College Admissions More Complex Than Ever, Pt. 1

The process of getting into college has changed dramatically in a very short time. With the introduction of the Common Application, applications to colleges have skyrocketed. Applications to the prestigious schools increased last year by an estimated 7 percent. In a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the median acceptance rates dropped 10 percent at private, nonprofit 4-year colleges and 7 percent at public schools from 2001-2008. In this type of environment, with students competing for acceptance into most schools, statements that a high school counselor might make to students such as “If you’re unsure about what you want to do, register as “undecided” and you can wait to declare a major at the end of your sophomore year.” Or, “don’t worry so much about making a mistake in your college choice. If it doesn’t work out, you can transfer.” Or, “let’s not worry about money. Let’s worry about getting in and we’ll work out a financial package later.” Once good advice, it may no longer be valid.

Several factors have caused the change. Most obvious is the skyrocketing cost of a college education combined with deep cuts in financial aid. More subtle influences are the effects of the depressed economy on student choices and an over-supply of people in certain career fields. It is paramount to understand these circumstances when applying to colleges.