What Is Going On Here?!

You’ve seen your friends’ shell-shocked faces over the last few weeks.  Their child – a super-star, straight-A student who took allllllll the Honors and AP classes, a student government leader, four-year varsity athlete, an Eagle Scout or yearbook editor, not only denied from their top-choice (super-crazy-6%-admit-rate) college, but waitlisted – WHAT?! – at what you and they considered a second-tier choice.  Or their “safety” school.


University of Portland

There are three basic answers to this question:

  • College admission is different than when we applied 25-30 years ago
  • The numbers don’t lie
  • Look before you leap

#1 The college admission landscape has changed.  If you applied to college a few dozen years ago, like most parent-aged people, or if you were educated outside of the United States, you might want to brush up on how things have changed.  

One of the primary differences is that students are now applying to a dozen or more colleges – sometimes up to 20!  With many colleges shifting away from requiring SAT or ACT test scores, students with strong grades but who never would have applied to certain colleges years ago are now applying in droves, with the colleges cheering on the huge increase in applications (more application fees and lower admit rates – both great for colleges!).  So the increased applicant pool has pushed admit rates down to crazy low numbers – colleges that used to admit half their applicants, like Northeastern University in Boston, or Tulane in New Orleans, are now admitting closer to 10-15% of them.  This means colleges you would have considered “likely” (or “safe”) are no longer in that category.  Even flagship state universities like University of Wisconsin, Rutgers and University of Tennessee have seen massive increases in the number of students applying, which has forced them to reconsider how they admit in-state vs. out-of-state students.  Be aware of these changes when considering public universities outside your home state.

Our College Admissions 101 webinar will help you learn how certain things have changed, and be better prepared to support your student through the college application journey.

#2 – The numbers don’t lie.  When you see a 3%, 4%, 5% admit rate, it may seem obvious to some, but you need to say it out loud to really get it.  These colleges are denying admission to 95% of the QUALIFIED students who are applying.  The competition is fierce.  More numbers that don’t lie:  highly selective colleges (those that admit 25-50% of their applicants) have seen an 11% increase in applications just in the past four years; the most selective colleges (those that admit fewer than 25%) have seen a 5% increase in applications in that same time frame.  And while just 35% of high school seniors applying to college in 1985 had a straight-A GPA, more than twice that many, 80%, had a 4.0 GPA in 2022 (see above, “the college admission landscape has changed”).  In that same time frame, by the way, average ACT scores across the country have dropped.


Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.

#3 – Look before you leap.  There are 2,200 four-year colleges out there.  Take a look at more than just the ones who happen to land at the top of a random online ranking list!  Think about the kind of environment in which your child will THRIVE!  Narrow down your list not by ranking, but by considering more important factors: where will they be happy and successful?  Where will they feel supported academically, socially and emotionally?  How far away from home do they want to be?  What class size will support their learning style?  Do they want to build relationships with professors and classmates (this will impact the student body size)?  For more on how to effectively research colleges online, check out our short video!  Bottom line – the colleges that are right for other students may not be right for you!  Do your own research to find the colleges that fit YOU best.  That research will pay off in the end.

If you’re just getting started with your college search process, you may want to check out our FREE College Admissions Clinic!  If you’re wondering what value an independent educational consultant can bring to your child’s college search and application process, here’s a quick rundownAnd if you decide you need a little more hands-on help and guidance, that’s what we’re here for.  Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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