Expert Admissions hosted a webinar with Mike Devlin, Director of Admissions at Stanford University, and Christina Lopez, Dean of Enrollment Management at Barnard College. We discussed trends in applications, how Covid impacted this year’s admissions results, what admissions officers look for (and don’t) when they read applications, and more. In this three-part series, we’ll give you the highlights from that conversation. Keep reading to find out how test-optional policies affected admissions this year and to learn more about our panelists.
Deans Devlin and Lopez indicated that test-optional policies did not significantly disrupt their admissions process. For students with scores in range, there has always been greater emphasis on transcripts, rigor of the curriculum, and the essays that display intellectual curiosity and a good fit with the institution. The lack of test scores simply allowed the parts of the puzzle that were already most important to stand out even more.
At Barnard, about half of students applied without scores and about half of students were admitted without scores. Stanford’s numbers will not be posted publicly until the fall, but Devlin reported they were similar to Barnard’s.
Though the test-optional policies were meant to be a temporary response to Covid, they have prompted further review. Both institutions will be examining how the new policy has affected their admissions process, and Stanford will be studying how the policy ultimately impacts first-year success for those admitted without scores.
Both deans also noted that test-optional policies have had a positive impact on the diversity of their applicant pools. Barnard saw more students of color apply, which then correlated with more students of color being admitted and enrolling. The same is true of low-income and first-generation students. Devlin reported the same is true of Stanford, and also noted that they saw applicants from countries that aren’t typically represented, likely because it’s difficult to access SAT or ACT testing facilities.
Some students and parents have wondered if there will be greater emphasis on AP testing as a replacement for the SAT or ACT. Lopez said that the nature of AP exams does not replace the content of the SAT or ACT, and in fact, AP tests aren’t typically a significant factor for admissions at Barnard (though you can get course credit for taking them). Devlin reminded us that not everyone has access to AP testing, especially international students for whom the IB system is more common. In short, you do not need to seek out AP tests if you’re not in an AP class at school. The focus should be on challenging yourself and excelling in whatever rigorous curriculum is offered by your school.
Mike Devlin joined Stanford University in 2016 and assumed the role of Director of Admission and Associate Dean of Admission, Financial Aid, and Visitor Services in 2017. In his current role, he provides strategic and operational oversight for all aspects of the admission office and leads the enrollment process for all incoming students to Stanford. Prior to joining Stanford, Mike was the founding Director of Admission for New York University’s newest campus in Shanghai, China – the first ever joint Sino-US university – where he oversaw the recruitment, selection, and enrollment of its inaugural four classes. He has also directed the admission process for several of NYU’s schools and colleges in New York. Mike holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU.
Christina Lopez has served in college admissions for 15 years and truly loves this field. She is currently the Dean of Enrollment Management at Barnard College, where she leads the Office of Admissions and the Office of Financial Aid. Christina attended New York University Tisch School of the Arts and has a BFA in Drama and an M.Ed. from NYU Steinhardt in Higher Education Administration. After graduating, she worked in television and film casting but realized she enjoyed working with young people. Her first admissions job was at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Later she moved back to her alma mater, NYU, to work in undergraduate admissions. During her time at NYU, she read for the Stern School of Business and managed the admissions process for Tisch School of the Arts. She joined Barnard’s admissions team in 2014 as the Associate Director for Multicultural Recruitment. During her career in higher education, she has served as an Executive Board Member for the New York State Association of College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC) and Co-Chair of the Association of Black Admissions and Financial Aid Officers of the Ivy League and Sister Schools (ABAFAOILSS). As an advocate for access and equity within higher education, she currently serves on the board of Go-To College NYC and Minds Matter, two Community-Based Organizations in NYC that serve under-resourced students as they navigate the college process.