Why Has College Admissions Become So Competitive? : Which Colleges Are the Most Selective?
The percentage of students offered admission to a college is a major factor in determining its selectivity. As the number of applications to a college increases, the admission rate decreases. Another key factor affecting selectivity at a given college is the academic strength of the applicant pool, since applicants tend to self-select when applying to certain colleges, especially some smaller ones, known for their academic rigor. Such schools may accept a higher percentage of those who apply because their applicant pools tend to be smaller and more uniformly strong. Both factors admission rate and strength of the applicant pool—help determine the difficulty of gaining admission to a particular school.
To simplify the discussion here, however, we define selectivity only in terms of admission rate, and define a selective college as one that has an admission rate of 50 percent or less. We further divide selective colleges into three categories—super-selective colleges (those admitting less than 20 percent of applicants), highly selective colleges (those admitting less than 35 percent of applicants), and very selective colleges (those that admit less than 50 percent of applicants). These are artificial boundaries, of course, and they don’t take into account the self-selection factor, but they give a sense of the relative difficulty of gaining admission. Even though more than two thousand four-year institutions of higher education in the United States admit 50 percent or more of those who apply (and most admit more than 80 percent), many students focus their attention on the hundred colleges that fall into one of the three groups defined as selective.
The students applying to selective colleges are the ones experiencing the crisis in college admissions. The crisis does not affect those applying to community colleges or those seeking admission to the many colleges that accept most or all of their applicants. Nevertheless, it is very real to those who are applying to selective colleges now or expect to apply in the next few years. If you are reading this book, you (or your child) may be one of them. Keep reading. Our book is designed to help you build a college list that is right for you and to help you submit strong applications. If you’ll be applying to less selective schools, please keep reading as well. Most of what we have to share in this book will help you too. All students face the challenges of identifying colleges that will be a good fit and then submitting well-crafted applications.
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