Many newspaper headlines have breathlessly given us the news that this has been the most competitive year for college admissions.
The NY Times “The Choice” blog has published a list of the admissions rates for about one hundred selective and highly selective colleges and universities. The list gives the number of applications the institution received, the number they accepted and the percentage that represents. They also give the same statistics for those institutions for the Class of 2010.
The percentage of applications accepted has indeed gone down for many colleges.
Yes, Yale admitted a record low number of applications, 7.35%, compared to last year’s 7.88%. But Yale admitted 2006 students in 2011 and 2039 in 2010. A difference of only 33 students. The big change for Yale was that it received 27,282 applications in 2011, an increase of 1413 applications.
The University of Connecticut saw their percentage of accepted applications go down by 9.34%. And, just like Yale, this drop of over nine percent reflects an increase of over 5000 additional applications. U Conn’s acceptance rate for this year was 40.02%.
Trinity College saw a dramatic change: They received 2277 more applications– a 48.57% increase in the number of students applying to this liberal arts college in Hartford. Their acceptance rate dropped from 43.15% in 2010 to 26.7%, a staggering decline.
What accounts for these numbers?
While the number of students graduating from high school may be going down, the number of high school students applying to college is going up. And, there is an increase in the number of international students vying for these same slots.
Additionally, colleges and universities today market themselves relentlessly. Schools that could fill their incoming class many times over seem to leave no stone unturned in attracting students to apply, which lowers their acceptance rates, which makes them more attractive to students. Everyone wants something perceived as exclusive–if it is so difficult to get in, it must be a great college.
Students are also interested in applying to colleges they have heard of. Few things can match the name recognition of athletic superiority. I am sure U Conn will see an increase in next year’s applications as it looks even more attractive– a very reasonable in-state cost, coupled with a national championship is a powerful combination.
But not every college has seen an increase. According to the figures on The Choice blog, Wesleyan’s stats are going in the opposite direction. They received 624 fewer applications this year and accepted 178 more students than in 2010. Their acceptance rate went from 20.55% to 23.6%. Does this mean Wesleyan is in bad shape? Hardly; 23% is still highly selective. The increase in accepted students may represent a more careful prediction of their yield.
I don’t see college admissions becoming less selective in the future and I think we will continue to headlines like this every year. The challenge for high school students is to have a realistic view of the process and a good list of schools that are an academic as well as social and emotional fit.