Colleges See An Increase In Applications

October 20, 2011

College applicationProspective college students are applying to more schools than ever, according to a National Association for College Admission Counseling study released Wednesday.

Most four-year colleges and universities (73 percent) received a greater number of applications in fall 2010, NACAC cited in its 2011 State of College Admission report. This, in part, is due to how many applications each individual student is submitting. One-quarter of fall 2010 freshmen submitted seven or more college applications, up from 23 percent in fall 2009 and 22 percent in fall 2008.

Currently, public high school students apply to an average of 4.24 schools, and private high schoolers apply to an average of 5.9, Inside Higher Ed indicated.

This is despite colleges accepting two-thirds of applicants, on average--four-year colleges had a selectivity rate of 65.5 percent in 2010, down about one percentage point from the year before.

"I know a lot of kids that kind of just clicked 'Apply to All' with one link," Cynthia Bell, a senior at New Jersey's Seton Hall University, told U.S. News & World Report.

Bell applied to 12 colleges.

A lack of guidance may be the reason that some applicants, particularly first-generation college-bound students, are applying to numerous schools. In addition to possible lack of parental guidance, the average student-to-counselor ratio at public schools was 460:1 in the 2009-2010 school year.

"The increase in the number of colleges to which students apply complicates the already difficult task that admission officers have in determining which accepted students will enroll," the NACAC study noted.

Indeed, the number of accepted students who enroll--the yield rate--has steadily declined over the decade. According to a NACAC press release, the rate for the fall 2010 admission cycle was 41 percent, down from 49 percent in 2001.

Because of the yield rate and uncertainty due to the economy, colleges are relying more on wait lists and admitting fewer students from them. The study showed 48 percent of colleges used wait lists in fall 2010, up from 39 percent in 2009. However, an average of just 28 percent of wait listed students were accepted in fall 2010, down from 34 percent the previous year.

"Colleges and universities, like most organizations and institutions in the U.S., are operating under stressful and uncertain conditions," David Hawkins, NACAC director of public policy and research, said in the press release.

Students and parents, however, can rest assured that the factors college admissions officers use to evaluate applications remain the same, noted the report. They are, in order of importance, grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, standardized admission test scores, and overall high school grade point average. The next most important factors included the essay, students' demonstrated interest, class rank, counselor and teacher recommendations, and extracurricular activities.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"2011 State of College Admission,", October 18, 2011

"College Admission Trends for 2011: Uncertain Times Lead Colleges to Lean More Heavily on Wait Lists; Acceptance Rate for Four-Year Colleges Declines Slightly, NACAC Finds,", October 19, 2011

"More Applications, More Waiting Lists,", October 20, 2011, Scott Jaschik

"Study: More Students Apply to More Colleges,", October 20, 2011, Katy Hopkins

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