This afternoon at 4 pm PT marks the release our first round of admissions decisions: About 9,500 freshman applicants for the Fall, 2021 term will get a text or an email from admissions telling them to check our admissions portal for their decision; when they do, many of them will discover they've been admitted.
This is always a happy time, of course, but this year it seems even more special than usual. I don't have to tell anyone how life is different for this year's seniors, and, if you work with them, or even know a few of them, you are well aware of how uncertainty has created more than the usual amount of stress in a college admissions process that already has too much stress embedded in it. We're also keenly aware, of course, that many seniors are struggling with other family, educational, and economic challenges they could not have imagined just a year ago.
This has been difficult for admissions officers, too, but of course to a much lesser extent. We're looking at transcripts that are very different than the ones we're used to; the letters of recommendation are coming from teachers and counselors that don't know their students quite as well as they did in previous classes, and we're making decisions without standardized test scores for most candidates, even if those were too often only a distraction or a weak crutch upon which to lean. This year, we made conscious efforts to give every student every benefit of the doubt; for those not admitted, we'll provide options about how to enroll at OSU in a future term so the dream of becoming a proud Beaver Alumnus can still happen.
(As an aside: Here's an excellent summary written just this morning by Andy Borst, Director of Admissions at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, in a Twitter thread. As bad as 2020 has been, the reaction and response of most admissions people to the circumstances students find themselves in has been gratifying and affirming.)
For those of us who work at Oregon State, the value of what we do is shown in the students we admit, not in the number or percentage of students we deny. As the state's land grant university, we believe access and opportunity are the hallmarks of our mission. During my time interviewing here almost two years ago, I was impressed with the people who were at OSU precisely because of that attitude and approach; I heard not one word about making OSU more selective for its own sake, or in taking measures to move the university up in the US News and World Report rankings. But I heard a lot about what makes this university great. And as proud as the people are of what we do and how we do it, I still think we underestimate how amazing this place is. If you've ever seen beavers work, you appreciate the way we approach what we do and especially how we do it. There was perhaps never a more apt selection for a university mascot.
We think we've made some improvement in the process this year: Notifications have gone out electronically, and students who have a FAFSA on file are receiving financial aid notifications with the admissions letter, several months ahead of when they might have received it in prior years. We look forward to hearing how we can do even better.
For now, we're sticking with the traditional May 1 candidate's reply date, but should circumstances warrant, we'll of course consider moving it to later in the cycle; if you remember, Oregon State was the first university in the nation to move our date to June 1 in light of the pandemic, and we then moved it even farther back, to September 1.
Now, for a few fun tidbits:
- The new freshman admits come from every state, and several US territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Twenty-nine states have more than 20 admits each, and California, with just under 3,000, has top honors in the early round
- They come from over 2,400 high schools, meaning one of every 16 public and private high schools in the US is represented
- Just over 83% applied using the Common Application
- About 68% were admitted without submitting test scores
- The admitted students used 355 different ways to describe their ethnicity
- The top ten names for women: Emily, Grace, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Sydney, Lauren, Abigail, Sophia, and Madison
- The top ten names for men: Jacob, William, Ryan, Ethan, Matthew, Jack, Zachary, Jackson, Benjamin, and Joshua
- The colleges with at least 15% of admitted students: Engineering (23%), Science (19%), Liberal Arts (17%) and Business (15%)
- And finally, just for fun, the most popular birthday among the new admits is March 25th. Not interesting, you say? I disagree. March 25th is the birthday of Norman Borlaug, and because of that, it's the day I designated as Test Optional College Day. So the universe might be speaking to us.
For those who've applied but who will not hear today, fear not. We'll be moving to a modified rolling admissions process going forward, with additional decisions going out every two weeks or so.
We are eagerly awaiting the time when we can get back to business as usual, or something close to it. And we hope that time-frame, whenever it happens, will allow the newly admitted students to come and visit as see Oregon State University in person. Until then, know that we're here, doing our best, and trying to make this process work as well as it can for students, parents, and the counselors who work with them.