Admit it: The class of 2016’s acceptance rates are shocking. Again, applications to the most selective schools soared to a new high and, subsequently, acceptances rates plummeted to a new low. Duke University reported an acceptance rate of 11.9 percent while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill saw applications soar by 24 percent. Six of the Ivy League schools reported acceptance rates under 10 percent with Harvard University reporting the lowest acceptance rate of 5.9. These same trends continue among the nation’s best schools from Georgetown University to Pomona College. Applications soared at University of Chicago by 16 percent and the University of Virginia experienced an increase of 18 percent. In 1992, the acceptance rate for the University of Pennsylvania was 47 percent, a sharp contrast to the 2012 acceptance rate of 12.3 percent. College admissions has greatly changed.
The college admissions process is more competitive for several reasons: 1) there are a record number of 3.2 million high school seniors applying to college 2) many of the students are applying to schools submitting over 20 applications 3) international applications are rapidly increasing with China and Saudi Arabia contributing hundreds of thousands of applicants per year and 4) colleges and universities are not increasing spaces for enrollment.
There are no admissions guarantees in today’s application climate. Although the numbers are startling and can provide insights to the current competitive nature of admissions, examination of the initial college application list is required. This foundational step has the potential for future success in the admissions cycle. Yet, this is where students make myriad mistakes. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer the following strategies that consider the competitive admissions climate while constructing a college application list.
Number One. Focus your college search on your personal academic, financial and social parameters and avoid focusing on rankings and brand names. Use multiple resources in the college search process. Guide books such as The Hidden Ivies and the Yale Daily News Insiders Guide to College can supplement college search sites such as The College Board’s Big Future. Also, consult a qualified educational consultant. A consultant who is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and National Association of College Admission Counseling can provide professional insights about the academic and social climates of many campuses while assisting families through the maze of financial aid and scholarships.
Number Sense. Your college application list should make sense and be both balanced and manageable. Students applying to more than 20 schools are adding stress to an already taxing time. The majority of the list should be schools with acceptance rates of 35 percent to 60 percent. There are many wonderful schools with acceptance rates above 50 percent. At Crisp Consulting + Coaching, we help students finalize a list of no more than eight schools. This reduces an application frenzy and avoids information overload during the acceptance period. It is important for students to have a balanced college list of schools where they will be happy and successful.
Prime Number. The students academic, social and financial goals are primary. Your list should treat each school with respect and provide many avenues for success. Avoid using terminology such as “first tier” and “reach school” or “safety.” These terms can set you up for disappointment as they imply “I’ll never get in” or “I’m settling for less.” Instead, think of your list as several different and exciting opportunities that will lead you to success.
The admissions data for the class of 2016 seems overwhelming with many schools reporting acceptance rates under 12 percent. Look beyond the Ivy League and name recognition to aspects of fit. There are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and many of them accept over 60 percent of applicants. Don’t panic since there are many schools that will provide wonderful opportunities while assisting you to reach your academic and personal goals.
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Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.