Friday, November 30, 2012

College: Where Are We Now?

The National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) released their annual report this week that evaluates statistics and movement over the last 10 years with regards to college admissions.  There are a few trends that are important for school counselors to note.

I've written this year about the early application process, and that there is a perception out there that applying early increases your chances of admissions into a school.  Well, as this Education Week blog post discusses, this may not always be the case:

  • For students who applied Early Decision in the fall of 2011, there was an acceptance rate of 59%, versus 53% for the total applicant pool, giving Early Decision applicants a 6% advantage.
  • For students who applied Early Decision from 2007-2009, there was an advantage over the total pool ranging from 12% to 15%. (source:
Thus, students who applied Early Decision, meaning that if accepted they were committing themselves to attending that one school and rescinding all other offers of admissions, only saw a slightly higher acceptance rate than everyone else, different from past years.  For those students who applied through the non-binding process of Early Action:
  • For students who applied Early Action in the fall of 2011, there was an acceptance rate of 65%, versus 63% from the total pool, giving only a 2% advantage.
  • The advantages were higher in 2006 and 2007. (source:
Early Action allows students to get a decision early, usually in December, but they are allowed to apply to multiple schools without committing to one until May 1st.  Thus, it seems like the advantage that may have once been perceived to exist for students who chose to apply either Early Decision or Early Action may be eroding.

Other data to come from this report discussed the growing number of colleges to which each student is applying.  This post from Inside Higher Education shines the spotlight on the following statistics:
  • The percentage of students applying to 3 or more schools is up from 67% in 2010 to 79% in 2011.  The percentage of students applying to 7 or more schools is up from 25% in 2010 to 29% in 2011.
  • In the last 10 years, the yield of students, meaning the percentage of students who are admitted who accept that offer of admissions, has gone from 51.4% to 42.6% at public colleges and universities, and 47.8% to 36.4% at private schools. (source:
Thus, more students are applying to college, and more and more colleges, at that.  As school counselors, we feel this in the longer lists of transcript requests and the more involved conversations of to which schools our students are thinking of applying.  There is a perception, though, that admissions has become tougher, and this is not necessarily the case.  While the percentage of acceptances has dropped very slightly, the majority of schools are still admitting almost 2/3 of its applicants. (source:  Part of this is because with more students applying to more schools, schools have to admit higher percentages of their admissions pools in order to yield enough students who accept those offers to populate a class.  It is important to note this to students and families--while there are certainly a top-tier of colleges and universities that have become more competitive, the vast majority of schools are admitting similar percentages of students to those from 10 years ago. (source:

The top factors that go in to college admissions decisions remain grades in college prep classes, rigor of a student's curriculum, and standardized test scores.  The importance of class rank, however, has declined over the last 10 years. 

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