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    The StratEDgy blog is intended to be a thoughtful hub for discussion about strategy and competition in higher education.

Record Highs, Record Lows: Part II
April 8, 2013 - 9:53pm

An important trend is worth mentioning as part of the context to last week’s post. One of the factors contributing to the record high number of applications and record low acceptance rates is that more prospective students are applying to more schools.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling tells us in this NYTimes article that the average student was predicted to apply to more than nine schools this past fall.

This can result in an increase in the number of applications, rather than applicants.  This fact was mentioned by Jon Marcus, a contributing editor for the Hechinger Report, who was a guest on WBUR’s Here & Now this week.

Host Robin Young:
“And another thing we want to look at is we’re being so ‘selective’ – we’re only taking this small percentage, but you say they are not acknowledging how many more kids are applying.”

Guest Jon Marcus:
“This all relates to the same spin that we’ve been discussing relative to the admissions data. When universities and colleges talk about how selective they are, if you look very, very carefully and parse their words, you’ll notice that they are talking about a record number of applications. In fact the number of applicants is down. The number of high school graduates peaked two years ago and has been declining ever since.  But under the common application form, which makes it easier to apply to most universities and colleges, each individual student applies to more colleges. There are 30% more applications floating around, so universities and colleges are talking about applications, not necessarily applicants.”

This raises a host of other related questions and thoughts. Here are just a few:

  • Is this trend really good for everyone/anyone? InsideHigherEd provides insight.
  • Does quantity equal quality? reports that Boston College saw a 26% decrease in the number of applications this year, attributed to the fact that they purposefully added an essay in the Common App.
  • Are students adopting an approach to evaluating schools that might surface the best fit for their interests and goals? The NYTimes offers one view.


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