College admissions remains volatile in 2023. Massive shifts — like a widely expected ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that would restrict race-conscious admissions — threaten to stretch an already overworked field.
To keep up with the rapidly changing environment, we posed one question to six experts: What admissions trend do you expect to see in 2023?
Their written responses are below, lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Assistant vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions at the Georgia Institute of Technology
In the year ahead, 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 the format through which students can convey their voice and demonstrate their ability to articulate their opinions and interest.
This could take the form of proctored writing samples, graded essays from their high school, a rise in the use of unscripted interviews, or various mediums and platforms for students and their supporters to submit information, i.e. voice recorded recommendations or video elevator pitches.
Removing barriers to apply and simplifying the application process in general will be particularly important due to the pending Supreme Court case on affirmative action, and the desire of colleges and universities to preserve a diverse applicant pool. To that end, expect more colleges to make announcements ending legacy preferences and launching transfer pathway programs geared toward historically underrepresented students.Back to top
Dean of admissions at Texas Christian University
Access to higher education, our country’s greatest engine of social mobility, has long been a goal for enrollment leaders. Tectonic shifts needed to generate real change, not just edge-tweaking, eludes many colleges, whether due to lack of funding, the absence of ingenuity, or fear of failure. 2023 brings a new challenge to equity in admissions with the Supreme Court of the United States taking up two cases: Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and SFFA v. University of North Carolina. The use of affirmative action in college admission is on the chopping block.
Amidst navigating sea changes ranging from test-optional admission to AI-generated essays, admission offices are quietly preparing for a post-affirmative action ecosystem.
Already required by law to exhaust all race-neutral policies before consideration of race in admission, colleges are evaluating their current practices, exploring new practices, and assessing the cost of doing business in this new environment that nearly every admission insider believes is a fait accompli. In the months leading up to a Supreme Court decision and the months to follow, affirmative action is undoubtedly the theme of college admission for 2023.Back to top
Chief executive officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling
The admissions landscape for 2023 evokes the words from Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Institutions with stronger endowments and resources will get more selective, enrolling a greater number of students who can pay full tuition. Institutions with fewer resources and less name recognition will struggle to meet enrollment and net tuition revenue targets. These diverging forces will increasingly bifurcate America’s higher education ecosystem. Institutions will experience enormous pressure to balance revenue and diversity goals.
As competition rises for students who can pay tuition, institutions face difficult tradeoffs. Do they admit more low-income, first-generation students of color, or focus solely on the financial bottom line? What happens if a decision from the Supreme Court makes these efforts even harder? The decisions are not easy, and today’s higher education leaders can’t be blamed for historical decisions politicians made to push college costs in America to the student. Many colleges need significant tuition revenue to survive. As I reminded board members of colleges where I led enrollment, “Without money, there is no mission.”Back to top
President and chief executive officer of the Common App
We all know there is little joy in the admissions process. For many students, the entire process of applying to college creates a profound fear of rejection and even makes them question their self-worth, especially for first-generation or low-income students.
As we begin 2023, I see different pathways to admission, like direct admissions, becoming more popular. Initiatives like direct admissions are about changing the narrative of a college education from one of scarcity to one of opportunity, by ensuring students know that college opportunity is an abundant resource — and one that’s available to them.
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. I’m excited about the potential of this work to help more students pursue a college education.Back to top
Public education director at FairTest
In 2023, FairTest expects that more colleges and universities will lock in their ACT/SAT- optional policies by extending them for additional admissions cycles or indefinitely. These decisions will be based on a growing body of evidence that eliminating testing requirements simultaneously promotes equity and academic quality. There is a growing recognition that admissions without regard to standardized exam scores has become the “new normal.”
In addition, more campuses will remove standardized test requirements from their “merit” scholarship programs because they realize that admitting students without providing necessary financial aid is a hollow gesture. At the same time, pressure will build to overhaul publicly funded scholarships that base tuition awards on ACT/SAT results. These formulas fail to help many talented students, particularly those from lower-income families and historically underrepresented groups. A likely Supreme Court decision barring affirmative action will accelerate the adoption of “race-neutral” initiatives that end reliance on test scores.Back to top
Vice provost and dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania
We anticipate several factors, including financial stresses, testing policies, and the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, could escalate students’ anxiety around how colleges will choose their incoming classes, and whether it will be affordable to attend.
In order to ease some of this anxiety, it will be more important than ever for colleges to explain the “why” behind the materials we require, as well as to be as explicit as possible about each of our financial aid policies and what we value most in the selection process. This will best equip students for “how” they should represent themselves in the application process, and hopefully lessen worry and confusion.Back to top