Today is ‘Decision Day’ for our college-bound high school seniors (and the parents who love them). May 1 is the day that the deposits are due, and let’s just say it can be an equal parts anxiety-inducing and euphoric day. Mostly euphoric we hope, but the day can be anxiety-inducing for many because this year has been yet another record-setting year for low acceptance rates among the ‘top’ (read: popular) colleges. More schools than ever are reporting single-digit admit rates – schools you may have not considered ‘selective’ even 5 years ago. NYU, for example, is reporting that they received more than 120,000 applications – and accepted only about 8% of those. UPenn also claimed a record number of applications – 59,000. As did Dartmouth with nearly 29,000 applications. Duke had over 44,000 applications and accepted only 4.8% of them. Fueling this madness are the usual suspects: unrelenting marketing by colleges with a healthy assist from a number of ‘nonprofit’ educational services (like The College Board, to name one). There’s also more and easier ways to apply to multiple schools than ever before. And then there is the sad truth that there’s an appalling lack of access to college guidance (national average is 502:1, as in 502 12th graders to every college counselor).
The result? We see a growing number of high school students (and the parents who love them) who are finding themselves adrift, reflexively applying to dozens of colleges regardless of fit, spreading themselves thin and failing to do the ONE THING that can actually move the needle on this whole process.
Though there will always be a lot of uncertainty inherent in College Admissions, the fact remains that ultimately, the decisions are still made by people. We’ve been saying this for over a decade. In that time, technology has advanced, applications have changed, tests have been overhauled…and yet, there remains one constant in the Admissions and Scholarship Process. It’s that with the right strategy – and more importantly – with the right execution of that strategy, your child can positively influence the outcome.
From an admissions standpoint, please understand that nearly all colleges will be rejecting legions of qualified applicants – MANY of whom would have been admitted just a few years back.
In fact, back when most of today’s parents were applying to college, it was rare for a school (even the Ivies) to accept fewer than 20% of its applicants. Today, there are many schools with single digit admit rates! And they are all ‘proudly’ setting (and celebrating) new record low acceptance rates. And many, many more will admit between 10 and 20% of applicants, including schools you might not expect.
This is happening despite the fact that overall college enrollment reached its peak in 2011.
This news shouldn’t surprise any of our clients or our readers– we’ve been reporting on and preparing our students for these type of long odds for 17 years.
One irony is that while college admissions has become increasingly competitive, the tuition discount rate (the amount of institutional grant and scholarships offered to admitted students) has reached a record high of 56%, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). Yes, that means that we expect most of our students to pay LESS than half of the published price for their college education (which can equate to literally tens of thousands of dollars).
These types of outcomes and opportunities do not happen without a proactive and strategic effort. For years, we’ve emphasized the importance of niche positioning when it comes to standing out in a crowded Admissions and funding process. That’s because despite the mania, the college process remains a very ‘personal’ one, managed by real people who are moved by emotion and subtleties that are not reflected in scores, GPA or class rank. What separates two seemingly identical students on paper are intangibles – what we call an ‘X’ Factor.
In our practice, we develop an individualized and targeted Admissions strategy for each of our families. During high school this allows the student to shut out the noise and work on their plan…and when the time comes, they resist the pressure to defensively submit applications to ‘cover their bases’ and instead focus on building their case before a list of 8-10 schools that we know will consider their value (be it academically, socially or even geographically) and be capable of meeting the entire family’s needs.
The truth is that while there is now more information available than ever – including various school rankings, net cost calculators, ROI estimates, etc., the process is becoming more daunting and confusing than ever. This need not be the case for you and your students. There are 4000 universities and many right options for each child and budget. The goal is to identify those that meet your family’s needs and implement a strategy well before your child hits submit on their first application.
In just over a month, we’ll begin our summer Application Bootcamp for rising 12th graders (current 11th graders). In that 6-week program we will be working with each student to fine-tune their college lists and admissions strategy, create a killer college application and write a unique essay that will ensure that their application gets the attention it deserves. Every single student who participates is guaranteed a submit-ready college application prior to the beginning of 12th grade.
This is the 17th year we’ve offered this program and past students who have participated have been able to receive their first ‘yes’s’ early in the Fall. You can click here to see our 6-week syllabus and/or to register your 11th grader. Note – this class is guaranteed for our Platinum and Gold clients and it does fill up – we usually have a wait-list so if you’re interested, reserve your student’s place today.
P.S. One way you can judge the results of our program is by the number of options our students get to choose among. So with our heartfelt congratulations to our seniors and their families, here is a sampling of the places our students are heading next fall.
Babson College Brandeis University College of Charleston Cornell University
Dartmouth College Elon University Embry Riddle Emerson College
Florida Atlantic – Wilkes Honors College Florida Institute of Technology
Florida International University Florida Polytechnic Florida Southern
Florida State University Georgia Tech Indiana University Marist McGill University
New York University North Carolina State Notre Dame Nova Southeastern University
Ohio State Penn State Purdue University Reed College Skidmore College
Southern Methodist University Texas A&M University of Central Florida University of Florida University of Illinois University of Maryland University of Miami University of Michigan University of Pennsylvania University of South Florida Virginia Tech Wellesley College