Political Methodology (M), Political Theory (N), and Security, Peace and Conflict (SPC). Students also have access to Duke’s unique Focus Program, which provides clusters of courses designed around an interdisciplinary theme, such as the cognitive sciences, ethics and global citizenship, genomics, knowledge in the service of society, and global health. Approximately one third of political science majors and minors participate in global education.
  • UNC Chapel Hill: Political science is one of the most popular majors at UNC and one of the top 15 political science departments in the country. It is also one of the most adaptable programs and provides students the flexibility to craft their own area of expertise by the time they graduate. Within the department, students can engage in a variety of courses across four concentrations: American politics; international politics; law, ethics, and politics. It is also possible to “build-your-own” thematic concentration. The Department of Political Science also organizes social events to develop a community of students who share similar interests. Students can attend speaker series, film screenings, or events through Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, open to students who meet certain academic criteria. For students who want to conduct political science research, UNC would be a great fit, and many undergraduate courses include a research component. Political science majors are also encouraged to pursue directed research with a faculty advisor or apply for the Honors Program, which culminates in a senior thesis.
  • Vanderbilt: Political science majors at Vanderbilt have opportunities to participate in independent studies, selected topics seminars, the honors program, and a wide range of internships. Since the average class size is close to thirty, students get to know their professors and often participate in the governance of the department through the Undergraduate Political Science Association. Vanderbilt also houses a number of research centers that complement the political science major, including the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and the Research on Individuals, Politics & Society Lab. Faculty research interests include political behavior in North and South America, race relations and public policy, American and comparative judicial institutions, the foundations of human rights, feminist and formal political theory, and international law.  


Do any of these programs pique your interest? If so, now is the time to take action to become a more competitive applicant by the time you apply senior year. Colleges are looking for scholars and the more you can do to pursue your academic interests in high school, the easier it will be for an admissions committee to understand your potential contribution to their academic community. Need help with your essays? Work with one of our senior counselors for expert guidance as you craft a compelling narrative that reflects your academic journey. Or, for more comprehensive counseling, contact us today about Application Boot Camp or our exclusive College Admissions Private Counseling Program.

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Inside Standardized Testing: Former Ivy League Dean of Admissions Weighs In

According to a recent FairTest press release, 55 percent of all bachelor-degree granting schools in the U.S. have already announced they will be test-optional for students applying to college in the fall of 2022. Included are all Ivy League schools, other selective private institutions such as Emory, Rice, and Stanford, and many flagship public universities such as Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia, Wisconsin and the University of California. Nearly all of the nation’s most selective liberal arts colleges will also remain test optional through fall 2022, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Swarthmore and Wellesley.


Diving into the data, some high-profile institutions aren’t on the list – yet. Up to their eyeballs in application review for the Class of 2025, it’s likely that decisions on requirements for the Class of 2026 will be made this spring as the current application cycle winds down.

By now, we all know the main reasons that prompted these policy changes. A deadly pandemic that caused school closures and resulted in mass cancellations of standardized tests that began in March 2020 and continues today. But that’s not the only reason for the move to test-optional admissions policies.


Critics of standardized testing have argued for many years that these tests disadvantage Black and Latinx students and students from low-income families. Research studies have shown the extent of this disadvantage. In 2018, combined SAT scores for Asian and White students averaged over 1100, while all other groups averaged below 1000. A 2015 analysis found large and growing gaps in test scores when viewed through this lens, along with significant gaps in average test scores between those students from lowest income families (less than $20,000) and those with family income above $200,000.

Likely prompted by the national protests over racial equality last summer, university and college leaders took active steps to address a key barrier (testing) that has long been seen as perpetuating inequality, particularly at the most selective private and public institutions. For the majority of top schools, this meant a test-optional admissions process but, as we saw at the University of California, the entire system removed SAT/ACT scores in the admissions process for students applying in the fall of 2020 and will continue to be “test free” for students applying in the fall of 2021.

Adding to the testing turmoil, the College Board announced last month that it will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests, effective immediately AND there are potentially three different options this spring for students taking AP exams.


