Admission Trends & Applications: Increasing Applications & The Impact on Applicants

In 2018, there are 3 interconnected trends in college applications: a greater number of applications per student, a lower yield rate for colleges, a greater emphasis on soft factors like demonstrated interest, and more opportunities for nontraditional students. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the number of college applications increase across the US. Much of this is due to two factors: 1. Universal applications (like the Common Application) allow students to apply to more colleges each cycle with less effort, increasing the total amount of applications overall as the number of traditional applicants in America plateaus. 2. Colleges are increasing student recruitment, including from nontraditional applicant pools like international and transfer applicants. Students who apply to a greater number of colleges, as we see enabled now, are more likely to get into more schools than applicants previously, decreasing the chance that any given applicant will choose any given school upon acceptance. Thus, with an easier application system and more admissions offers per student, the average yield rate of accepted applicants into the incoming class has dropped with admission rates. As a greater number of applications overall increases competitiveness and accepted student yield becomes more unpredictable, waitlists and high-yield nontraditional applicants have been reengaged in the application process to compensate when colleges don’t have a high enough accepted student yield to fill their freshman class.

However, colleges prefer not to use their waitlist, and soft factors like your college essay and demonstrated interest become more important as a proxy for how committed an applicant is to attendance. With many students applying to 6 or more colleges, it’s increasingly beneficial to show admission committees some level of commitment to attending upon acceptance (in turn increasing the overall potential yield rate as more students commit upon acceptance). The best way to show demonstrated interest is to apply early (particularly through early decision) and visit the college campus, which helps students write more compelling and informed “Why X College” supplements.

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