During one of the most unusual college admissions seasons on record, applications to the University of Georgia increased by around 40% from last year’s admissions cycle.
David Graves, the interim senior executive director of undergraduate admissions, said that by early December, UGA hit the number of regular decision applications it received in last year’s entire admissions cycle. The university received 39,500 regular decision applications this year as compared to last year’s 28,524, Graves said.
An upward trend
As a result of the increased applications for fall 2021, Graves predicts UGA’s acceptance rate will decrease. The size of the freshman class may increase slightly, but due to supply and demand, the overall acceptance rate will drop. Graves also said the size of the freshman class depends on the size of the university’s total student population — if a large class graduates, it leaves a larger gap to fill with new students.
The increase in applicants wasn’t the only change UGA’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions saw this year, Graves said. UGA transitioned to the Common Application, which allows students to apply to multiple colleges using a single application. Previously, applicants had to use UGA’s specific admissions portal.
Graves said the increase in applicants, which came from both in-state and out-of-state students, could be due to many factors, including the switch to Common App and the fact that UGA went test-optional this year. The lack of a test score requirement may have encouraged students who normally wouldn’t have applied because of their SAT or ACT scores to apply this year.
UGA admissions has used a holistic process — reviewing multiple factors of applications — for regular decision applicants for years, Graves said. However, a lack of test scores mean admissions officers will have to spend more time reading over essays and evaluating each applicant as a whole.
COVID-19 also affected the on-campus touring and admissions process this year, particularly in interactions with prospective students, Graves said.
“Suddenly the Visitors Center is not able to do any in-person tours and high school visits or college fairs or any of that,” Graves said. Meeting over Zoom allows interaction with students, but they don’t get the same feel that an in-person tour of campus can give.
Despite the limitations, Graves guesses the pandemic has still caused more students to apply to UGA. Uncertainty due to the pandemic could impact family finances, the desire to stay close to home and the possibility of in-person classes.
Applying during a pandemic
Adeline Carlton experienced first-hand this year’s unusual college admissions season. The Decatur High School senior was accepted during the early action admissions process. She said the overall process went smoothly, but COVID-19 had some visible impacts.
A question on the Common App asked students to detail how the pandemic impacted their lives. Carlton also had difficulty signing up for the ACT — the April test she registered for was delayed, and two in June and July were both canceled.
“There were testing locations available, they were just super far away. So I was able to do it, but I know a lot of people weren’t able to,” Carlton said.
The testing location she did go to had smaller rooms and students at desks that were spaced out, but the test moderator took off his mask multiple times to talk to them. Carlton said the Common App made the process of applying to UGA more smooth, but the standardized test rules added an element of uncertainty.
“Even with schools going test-optional, it was up to your judgment whether or not it would be smart to take the test or not,” Carlton said. “Because it was like, yeah, a lot of schools went test optional, but then I was looking at the numbers for people who got into UGA and it was a really really low percent who didn’t have test scores, so obviously they did care about it.”
Graves’ hypothesis of students considering closer schools due to COVID-19 was played out within Carlton’s friends. Carlton herself applied to fewer schools thinking she wouldn’t be going as far from home.
“A lot of my friends, before they weren’t really considering UGA as an option, but then, because of everything … they had to think more about their options close to home,” Carlton said.