Report Finds New College Admissions Trends, Including More Early Decision Acceptances

October 21, 2010

Excited student with laptopThe National Association for College Admission Counseling released its 2010 State of College Admission report, which revealed some interesting new trends in student and college behavior during the 2009 admissions cycle. One change may be particularly helpful for some of the most competitive students: more colleges are accepting a greater number of early decision applicants.

According to The New York Times, nearly three of every four students who applied last year under early decision programs were accepted, compared to just over half of those who applied to the same colleges during the traditional application round. Specifically, noted Inside Higher Ed, 65 percent of colleges reported admitting more students through the early decision process in 2009, compared to just 43 percent the year before. On average, colleges with early decision programs admitted 70 percent of early decision applicants versus 55 percent of applicants during the main application round.

Early decision seems to be gaining popularity, but some argued that the process favors wealthier students as applicants must commit to enroll if they are admitted. Because of this requirement, critics say only students who can afford to commit to a college without comparing all financial aid offers benefit from early decision. According to The New York Times, however, colleges say acceptance rates are higher because the quality of early decision applicants is also higher.

The Chronicle of Higher Education stated that the report also found other trends. For instance, while the number of high school graduates reached a peak of 3.33 million in 2009, 29 percent of colleges reported receiving fewer applications, the largest proportion since 1996.

The authors speculated that the decline was due to the recession. Cost considerations have recently become a priority to students and more are considering affordable choices such as two-year colleges or public colleges rather than private ones.

Furthermore, the report found that a greater proportion of colleges used waiting lists. During the 2009 cycle, 39 percent of colleges used a waiting list. Forty-seven percent reported adding more students to a waiting list than the year before and 51 percent said they accepted more waitlisted students.

Inside Higher Ed pointed out that online applications are now the norm. According to the study, colleges received 80 percent of applications online. In 2008, 72 percent of applications were submitted online and in 2007, 68 percent.

Perhaps the most useful piece of information for applicants is the rise of an additional criteria. While the usual factors remain important--grades and overall GPA, strength of high school curriculum and admissions test scores--more schools are now looking at "demonstrated interest in enrolling". In 2003, just seven percent of colleges considered interest in enrolling "considerably important". In recent years, however, approximately 21 percent of colleges have given it more weight in the decision process. Many colleges believe that demonstrated interest, such as campus visits and contact with admissions offices, is an indication that students are more likely to enroll.

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"College Admission Trends Include Increased Reliance on Early Decision and Wait Lists, Acceptance Rates on Par Previous Year," nacacnet.org, October 20, 2010

"Early Action Could Aid in Admission, Report Finds," NYTimes.com, October 20, 2010, Jacques Steinberg

"Early Decision Bounces Back," insidehighered.com, October 21, 2010, Scott Jaschik

"The Economy and College Admissions," chronicle.com, October 20, 2010, Beckie Supiano

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