Higher Numbers of College Applications But Only At Select, Large Schools

Last week we reported that applications to selective schools were soaring as a result of many of those schools going standardized test-optional. Harvard, for instance, saw a 42% increase in applications, as did many other selective schools. 

Larger and more select colleges and universities are seeing more applications this year. (Twenty20 @eric_urquhart)

Larger and more selective schools see an increase in applicants

Newly released information from the Common App (the application through which most students apply to college) shows that the increase in applications is not universal. In fact, the gains in applications are primarily among larger and more selective schools.

While smaller and less competitive colleges are actually seeing a decline in applications. 

Smaller and less selective schools see downturn in applications

Applications to SUNY (State University of NY) schools fell by twenty percent which is a material drop. Applications to schools with over twenty-thousand students increased by 16 percent, while applications to schools with under a thousand students decreased by 4 percent. Schools with an admissions rate of under 50 percent generally saw larger increases in applications relative to less selective schools.

Perhaps even more concerning, the number of first-generation students applying to colleges has dropped. Although the current admissions cycle is far from over, that trend is clear and alarming.

Applications from first-generation and fee-waiver applicants plummet

According to Inside Higher Ed, despite an overall increase of 10 percent in college applications, Jenny Rickard President and CEO of the Common App reports that, “the numbers of first-generation applicants and fee-waiver recipients each declined (by three and two percentage points, respectively)…”

Rickard added that the Common App continues,

…to be very concerned about the decline among fee waiver and first-generation applicants. Persistent trends of decline among these key subgroups across the 2020-21 cycle signal a need for additional support in the months leading up to enrollment in fall 2021…” 

In other data, applications from international students went way up, except for applications from China which were down eighteen percent. And the average student is applying to more colleges than ever before, hedging their bets on any one college in particular. All this can be attributed to the plethora of uncertainties involved in every facet of the application process. 

Inside Higher Ed reports that according to Hobsons’ Naviance service despite the fact that top 100 schools have seen an increase in applications, the number of students applying early decision overall (nationally) is down 4.6 percent. And the number of students who applied early action fell 5.7 percent with very small schools (fewer than 2000 students) being down an average of 29 percent and only very large schools (more than 20,000 students) seeing an increase of up to 5%. Naviance showed no change from last year in the number of early Latin or Black applicants.

One might have expected that applications to state schools would rise with the current economic uncertainty but that has not been the case. Lower-income applicants and first-generation applicants often come from communities most impacted by Coronavirus. And a drop in first generation and low income students is a problem for all of us.

More to Read:

The Price You Pay for College, 21 Important Questions to Ask

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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