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College Admissions: Most Outrageous Hidden Stats For Class of ‘17

Saturday, June 01, 2013


The latest statistics from this season's college admissions reveal some compelling trends--particularly about early admission.

I don’t think most parents or students are surprised anymore when Harvard and Yale post all-time low acceptance rates of just over 5 and 6 percent respectively. What might shock families however are the numbers that appear when you pull back the covers on the class of 2017 admissions. Some of the statistics are shocking.

Overloaded Waiting Lists

Case Western Reserve in Cleveland offered 5,515 students a spot on their waiting list for an entering freshman class of about 1,000 students. How many have they typically taken off the waiting list in past years? About 400. They wait-list about twelve times as many students as they will ultimately accept. Emory wait-listed more than 4,000 students this year for a class of just over 1,800. Last year, a lucky 133 students were granted acceptances from that list. In Hartford, Trinity College put almost 2,000 applicants in a waiting mode for what is likely to be a class of less than 600 freshmen.

Why do colleges do this when they know they will only take a tiny percentage? There are a variety of reasons, but two seem to dominate. First, waiting lists are a great public relations tool. Rather than denying the children of alumni or “friends” of large donors, colleges will put students on the waiting list. This leaves families and counselors with that “well, they almost got in” feeling. The second reason is finances. While it would be nice to think that colleges are need blind throughout the entire admissions process, that isn’t the case. Even many of the wealthiest colleges in the country will admit that by the time they get down to the waiting list, there often isn’t any financial aid left. That means that although they might prefer to admit a student with need because of his/her qualifications, they are often forced to admit full pay students at the end of the admission cycle.

Applying Early is Your Best Bet

Holy Cross (MA) accepted 67 percent of students who applied early decision for the class of 2017, but just 27 percent of students who applied regular decision. At Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the top scientific research schools in the country, 57 percent of early action applicants were accepted, but just 18 percent of regular decision students were admitted. Wesleyan sent 41 percent of early decision applicants an acceptance letter, while just 17 percent of regular decision applicants garnered a spot in the entering class. The Middletown, CT school followed a growing trend among competitive liberal arts colleges, holding TWO rounds of early decision: one in November and another in January. This meant that less than half the seats at Wesleyan still remained for regular decision applicants. These early percentage statistics are somewhat deceiving because a high number of recruited athletes and VIP donor children are accepted in the early rounds.

Nevertheless, there is still a significant advantage to apply early at many schools. Unless you have horrible junior year grades, it just makes sense to apply early action to colleges that offer the option. However, since students can only apply to one school early decision and it is binding, they must be certain of their first choice and know if the college is likely meet their financial aid needs.

While these numbers are shocking, they serve as a broader lesson for families with college-bound students: information is critical in making wise decisions. The data is out there; it’s simply that most students and parents don’t dive in and explore the facts before they chart their course in the college admission process. The more you learn, the better decisions you can make to yield the highest number of acceptances and options.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


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