MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The number of applications submitted to U.S. colleges and universities surged this year compared to last. Because of the pandemic, many schools made it optional whether to submit ACT and SAT scores. According to Common App, the most widely used college application website, what followed was 11% more college applications.

Common Apps’ Jenny Rickard says the pandemic shined a light on admission practices that may have been excluding students.

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“So many of them have changed their evaluation process, and I think as a result, they’re going to learn a tremendous amount about other predictors of success,” Rickard says.

Avery Shvarts, a high school senior from Springfield, New Jersey, applied to 12 schools with no test scores. “I saw that I could apply to higher level schools like Cornell, and they said they wouldn’t penalize at all,” Shvarts says.

Common App found large, selective universities like Cornell and NYU had 17% more applications compared to last year, many coming from minority students who are often underrepresented. Common App also found fewer applications came from first generation college students this year, likely because of the pandemic.

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Casey Near with Collegewise says, “Those kids who are filling out and completing federal financial aid forms, that’s down 9% which is a pretty substantial chunk.”

Yaire Martinez’s family has struggled financially this past year, but having the first-generation college student apply was a priority.

“My family has always pushed me to continue doing school, even if we’re not financially okay, we can still help you out some way or another,” Martinez says. The high school senior from Dawsonville, Georgia applied to 4 colleges and, so far, has been accepted to three.

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Some students are still choosing to turn in test scores because they feel it will give them an edge. Many schools that went test-optional this year have indicated they will stay test-optional for a few years.