|Exclusive! Interview with Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Dean Of Admissions and Financial Aid at Wesleyan University. Click here to read the full, 2-page transcript free of charge!|
Why College Has Gotten Harder to Get Into
There are several reasons behind the intense competition for college admission. One is demographics. There are simply an awful lot of college aged Americans, with more on the way. The baby boom “echo” peaked at 4.1 million births in 1990, and families immigrating to the US also include children. Consequently, the number of 17- and 18-year-olds continues to grow, and is not expected to begin declining until 2018.
At the same time, the country’s most selective schools are not increasing the size of their entering classes. They can admit the same number of students for fall 2016 that they did a decade or even a generation ago. That means a growing population of high school seniors is competing for a static number of seats at top tier schools.
Not only are there more college-aged Americans, but a prosperous economy means more incentive to attend college (given more sophisticated job requirements) and more money to do it with. Every year since 1970, an increasing proportion of high school graduates has pursued post-secondary education.
Yet another factor is that more students are submitting applications to multiple schools. The NACAC reported that 32% of students applied to seven or more colleges the year before last. This compares to only 9% who applied to six or more schools a decade earlier. (We apologize for not having directly comparable data, but we believe this still makes a very strong point.)
To recap, the four factors listed below have acted together to create an increasingly competitive college admissions environment:
- The population of graduating high school seniors has increased.
- The percentage of high school graduates choosing to attend college or university has increased.
- The average number of colleges each senior applies to has increased.
- The number of freshman seats open each fall at most of the selective colleges and universities has remained relatively stable.