Will Admissions Rates Ever Rise?

April 11, 2018

There's been a lot of hullabaloo sounding the alarm on college admissions rates decreasing in the news this time of year, especially at selective colleges.

Every year, articles continue to pour out about how Ivy League acceptance rates have never been more selective. 


This Harvard Crimson headline boldly states record lows across the Ivies, Stanford, and MIT:

Here's are the chief reasons why this is happening (and will continue to happen), and why that may not be a bad thing...or even really mean much for most students.


News Articles About Selectivity Make More Students Want to Apply

FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a basic psychological principal that drives human decision-making. Colleges are wearing their record-low admissions rates around their necks like Olympic medals. Let's face it - most students aren't making decisions based on the fact that a prospective college's Psychology department landed a prestigious new professor. News like that doesn't hit headlines. However, headlines about record acceptances get clicks - and serve to drive more applicants the following year.


College Enrollment Class Size Doesn't Grow as Fast as Applicants

While a literally unlimited number of students could in theory apply to colleges, most universities remain brick and mortar establishments. Building new dorms, restructuring transportation, food services, and hiring new professors would all be needed to grow a student body - and while some schools are moving in that direction, colleges are also known to move very slowly in growth.


Students are Applying to More Schools Anyways

Here's where counseling comes in. We all probably remember the days when students were encouraged to apply to 5-8 colleges. Nowadays, that number can be as high as 15-20. And many students, as we all know,  actually end up submitting to a much higher number than that.


Tools like the Common App and Coalition App, along with creative marketing efforts from colleges to drive applications (and lower those all-powerful acceptance rates)  further this even more.


College are Amping up Recruitment Efforts

An advertisement from an Enrollment Management Marketing firm 


Colleges are getting much smarter about recruiting and understanding the behavior of students who are applying via social media, as early as 9th grade. Admissions offices are installing trackers, working with marketing agencies, and pulling data in from various sources to build student profiles, build effective marketing campaigns, and directly outreach students through their email, text messages, apps, and ad networks.


Could admissions actually rates rise?


With more students applying to colleges, applying to more colleges, and applying to more selective colleges every year, it's hard to estimate what the end game could be. However, there are a few possibilities. One is that existing colleges will grow their campuses to accommodate more students. There could be an expansion of online colleges and classes, allowing students to work remotely. Vocational programs and industry-specific bootcamps could rise to play an enhanced role. Finally, experiential learning such as gap years, apprenticeships, or travel abroad could also free up dorms and classes on campus while keeping enrollment higher. 


How many colleges are you encouraging your students to apply to? 

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