This year, everyone has read stories about students not getting into any of the colleges to which they applied (that only happens with a bad list). My colleagues and I agree that the degree of unpredictability and precipitous dropping of admit rates at selective schools made 2022 a particularly stressful year.

Yes, admissions is an unpredictable business. However, every student embarking on the Ivy path (or similar) should look at those admit rates, which hover around 5%, and not be shocked to be denied. Students from all over the world apply to these colleges–add NYU (slightly higher admit rate 12%) and MIT to that list. The truth is that elite college denials/waitlists are really not unpredictable at all. It’s the admit rates at highly selective but not the most selective universities (examples: Northeastern 6.7% and Tulane 10%) that threw us this year.

I’m grateful that none of my 2022 graduates was impacted by the worst of this. Northeastern and Tulane admitted students decided on other colleges. Many earned lots of merit aid, too.


Boston College (2)

Boston University

Clemson University

Colgate University (2)

College of the Holy Cross

Emerson College

Fairfield University

Fashion Institute of Technology

George Washington University

Gettysburg College (2)

Hamilton College

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

James Madison University

Notre Dame University

Providence College (2)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2)

Rutgers University (2)

Sacred Heart University

Syracuse University (2)

University of Georgia

University of Miami

University of Richmond

University of South Carolina

University of Vermont

Villanova University (5)

Students Awarded >$2.1M in Scholarships (all admitted colleges)


As I build lists for my 2023 grads, I’ve been for waiting for the verdict on test score requirements, particularly from southern colleges that hinted that they might reverse the test-optional policies spurred by the pandemic. That’s why I wasn’t surprised that the University of Tennessee stated that SAT/ACT scores will be required for its class of 2027.

UTennessee has not posted its stats for the class of 2026, but we can assume that over 50% of applicants/admits did not submit scores and those who did submit scored at least between 1140-1300 on the SAT and 25-31 on the ACT (numbers from the class of 2025). When all colleges (except for the Florida and Georgia publics) became test-optional for the class of 2024, test scores skewed higher, with only the strongest test-takers submitting scores. My current juniors will face a more clear-cut situation--either they meet those required scores or they don’t–and shape their lists accordingly.

The situation, however, is anything but clear-cut.

The Common Application stats show that students are applying to more colleges–over a 25% rise–because of test-optional policies. Private, mostly-selective institutions saw the biggest rise. A 2022 grad applied to 12 colleges with me and another 12 on his own–to no advantage. Applying to a reasonable number of schools–roughly 8-12 academic/social fits–makes the process manageable for students and families. Overwhelmed college admissions offices and enrollment managers made later and less predictable decisions.

But a reversal of test-optional policies hurts students who are not strong test takers and underserved students who may not have the means or time to prepare to test well or to test multiple times. That’s why over 1000 colleges, including some of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the US, became test-optional long before the pandemic. There are reams of studies on whether test results are an accurate predictor of college success, and the belief of the education community at large is that they are not.

I’ve always said “more colleges, more stress.” Let me know what you think about the value of standardized testing.


I’m impressed when my students tell me about the lists (often color-coded) they keep to manage their busy lives. I get it–high school is full of academic, extracurricular, and social demands, especially as junior year moves to a close. Excelling in your courses and studying for AP tests (if you’re taking them) tops the lists. Spring sports, DECA and Robotics competitions, and dance recitals require hours of practice before final events. Time for activities outside school (jobs, personal research/study, etc.) becomes tighter. Even prom prep is more demanding!

Then come college-related commitments. For many students, meetings with the test prep tutor and taking repeated practice tests (the real key to raising your score) are required.

Relax a bit and find balance. Here’s my suggested order of priorities:

Academics: you will get your final GPA–that goes on your transcript sent to colleges–in June. This includes AP and other tests you take.

Do Extracurriculars you love: Focus on those that matter most to you and let those go that don’t. However, choose wisely if they relate to a possible major or career.

Standardized Testing: Nearly all colleges will remain test-optional, except for Florida and Georgia public colleges and MIT (a few others still haven’t made announcements). If you’re applying to large state colleges, those that were test-optional prior to the pandemic, or after a few tests, your scores are below the 50th percentile for your colleges, it’s ok to cross testing off your list.

College visits: for those who find the time or manage to snag the few campus-visit openings available. Visit, but plan smart–many families schedule trips to Boston or Washington without considering if the schools there are good options. Time is precious! My slate for juniors is full, but I am happy to meet for an hour to help you.

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