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College admission trends, tips for fall 2010
Question: What admission trends did you notice this year, and how would you advise students based on what you have learned?
Answer: This was a tough year for students who applied both locally as well as across the country. Although one might think that with the economic crisis, fewer students would apply to private colleges, we saw just the opposite trend. Some schools like the University of Chicago, which did a major marketing blitz, saw their applicant numbers go up by 42 percent. Other schools where there was a notable increase in the number of students who applied were U Penn, with an 18 percent increase, as well as Duke and Princeton, which went up by 12 percent and 19 percent respectively. Perennial favorites such as Pomona and Williams saw their numbers climb by 10 percent, while other highly selective schools such as Harvard and Dartmouth were up by about 5 percent.
On the local front, I have never seen such sobering numbers coming out of the University of Washington. More students than ever before were either rejected or waitlisted. I think all of us working in college admissions were surprised to see highly capable students who previously would have been admitted turned down or waitlisted this year even though they had the required grades and scores. Philip A. Ballinger, Ph.D., director of undergraduate admissions, stated in a letter to college counselors: “The differences between many students who were admitted and many who were invited to the waitlist are miniscule and probably not academic in nature; i.e., some of the waitlisted students may be stronger academically than some of those admitted.”
I think only time will tell how far down the waitlist they will be able to go this year.
This year’s numbers also confirmed my belief that there is a substantial advantage to applying Early Decision or Early Action, as it may significantly increase your chances of being admitted. That being said, students need to be mindful of the fact that the ED candidates are often stronger students than the general pool and that it takes considerably more planning and forethought to be ready to apply by early November. ED candidates and their families need to know themselves well enough to decide if they can abide by never knowing where else they may have been accepted and if they might have received more financial aid or merit money at a different college. I never advise anyone to consider Early Decision unless he or she is absolutely certain that they want to attend that particular college, as there is no turning back if you are accepted unless they offer you a financial aid package that is unsustainable.
Lastly, I am noting that there were few surprises in the process. While students and their parents often hold out hope that their student might buck the odds and gain admittance to his/her stretch schools, it rarely happens. I would rather see a student apply to just a few stretch schools rather than waste his/her time and money throwing darts all over the map because “you just never know.” Even though students understood that it was a long-shot when they were pushing all those submit buttons on their computers back in December and January, repeated rejections in March and April feel like a kick in the stomach, nonetheless.
Joan Franklin is the owner of The College Source and can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.