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College Admission is Getting More Competitive
For yet another year applications are up at colleges and universities nationwide, creating a level of uncertainty for both admissions officers and applicants. With more children of baby boomers graduating high school, choosing to go on to two or four-year college, and online services making it easier for students to apply to more schools, it is becoming more and more difficult to break into the nation’s top colleges.
Applicant pools are simply growing larger. NYU saw applications jump from 42,000 in 2011 to 75,000 in 2018. The University of California at Berkeley saw a similar jump from 53,000 applicants in 2011 to 89,000 in 2018.
This large increase in applications has also caused colleges to become more selective. Stanford University accepted only 4.3% of its applicants for Fall 2018 and announced in August 2018 that it will no longer publish its acceptance rate out of concern it may create too much applicant anxiety.
There is an argument that the current college admissions environment is actually not as keenly competitive as the statistics make it seem. Such a high volume accounts for record-breaking applications, but the true statistics are always in the acceptance and actual attendance rates for a given class. That said, however, there’s no denying that admissions to top colleges and universities are highly competitive, and likely to remain so for years to come.
Why College Admission is More Stressful than Ever
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 teh early 1990s, and families immigrating to the US also include children. Consequently, the number of 17- and 18-year-olds continues to grow.
At the same time, the country’s most selective schools are not increasing the size of their entering classes very much. They can admit roughly the same number of students for fall 2019 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. Students are now routinely applying to roughly 20 schools now, as opposed to 5 or 6 just over a decade ago. (This has also caused college admission officers to look more closely at applicant sincerity and yield.)
To recap, the four factors listed below have acted together to create an increasingly competitive college admission 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.
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