Purdue. Yale. Vanderbilt.
When you think of college, certain campus names spring to mind.
While high school graduates have choices beyond the traditional four-year university, many find the conversation about the college admissions process to be stressful and overwhelming.
The good news: 80% of American colleges accept more than half of their applicants.
The not-so good news: A high school student can’t rely solely on their GPA or ACT/SAT test scores now since college admissions offices factor in so much more than just grades and test scores.
While there is no definite plan or specific combination of factors that will guarantee a student admission to their preferred institution, many colleges still heavily factor in college prep work, the strength of curriculum, the student’s college application essay, and teacher recommendations (to name a few).
Admissions officers review college applications with two key questions in mind: Will this student succeed in college-level coursework and will they be a great fit for our school?
The strict adherence to this line of questioning isn’t to discriminate against worthy student applicants; it’s in place as a guidepost for ensuring each incoming freshman has the best chance at succeeding.
The top ten colleges in California, for example, receive nearly three-quarters of a million applications per year. Judgement is of the utmost importance for universities as they make their admission selections.
The not-so good news: While the majority of U.S. colleges admit most students who apply, there are several that have become much more selective in their application process, which results in lower acceptance rates.
Take the following acceptance rates as an example:
- Duke: 10% per year
- UCLA: 16% per year
- Boston University: 25% per year
Here’s another example: the University of Pennsylvania accepted nearly half of its applicants for the high school graduating class of 1991 but only accepted 8%, a record low, last year in 2018.
Yet consider this: there are fewer 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States and, as high school graduates, they have far more options to choose from than ever before beyond the 4-year traditional college institution. Options available to them include vocational schools and coding programs as well as education leaders like Arizona State (ASU) creating online learning opportunities.
So, how does a student best determine which college to apply to?
With 19.9 million students expected to attend colleges and universities in the fall of 2019, it’s critical that a student creates his or her best-fit college list, since many colleges do take into consideration the student’s demonstrated interest in attending their particular university. Students can also take measures into their own hands during each year of high school to have a more meaningful and positive college admissions process, no matter which educational path they end up taking after high school.
The college that fits you best is one that will: (1) Offer a program of study to match your interests and needs (2) Provide a style of instruction to match the way you like to learn (3) Provide a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation (4) Offer a community that feels like home to you and (5) Value you for what you do well. — report in US News
Many families also hire IECs, or Independent Educational Consultants, to advise them during the college application process, as early as freshman year. Additionally, by using College Lab’s online college planning tool, students can identify areas in which they can increase their chances of acceptance at the schools on their list. And that's really what the competitive edge comes down to - knowing what actionable steps to take to increase admissions probability. While the college admissions process is as unpredictable as it’s ever been, we work to remove the guesswork by using artificial intelligence with predictive analytics so high school students and their families get the support they need.
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