International Applicants Rise at US Universities

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Prominent US colleges and universities are reporting an increase in international applications over the past two years, fueled by the easing of pandemic travel restrictions and new policies that allow prospective students to apply without SAT or ACT scores.

The Common App, an online platform for hundreds of schools, found that as of March 15, the number of international applicants had increased by 34% since 2020. This far exceeded the growth rate of 12% for US applicants.

The data reveals a tantalizing source of potential students as colleges across the country grapple with significant enrollment losses since the pandemic. However, these applicants often look for reputable schools that do not harm students.

“It’s obviously a huge population of young people from around the world who could potentially continue their education here,” said MJ Knoll-Finn, senior vice president for enrollment management and student success at New York University. . “There is a lot of strength in the US market.”

For prospective international students, the past two years have posed intense challenges. The public health crisis has disrupted global travel in 2020 and 2021 and thrown college enrollment plans into chaos.

Recent demand growth has been uneven.

At Indiana Public University, international applications for freshman admissions increased 11% over two years. In the public system at the University of California, they increased by 17%. Some big-name private schools showed huge increases: Dartmouth College, up 71%; Yale University, up 99%.

At Yale, one of the most selective universities in the world, applications from all sites, foreign and domestic, topped 50,000 this year for the first time. That’s a 42% increase from the total received by the university in 2020. Yale’s admission rate, which was 6.5% that year, fell to 4.5% this year.

“More than half of the total increase in the applicant pool in these two years came from international applicants,” Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, wrote in an e-mail. mail.

Yale is a special case because it is one of the few schools that is committed to considering international applications without regard to financial need and to meeting all the needs of those who are admitted. The others are Harvard and Princeton universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst College. Dartmouth announced in January that it was joining this group.

But the growth in international applications appears to be more than a matter of financial aid. Shortly after the pandemic emerged, Yale (like many selective colleges) suspended its admissions test requirement. It will not require SAT or ACT scores at least in the next admissions cycle. This attracted potential students from all over the world who otherwise would have been reluctant to apply.

“The move to elective testing certainly played a role in this increase,” Quinlan wrote.

Harvard won’t require SAT or ACT until 2026

The pandemic has imposed major barriers to testing access for students around the world. The College Board, owner of the SAT, found that approximately 122,000 international students in the high school class of 2021 took the admissions test. This was down 23% from the previous class.

Access to the tests was not the only problem. Health, financial and travel worries have also plagued international students.

The Institute of International Education, which tracks enrollment, found that the number of international undergraduate students in the United States fell 14% in the 2020-2021 school year. This has exacerbated major national recruitment problems. American colleges and universities have lost more than 5% of their enrollment since the fall of 2019 — nearly one million students — amid the pandemic and economic upheaval.

Colleges scramble to recruit students as nationwide enrollment plunges

Today, colleges and universities are hoping the volatility in global higher education is easing. “The pandemic just blew everyone’s enrollment patterns and projections upside down,” said John Wilkerson, associate vice president for international services at Indiana University. Wilkerson said he sees signs of getting back to normal. Part of the growth in international apps, he said, is due to pent-up demand. Many prospective students want to hit the road after being unable to travel for a few years.

Data from the Common Application shows that the top suppliers of international applicants this year, in descending order, are China, India, Canada, Pakistan and Nigeria. Admissions experts point to India as a key source of growth.

Federal data shows that just over 3% of the 16.5 million undergraduate students in fall 2019 were international students.

Under the Trump administration, colleges feared that strict federal policies on immigration and travel from certain countries would scare away international students. “There was tremendous concern,” said Angel B. Pérez, chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. With President Biden in power, he said, those issues seem to have receded.

“There’s a little more optimism on the part of the registrants,” Pérez said. As the pandemic subsides, he said, “the infrastructure to bring students to the United States is also coming back.”

Natalie Bitton, president of the International Association for College Admission Counseling, which is affiliated with the association led by Pérez, said she saw the beginnings of a rebound in demand for higher education in the United States. “Two major hurdles have been removed,” Bitton said. “One is the ability to leave their country and get visas. And the second is the test requirement changes.”

For the University of California, Los Angeles, international applications for first-year admissions have increased by more than 30% since 2020, to around 23,600. The surge coincides with the elimination of test scores as a factor admission. The UC system’s move to a “no-test” policy, said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management at UCLA, “has attracted applicants who might have had difficulty accessing the ‘one of these exams’.

For NYU, international applicants are part of its engine. About a quarter of its 27,000 undergraduate students in New York are international. The private university also has campuses in Shanghai and the United Arab Emirates. This year, international applications to NYU’s main campus in New York increased by 15%, said Knoll-Finn, NYU’s enrollment manager.

Like other universities, NYU has stepped up virtual recruiting during the pandemic because admissions officers haven’t been able to travel much in person. Knoll-Finn said it helped NYU attract a more diverse group of potential students. A more lenient admissions testing policy was also a factor, she said. “We think being optional on tests probably lowered a barrier for many students who might have a harder time getting to those tests,” Knoll-Finn said.

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