It was Dylan who sang:
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
Who would have guessed that those words, which date back to 1964, would still resonate so clearly today, and even in regards to college admissions? Dylan speaks truth! The college admissions times are a-changin’, and from both the student and college side of the fence. Regarding the former, prospective students are, on average, applying to more schools than ever before. This is fueled, in part, by The Common Application, which allows students to complete one application that they can then send to any of the member colleges (although keep in mind that supplements are often required for specific schools). The data from Inside Higher Ed is revealing:
- Since 1997, the majority of colleges have reported receiving more applications than the year before.
- The percentage of students who apply to seven or more colleges has been steadily rising.
- The average admissions officer was responsible for reading 359 applications in 2005 and that number had jumped up to 622 applications per average admissions officer by 2011 (imagine reading over 600 applications?!)!
What this translates to is the admissions process becoming more selective – if there are the same number of available places in a freshman class (limited supply) but more applications coming in (increasing demand), then fewer applicants will be accepted. At the same time, the yield rate (the number of students who accept their offer and show up to move into their dorm room at the start of the academic year) is on the decline, which complicates matters for colleges as well, in terms of what their ideal admission numbers should be. It’s a classic chicken/egg situation, and a vicious cycle – colleges are becoming more selective so students apply to more in order to improve their chances of admission and, because more students are applying, colleges are becoming more selective, so students are applying to more colleges…and around and around we go!
Furthermore, though it varies greatly by state (see The Pew Charitable Trusts report for specific state information), the number of international students studying at American colleges is currently at “an all-time high and more than double the number of foreign students 20 years ago”. In short, Dylan hit the nail on the head – the waters around you have definitely grown, as the number of applications for coveted spots continues to flood admissions offices around the country. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on these admissions trends – more to come!