The past month has been a busy time for many high school seniors across the nation.
Parents have been cramming in last-minute college visits for their children and combing over financial aid packages. Students have been trying to decide which college feels right. With the May first college decision deadline arriving, Hi's Eye has decided to investigate the current trends in higher-level education.
The new normal
The simple fact is that the college landscape of today is dramatically different from that of past generations. Today, students are applying to greater number of collegiate institutions than their parents.
Recent interviews with 63 current WHS seniors have shown that the average number of colleges students are applying to is 10.69 for males and 7.42 for females. According to Guidance Counselor Mr. Ryan McGarrigan the new average has increased to 8-10.
And these statistics are not abnormal. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 9 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges in 1990. By 2011, the number of students who applied to seven of more colleges had increased to 29 percent. Additionally, Naviance, “a college and career readiness platform” stated that for the class of 2014, 16.5 percent of seniors using their system planned to apply to 11 to 20 colleges.
A number of factors have contributed to this rise in applications.
WHS senior Valeria Bouchoueva, who applied to 19 colleges, said her reason for such a high volume of applications was that “[she] didn’t know what [she] wanted then so [she] wanted to keep [her] options very open”.
Besides applying to many schools in order to have more options, students are also applying to more schools because the college admission process is more competitive now than ever before. And many believe that they will have a better chance of gaining admittance to a highly regarded institution if they apply to more of them. McGarrigan said, “I think it [the rise in college applications] is driven by panic.”
In past generations, fewer students considered college an option. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, the undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions has increased 48 percent from 1990, when total undergraduate enrollment was 12 million students, to 2012, when total undergraduate enrollment was 17.7 million students. The National Center of Education Statistics estimates that this trend will continue, projecting undergraduate enrollment to increase to 20.2 million by 2023.
Also, more international students are coming to the U.S. for a college degree, which is further increasing the competitiveness of the applicant pool. At Emory University, for example, international first-year enrollment has increased 14 percent in the last 17 years. And the entering class consists of approximately 18 percent international students.
For the most part, colleges are seeing their rates of admission steadily decline. According to thecrimson.com, Harvard’s acceptance rate is at a record low of 5.3 percent with 34,295 total applicants. This is a significant decline as the acceptance rate for the class of 1969 was 20 percent with only 6,700 applicants.
Consolidated college process
The college application has also been streamlined with the addition of the Common Application, which was founded 35 years ago. This standardized, first-year college application form has consolidated the application process, making it easier than ever for students to apply to college. This non-profit membership organization is “committed to providing reliable services that promote equity, access and integrity in the college application process”.
With more than 500 public and private colleges members of the Common Application, its more than 1 million users are able to more easily apply to any of the member schools. Many of the colleges don’t require supplemental essays and for those which do include essays that are often very similar to other institutions’ supplements. As a result, it is very easy for students to apply to extra schools, which they probably wouldn’t have, with as little effort as the click of a button.
Breaking with the trend
While the trend of submitting more and more college applications is clearly on the rise, there are still students that apply to only one or two colleges. WHS senior and varsity basketball player Jackie Knapp only applied to one school because she wanted to continue her basketball career at Tufts University. College athletes apply early decision when they have been recruited by a college coach. Knapp said, “I had a verbal commitment to the coach that I would apply to only one school.”
Students that have a clear idea of what they want from their undergraduate experience early on also tend to apply to fewer colleges. WHS senior Leah Iosif said, “ I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to go [to Rutgers University,] and I’ve known for years. So there wasn't a point in applying anywhere else.”
With students applying to more colleges each year, some worry about the negative impact on students. If students apply to many reach schools, they should be be aware of the odds. McGarrigan said, “I think they should go in knowing they are reaches and knowing to have a balance of schools to apply to.”