Headlines in college admissions are too often misleading. In a recent article up on Insider Higher Ed by Scott Jaschik entitled “Applications Are Decreasing,” Jaschik writes about how 8% fewer college applicants submitted applications through November 2 on The Common Application platform. He also writes how 60% of the 921 colleges and universities that subscribe to The Common Application are reporting declines in applications to date. It’s these very kinds of figures that lead parents to ask us, “I hear applications are way down this Early cycle. Finally, some good news for 2020. Is that really the case?”
Most Universities in America Aren’t Selective
At many of our nation’s highly selective universities, no, it’s not the case. Note how Jaschik writes how 60% of 921 universities experienced declining applications this fall. Well, guess what…there are not 921 highly selective universities. There are more like 20 highly selective universities, 25 tops. The vast majority of universities in America not only aren’t highly selective but actually admit more applicants than they deny. By contrast, at our nation’s elite universities, like the Ivy League schools, admission rates often hover below 10%.
Many Selective Universities Are Not Experiencing Application Declines This Fall
That which is true at all universities in America is often not true at our nation’s highly selective universities. As examples, Early applications to the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have skyrocketed this year. Our sources indicate Early applications are up at multiple Ivy League schools this year as well. And while the 921 universities that subscribe to Common App. may have seen fewer applications from low-income students this fall, our sources also indicate applications from low-income students are in fact up at our nation’s top universities. This is likely a result of these schools going “test-optional” due to the COVID-19 pandemic — it eliminated a barrier for these young people to apply.
Journalists Should Point Out This Distinction When Citing Early Application Statistics
So just keep in mind when you read headlines about college admissions this fall that our nation’s top universities aren’t in the same game as the vast majority of America’s universities — most of which aren’t particularly competitive. And it’s not like Inside Higher Ed is the only culprit in not shining a lantern on this exception to trends in admissions this fall. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article with a slug-line, “Number of applications so far slides 8%, with tally of applicants down even more, causing uncertainty for schools.” It’s not that this statement is incorrect. Rather, it just doesn’t apply to the vast majority of universities readers of our college admissions blog are interested in their children attending.
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