The pandemic-altered years of 2020 and 2021 have amplified the difficulty of the college application process. This year’s class of high school seniors will be making decisions on where to continue their education with COVID-19 regulations augmenting their campus visits, and the deadline of May 1 to commit to most schools is fast approaching.

Nearly 18,000 students applied to Elon University this year, and 13,841 students have been accepted for the 2021-22 academic year. This is an increase in both size and acceptance rate compared to last year, in which about 15,300 students applied and 10,975 were accepted, according to the university fact book. 

The university remains open with active tours running on campus. However, fewer families are visiting this year because of the pandemic. Virtual visits are allowing Elon to connect with a wide range of students, but the experience is not the same as an in-person visit, according to Greg Zaiser, vice president for enrollment.

When asked about the admissions process this year during the pandemic, Zaiser wrote in an email to Elon News Network that the most difficult part has been articulating Elon’s unique community for families unable to visit the campus in person.

“Seeing and feeling is believing,” Zaiser wrote. “I’m very proud of the staff, as unlike other schools, we have been hosting visitors since June 1 — and a lot of schools have not.”

Many students could not take the SATs or ACTs this year, causing Elon and the 900 other schools that accept the Common App to enact test-optional admission. In previous years, Elon would travel to high school college fairs, hold special interest sessions and host Fellows Weekends and information sessions on campus. 

“Everything we do had to be reimagined virtually,” Zaiser wrote. “We also couldn’t host our large accepted student programs like Rising Phoenix Weekends.”

Elon is looking ahead to more in-person experiences for students this spring. However, the likelihood of having all students visit Elon for campus tours is low. Zaiser said it is difficult for students to make a decision without seeing what Elon has to offer for themselves.

“I talked with an admitted student from MA today who is deciding between four schools — three of them are in CT,” Zaiser wrote. “He was amazed by Elon during his time here today and had almost ruled Elon out given the distance from home.” 

The admitted students sessions at Elon have currently enrolled students on panels to discuss their experience at the university. The admitted student from Massachusetts felt differently about Elon after hearing from an enrolled student from California.

“When the admitted student heard her talk about how many Elon students come from great distances and then touring the campus, Elon became his first choice,” Zaiser wrote.

Elon’s new acceptance rate remains undetermined considering the May 1 deadline and the number of students who commit to Elon will determine if the administration will accept more students off the waitlist. Zaiser said it is possible, though not likely, that the university will accept more students.

“The wait list has nearly 500 students on it,” Zaiser wrote. “Although our application deadline was January 10, we always receive up to a couple hundred apps after that time. More often than not, students who are admissible are offered a place on the waitlist until we know if we can admit more students.”

While the official acceptance rate has not yet been finalized, Elon has admitted around 77% of applicants thus far, an increase from last year’s acceptance rate of around 71%. Elon pays close attention to their acceptance rate, but Zaiser said the most important element of the process is admitting students who demonstrate how they can be a successful student at Elon.

“We want a class full of talented students from all backgrounds, and we seek to admit a class that reflects the community we all expect from Elon,” Zaiser wrote. “I’d rather be inclusive than exclusive, and the lower admit rates reflect exclusivity.”