• College Admissions Competition to Remain at High Level

    by Charlene Liebau

    It hardly seems possible. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were congratulating the high school class of 2011 at commencement exercises?

    It is now September and the start to a new round of college planning activities. What will the high school classes of 2012 and 2013 discover? Will anything be different?

    To answer that question I look to current trends in college admission. Perhaps on the mind of those of us interested in admission statistics is the trend toward out of state students. Clearly the University of California is encouraging out of state applications just as other state universities are encouraging non-resident applications. The Universities of Michigan and Virginia have long enrolled a number of non-resident students – California, along with other states, is now following their lead.

    This is a trend we can expect will continue for as long as state budgets are constrained in their funding for higher education. And, as more and more state universities seek out of state students, California applicants may find admission to state universities in other parts of the country may become somewhat “easier.”

    Each year, at least for the past three or four years, we hear “it’s the most competitive year ever.” While the actual number of high school graduates may be declining slightly on the national level, it is a fact a greater percent of them are applying to college and submitting more applications per student. This adds to the anticipation it will be another highly competitive year. Students should think carefully about their college list – beyond the “name” – what are the qualities, the academic programs that are important to success as an undergraduate? Think beyond the first two or three names on any list ranking colleges – remember these lists change every year!

    A report from counselors outside California indicates a growing interest in colleges in the south. Perhaps for reason of warmer weather there is growing interest in colleges in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee. The message is that growing interest leads to more competition, greater selectivity, for all applicants.

    Adding to demographics and their role in competition for college admission is the dramatic increase in applications from students abroad. As the economies of other countries increase, along with the lure of an American education, international students are applying to American colleges in record numbers. The increase in recruitment activities by US colleges throughout Asia and Europe suggests this trend will definitely continue.

    It was not long ago the admission process was completed by May first when students must inform colleges of their intent to enroll. That is beginning to change. In the past two years the process has been extended into June and sometimes July due to the increased use of the Wait List. The economy and financial aid play an important role in this trend. If the dramatic increase in application numbers continues, and unless the economy improves significantly in the next six months, we can expect use of the Wait List to play a more significant role in the decision process. This trend not only prolongs the uncertainty and confusion for students, it also impacts individual colleges as they make plans for the near future.

    One of the recent trends among students is interest in “business” as an undergraduate major. Early indications suggest that while interest in the business world continues there is growing interest in creative writing and the arts.

    It appears current high school seniors will find the trends of increasing out of state and international applications will continue to grow. The reinstitution of early admission programs may help reduce the overall number of applications but this will not measurably affect the low admit rate of highly selective institutions. And, in the final analysis, the economy will exert a growing influence on families as they make college decisions.

    In short, forces that contributed to last year being described as the “most competitive ever” in college admission will continue to be with us for the next few years.

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