Another Tough Year for College Admissions


It was another tough year for college admissions. Admission rates at competitive colleges were more selective than ever. Stanford and Harvard had record-breaking years of 5-6% acceptance rates. Yale, Princeton, and MIT had acceptance rates of 7-8%; and colleges including UCLA, UC Berkeley, and USC accepted less than one in five students with acceptance rates at 17-18%. What does all this mean for students applying to colleges in today’s highly competitive environment? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. There are many excellent colleges that go beyond the traditional “brand” name colleges that students should really look at. Applying to colleges should be about fit rather than “brand” name.
  2. In finding a college that is a good fit, students should align their passions and interests with the strength of a college’s department. For example, if a student wants to become a civil engineer, he or she should find colleges with strong civil engineering programs. Or if a student enjoys art, he or she should find colleges with strong art departments, and so on. It’s important to find colleges that have strengths in your area of interest.
  3. If your college list is aligned with some of the highly competitive colleges, then it’s important to follow the colleges’ admissions criteria closely. The strength of your curriculum and the performance in your coursework will be a top priority, followed closely by your SAT or ACT score; but, great scores are usually never enough to get you into a highly competitive college. You will need to focus on leadership, depth of involvement, service, and a compelling hook, to name a few, to gain admissions. It’s about being successful both inside and outside of the classroom in remarkable ways.

Applying to college these days can seem overwhelming with so many college choices, and the competitive nature of numerous colleges. Also, students are applying to more colleges than ever, and broadening their reach. To be successful in the college admissions process, realize it’s important to find colleges that are a good fit for you, rather than focusing on a “brand” name university; find colleges that are aligned with your passions and career goals. If your goal is to get into one of the most competitive colleges in the country, then realize you will need to become successful both inside and outside of the classroom, and you will need to have unique qualities that will set you apart from the highly competitive applicant pool.

Dr. Jeff & Dr. Brian Haig
The Experts in College Planning and Student Success

Photo by yuheitomi on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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