Candidates to the Class of 2025 Applied to More Schools

This year in admissions, longer college lists were the norm (photo credit: Namkota).

Earlier this fall, you may have read headlines that college applications to the Class of 2025 were down across American universities. And while college applications to the vast majority of our nation’s 900+ colleges were slightly down this fall, applications were — of course — not down at our nation’s 25 or so elite universities. In fact, applications skyrocketed to our nation’s elite universities. At these universities, applications rose by margins of 20%, 40%, even over 60%. And, in fact, by December 2, 2020, 6% more applications were submitted as compared to the same date in 2019. So what does that suggest? It suggests students who did apply to colleges applied to more colleges? In short, their college lists were longer.

As Melissa Korn reports for The Wall Street Journal in a piece entitled “Ivy League Colleges Report Dramatic Growth In Early-Admission Applicant Pools,” “The Ivy League’s spike in early applications may not represent broader admissions trends. There were 6% more Common Applications submitted by Dec. 2 than at the same time last year. But the number of applicants slid by 2%, meaning fewer people applied, but they targeted longer lists of schools. That makes it harder for admissions officers to predict who will actually enroll, and how many they need to accept to hit their target class size.”

Admissions officers weren’t born yesterday. The act of submitting more college applications does not, in itself, make it more difficult for admissions officers to discern if a student actually intends to matriculate if offered admission.

But that last bit, well, it’s not correct. Admissions officers weren’t born yesterday. The act of submitting more college applications does not, in itself, make it more difficult for admissions officers to discern if a student actually intends to matriculate if offered admission. It’s why so many college supplements ask a version of, “Why do you wish to go to this college?” It’s why so many universities measure demonstrated interest as demonstrated interest can foretell the yield. And what two statistics matter most to elite universities? Admission rates and the yield!

Yet when students expand their college lists, it doesn’t make it more difficult for admissions officers to forecast their intention to enroll as, in our experience, these students just cut and paste one Why College essay with the next. The mere act of completing college essays does not take a ton of time. But completing them well? That’s a whole different ballgame. And great applications will genuinely convince admissions officers that a student intends to enroll — even if they’ve convinced admissions officers at a long list of schools.

 
 

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