We need only look at the recent college admissions scandal to see that there is literally nothing parents won’t do to get their kids into certain schools. Admissions rates just keep sinking and every year colleges announce that their acceptance rates have reached new historic lows. Parents often label the admissions results at their high schools as catastrophic or even more dramatically as a “blood bath.”
But take heart, a new report just out of the Pew Research Center reveals that contrary to what many people think, “The great majority of schools, where most Americans get their postsecondary education, admit most of the people who apply to them…” That bears repeating…the great majority of colleges admit most of their applicants.
While 46 of the 1,346 four year colleges in the Pew report admitted fewer than 20% of their applicants, the most competitive schools represent only 4.1% of total student enrollment. This means that these ultra low admissions rates have no impact on over 95% of applicants. Not surprisingly these ultra-competitive schools were the ones caught up in the recent admissions scandal.
If we turn this entire paradigm on its head we see that more than half of the colleges admitted two-thirds or more of their applicants. While admissions rates have fallen at some schools, many have seen only modest declines (between 5% and 10%) and others have seen no decline at all. And 31% of the schools Pew surveyed have increased the percent of applicants admitted.
The survey goes on to examine the reasons for the decline in college admission rates, “Falling admission rates aren’t necessarily a sign that colleges are simply being pickier about whom they admit. In large measure, rates have fallen because prospective students are applying to more schools than they used to, while the number of available spots for them has grown more slowly. In absolute numbers, schools are making more offers than before, but not enough to keep pace with the soaring number of applications.”
In 2002 there were 4.9 million college applications but by 2017 there were 10.2 million, more than double. Many schools are admitting more students but the schools with the lowest admissions rates have not been able to keep pace with their burgeoning applicant pools.
People assume that the increase in applications is tied to the Common Application which allows students to apply to more schools easily. But the Pew report does not bear that out, “there was almost no difference in 2002-2017 [application] growth rates between the schools that use the Common App and those that didn’t.”
Which begs the question, why has there been an increase in applications? We don’t have that answer yet. But, in a world where the daily college headlines seem to reek of scandal and disappointment there is good news; more kids are applying, more are getting in and more are getting the education they need.
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