Students and parents, if you are confused about what to do next, we’re here to help.

A big source of confusion stems from describing the SAT or ACT as “optional.” By definition when a test is optional, you can choose whether or not you should take the exam and submit your scores. But, as reports on the recently completed early admission cycle highlighted, the vast majority of admitted students submitted test scores. The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, noted that of its early action pool, only 7 percent of applicants who did not submit an SAT or ACT were admitted. Left unsaid – but easily deduced – was that 93 percent of admitted students submitted test scores.

As highlighted in a recent article, other top schools saw higher percentages of early admits without test scores. Tufts University announced that more than half of its early-applicant pool this year had applied test-optional, and 56 percent of those accepted had applied without test scores. Nearly one-third of the University of Notre Dame’s early admits had applied without scores. At Boston University, 71 percent of early admits were accepted without scores.

In her recent blog post, ACT CEO Janet Godwin points to findings from a market research firm, EY-Parthenon, on the implications of COVID-era test optional admissions policies. Among her key takeaways:

  • The future of test use policies: It is somewhat unlikely that institutions who adopted temporary or pilot test use policies in response to COVID will return to test-required in the near term.
  • Test blind growth unlikely: The research suggests that rapid test blind expansion is quite unlikely. Schools regard test score data as too useful to abandon altogether, and they report that they feel students should be allowed to submit test scores if they wish to do so.
  • Extensive test data use continues: Four-year higher education institutions report significant use of testing data in almost every aspect of the enrollment process, despite the 20-30% decrease in students sending test scores.


So, should you take the SAT or ACT? From our perspective, the answer is YES. Strong test scores will always enhance your application. Without evidence of significant hardship, financial or otherwise, it’s pretty much a given that your application will be passed over because of the large number of equally high-achieving students who take and submit an SAT or ACT score.

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Juniors, now is the time to reschedule any cancelled SAT or ACT exams. This spring, you’ll have to contend with an AP exam calendar which now includes dates in May and June. If that’s the case, look to do an ACT in mid-July or early September or an SAT in late August. It’s possible there will be an SAT in September to help meet the backlog of students who want to take this test.

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Sophomores, use this spring to take full-length diagnostic exams in both the SAT and ACT to determine your best path forward and then use the summer to prep. Your goal should be to complete your SAT or ACT by the fall of junior year. Doing so takes a tremendous amount of pressure off your shoulders in the second semester, when AP exams loom large. We’ve got expert tutors to help you develop a personalized test prep program and reach your goals.

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After abruptly shifting to 45-minute, all-digital exams last spring, the College Board has debuted a new set of AP testing options this academic year. The new 2021 AP Exam schedule provides three testing dates for each subject between early May and mid-June. High schools don’t need to pick just one of the testing windows or modes. Your AP coordinator can authorize a mix of at-home and in-person exams and mix testing dates, as needed.

The AP Program’s broader goal this year is to create more flexibility to meet the needs of students in yet another academic year marked by disruption. To have more space for social distancing while testing, a school could spread its AP testing across all 3 administration windows: utilizing the Administration 1 paper and pencil exams for some subjects, the Administration 2 digital exams in school for other subjects, and the Administration 3 digital exams in school for any remaining subjects.

A school could administer the Administration 2 digital exams in school for most students, while also authorizing at-home testing for any students who have coronavirus-related reasons not to test in person.

Students, view the 2021 AP Exam Schedule here and be sure to talk to your AP coordinator to learn what your options will be. You cannot choose your own dates – they must be approved by your school’s AP coordinator.

With the elimination of the SAT Subject Tests, AP scores provide another opportunity for students to differentiate themselves in the admissions process. All students, as they plan their high school program, should look to challenge themselves with relevant AP coursework and plan to sit for the spring exams. Even if your school doesn’t offer AP courses, you can still register to take and then self-study for AP exams.


We are approaching the one-year anniversary of COVID-related school closings. Students have displayed amazing resilience in the face of unprecedented challenge and disruption over the last 12 months. Hopefully September will feature the safe opening of schools and classrooms across the globe – and greater transparency from colleges and universities about the role that testing will play in the selection process.