New Survey Highlights College Admissions Trends

By Catherine Groux
Posted December 19, 2012 10:00 AM

A new survey highlights various college admissions trends.
A new survey highlights various college admissions trends.
The college admissions process is extremely important, and it can be a very nerve-wracking time for students.  They wonder how many other individuals applied to their prospective schools, how admissions officials will choose their freshman class and what their odds of acceptance are. To answer these questions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) recently released its 2012 "State of College Admission" report.

More Students Applying to More Schools

Today, colleges across the country are receiving a record number of applications. This is partially due to the fact that more students are opting to earn a bachelor's degree. However, students are also applying to more schools than they were in the past. According to the NACAC report, 79% of fall 2011 freshmen applied to three or more colleges, marking an increase of 12 percentage points from only a decade ago. In 2011, a total of 29% of students sent applications to seven or more schools.

At the same time, the way in which students apply to colleges is also changing. For example, last year, 85% of college applications were submitted online, compared to only 57% in 2002. 

Colleges Strive to Pick the Right Applicants

Given the overwhelming number of applications each school receives, admissions officials are tasked with the challenge of picking the right students for their institution. In order to do so, higher education professionals look at a variety of factors. For almost two decades, admissions officials have said academic performance in college prep courses is the top factor in admissions. However, other important elements of a college application include grades in all courses, essays, demonstrated interest in the institution and class rank.

Acceptance Rates Declining

As more students apply to college, the acceptance rates at many schools have been steadily declining over the past decade. In 2002, the average acceptance rate was 68.6%. By 2011, this figure had fallen to 63.8%, the report shows. This decrease in acceptance was most commonly seen at the most selective schools, as these institutions tend to receive many more applications than they can accept.

Still, not only are more students being rejected from prospective schools, but more are being waitlisted as well. According to the report, 45% of four-year institutions said they used waitlists in 2011, compared to only 32% in 2002.

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