The State of College Admissions 2012

The National Association of College Admission Counseling’s tenth anniversary State of College Admission 2012 report contains how college counseling, applicant demographics, application numbers, yield rates (of the students accepted how many enroll), and test preferences have evolved over the last decade. To potential college applicants the report supplies hard numbers to evaluate the college admission process. Here are select portions for consideration.

Access to college counseling advice in many public schools has become more limited.  Public school counseling departments spend about 23% of their time on postsecondary counseling. In private schools (such as a Webb or Phillips Exeter) this rises to 54%. What has changed dramatically over the decade is the number of students assigned to counselors in the public schools. In 2002, California had 320 students for each counselor; now that number is 1,016. Consequently, counselors in many of California’s public schools are overwhelmed by both the number of students and the number of responsibilities they perform above and beyond postsecondary counseling.

The number of high school graduates now rests at 3.2 million and is predicted to stay steady through 2021. Yet even with a flat growth rate among high school graduates, enrollment in postsecondary institutions, over the last decade, has grown by 6 million students to 21 million. Over 70% are in public schools, and over 60 percent are in four-year colleges.

Looking at standardized testing, 57% of applicants submitted SAT scores, while 54% submitted ACT scores last year. Over the decade there has been a 45% increase in those who took the ACT, versus a 27% increase in those who took the SAT. In California alone, 103,000 students took the ACT with 74 achieving a perfect ‘36’ last year. Admissions offices felt standardized tests were of ‘considerable importance, ’after grades in college prep courses’ and ‘strength of curriculum.’

Applications per institution have increased over 60% over the last ten years, especially at private colleges. 80% of applicants applied to over three colleges, with 29% applying to seven or more. The average application fee in 2011 was $41. George Mason charges $100 for mailed applications (which are fast fading into history), and only $40 for online submissions. Stanford’s $90 fee is at the high end of the application fee scale, which with its 36,000 applications tallies up around $3.2 million in revenues.

With the increase in applications, the average acceptance rates have decreased from 69% to 64%. Once you take your attention off the top 100 colleges, especially the Ivies-MIT-Stanford, which collectively has a 9.2% acceptance rate, you’ll note such schools as Case Western with a 51% rate, University of Washington, Seattle, 58%, and Lewis and Clark (Portland, Oregon) 66%.

Women comprise 56% of enrolled 4-year college students. For each of the last 10 years women have exceeded men in applications, admissions, and enrollment. UNC Chapel Hill is about 60% female; UCLA, 55%; NYU, 60%; University of Vermont, 56%; College of Charleston (SC), 62%, and Lewis and Clark (OR) 58%. 

Yield rates of accepted applicants declined over the decade. Colleges want students they accept to enroll. US News factors yield into its rankings, and all the enrollment management systems used at such institutions as Boston College and USC use algorithms to maximize yield. For four-year colleges, yield rates have dived from 49% to 38%. So while Stanford has a yield rate of 70%, Occidental College’s is (Los Angeles) 23%, and Case Western’s is 13% .

Future applicants and their families need to get a sense of the application process themselves. Assistance, especially at the public schools, is limited. The number of students in postsecondary education has grown by 40%, which means there are a lot of students at the community college, and four-year schools placing demands on an institutional base that is feeling distinct financial pressures. Students need a game plan, a curriculum plan, and a career plan to not lose themselves in the statistics of the college application process and the postsecondary world.