Pandemic brings unprecedented college application numbers

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Posted at 5:31 PM, Feb 22, 2021

College acceptance letters will be in the mail soon.

For college students everywhere, this is a stressful time.

This year, as it turns out, they're not the only ones who are stressed.

“I think it's important for people to know also it's causing a lot of stress for higher education, colleges and universities are used to being on the road and recruiting students, and they’re not sure if they’ll make their numbers this year,” said Dr. Angel Perez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling,

The NACAC has some 21,000 members around the world.

He said some of the data that's coming out is concerning.

“One of the data points I’m concerned about is that last time I checked," Dr. Perez said. "We are about 10% behind on students who filled out the FAFSA than we were last year, and that’s alarming because most students in this country need some financial aid to afford to get in.”

And, he says, the number of first-generation and low-income students who apply to college is down, which has him worried that an entire generation of students might be lost.

But some universities are reporting record applicants.

“The UC system, I believe it was 16% for freshman and transfers that are compared to the prior year at UC Berkeley our freshman numbers are at 28% over the previous year," Dr. Perez said.

That's an all-time high record in UC Berkeley history.

The University of California says there are so many potential reasons for that huge increase, but testing, or lack thereof- might be one of them.

“Even if a student tries to submit, it's not part of our evaluation,” said Janet Gilmore, campus spokeswoman for UC Berkeley.

She says, this year, they're not factoring in SAT or ACT scores. Instead, they're looking at the "whole student," a holistic approach.

“And what’s gratifying to us is that it is a cross-section of students- different races, rural, first in their families to go to college it's what you want to see as a public institution," Gilmore said.

Gilmore says every racial group increased, but by far, the biggest was from Black and Latin communities.

They received 112,000 applications, but UC Berkeley will only accept between 12,000-14,000 students.

Nationwide, Dr. Perez says, it'll take a few years for the entire collegiate system to normalize.

“There are more applications this year, but there are fewer single applicants, which means more students are applying to more places," Dr. Perez said. "It’s not that we’re reaching out to more students; it’s that more students are applying to more institutions.”

This means the numbers for some of these higher institutions will be interesting this year, as students can only say "yes" to one university.