College Admissions: The Decisions are In

Some members of the class of 2010 are celebrating their acceptances tonight.  Others are re-examining their choices for next fall.  Yes, the Ivy League schools released their admissions decisions on Thursday afternoon.  For most of the group, applications were up, and accordingly, acceptance rates were down.  According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, the acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania fell to 14.2%, its lowest rate in history.  Last year, Penn admitted 17.1% of applicants.

Is it really becoming more difficult to gain acceptance to the more selective colleges in the United States?

Yes, they are admitting fewer students.  As a group, however, high school seniors seem to be submitting more applications than they did in prior years.  When I was a school based counselor, I encouraged my students to submit no more than eight applications.  Eight well- researched schools, with a range of selectivity, offered most students the opportunity to have a number of choices come April.  In recent years, perhaps due in part to the relative of ease of electronic applications compared to the typewriter, the increasing acceptance of the Common Application, and in part due to frenzy of the process, students have been submitting applications in greater numbers. Do you know students who have applied to a dozen or more colleges this year?  In essence, the arms race has escalated.  Yet each student can only attend one college the following fall.

Should you apply to many schools in order to enhance your chances of acceptance?  Most of the candidates applying to highly selective colleges are in fact, highly qualified for admission.  The component of your application that stands out in one admission committee might seem slightly less compelling to another. 

The increasing applications and decreasing acceptance rates do make it more important for you to put your best foot forward in each and every application.  Chart your academic course carefully, actively explore your passions, and write well.  Right now, each member of the high school class of 2011 or 2012 has an equal opportunity in front of the admissions committee.

By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as an Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.

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