Mar 31, 2014

Early results from the Common Application

Now that dust is settling on a somewhat chaotic application season, folks at the Common App have begun crunching numbers to get more focus on the 754,545 “unique” applicants who registered with the system and submitted applications to 517 member institutions this year.

And some interesting “submission trends” between August 2013 and February 2014 have begun to emerge, including that glitches in the system appeared to have little or no impact on the quantity of applications submitted.  

In fact, the Common App has already seen a 13 percent increase over the number of applications received this time last year.

While final results won’t be available for a few more months, here are preliminary results from data received to-date by the Common Application:

  • 3.3 million applications were submitted through the Common App by February 2014
  • Individual applicants submitted an average of 4.4 applications each
  • 28.6% of the students submitting applications were first generation—neither parent with a 4-year degree
  • 55% of the applicants were female and 45% male
  • Over 9% were international and represented 203 countries, with China sending the most applications (36.1%) followed by India (6%) and Canada (4.5%)
  • Most applicants (72.9%) were enrolled in public schools, while less than 1% were homeschooled
  • Of the 91.5% of applicants who answered questions about race, 67.3% were white, 17.6% were Asian, and 9.7% were Black
  • A grand total of 1,763,180 Writing Supplements were submitted through this new component of the Common App
  • 12,161,337 recommendation forms have been submitted through the system—so far
  • December 31, 2013 was the single busiest day in Common App history with 412,265 individual logins and 154,903 applications submitted—the Common App received 5.2 forms per second before the clock struck midnight

As the Common App continues to get its house in order for the new year, about 30 colleges were approved by the Board for addition to the roster of member institutions (contracts are being negotiated and names haven’t been released yet).  Presumably a permanent executive director will be announced shortly, and plans are going forward to bring all technical functions in-house.

In the meantime, seniors are mulling over responses from what has been a strange year, counselors are readying final reports, colleges are deciding what their future relationship will be with the Common App, and the process is getting set to start all over again on August 1.

Mar 29, 2014

Stanford remains the most selective school in the country

Stanford University

While things may not have gone so well with the University of Dayton on Thursday, last night Stanford University retained bragging rights as the most selective school in the country.

Once again besting Harvard at a game the Crimson dominated for years, last night Stanford posted a 5.07 percent admit rate—the lowest in university history and the lowest in the county.

Stanford received a whopping 42,167 applications for the Class of 2018—8.6 percent over last year’s applications.  In December, 748 students were accepted through Stanford’s restrictive early action program.  And on Friday evening, an additional 1,390 applicants received highly coveted admit notices, while 958 students were offered the opportunity to sit on the waitlist.

According to Colleen Lim, director of undergraduate admission, fewer students were admitted this year because of an amazing increase in Stanford’s yield (percent of students accepting an offer admission) over the past four years.  

“Stanford’s reputation of excellence around the globe has most certainly impacted our application numbers,” Lim said to the Stanford Daily.
Last year at this time, Stanford’s admit rate dropped to 5.7 percent from 6.6 percent in 2012, and for the first time beat Harvard in terms of selectivity.  This year, Harvard not only experienced a drop in applications (34,295 from 35,023), but also increased its selectivity from 5.8 to 5.9 percent.

Although the competition to see which school can admit the lowest percent of applicants is not particularly attractive, make no mistake—these schools notice and care about what the others are doing. 

In fact, it’s a game driven by the desire to be Number One.  And it all supports the US News ranking machine top tier colleges love to hate.

While Stanford won the selectivity competition for the Class of 2018, the true test will come when numbers are tallied and final yield is computed. 

Harvard has traditionally boasted of a higher yield than Stanford, but even this difference is shrinking as more students elect to go west and reap the benefits of year-round sunshine.  And if relative yields get much closer, there may be some changes at the top of the US News rankings.

“I wonder how many of those admitted will accept Stanford's offer. After all, who wants to live in a farm with Spanish architecture and a bunch of ducks?  Eww…,” remarked a commenter on the Stanford Daily website.

Quite a few, evidently.

Disclaimer:  In 2006, the author’s son turned down an offer from Harvard to head west to Stanford, and he’s still there.

Mar 28, 2014

Waitlisted: welcome to admissions purgatory

Goucher College only accepted 1 student from the waitlist last year

For the admissions office, it’s called “hedge your bets.”

But for the applicant who has waited six months or more for a decision, the waitlist is likely to be a one-way ticket to nowhere.

And for an increasing number of students victimized by an enrollment management system designed to attract thousands of applications no one knows what to do with, all we can say is, “Welcome to admissions purgatory.”

It’s particularly frustrating for the subset of applicants who submitted early—Early Action, Restricted Early Action, Early Decision I or even Early Decision II—only to be shunted off to the waitlist.

You really have to want it to go through all that.

But hope springs eternal, and that’s why there are lotteries and waitlists.

For the most part, colleges are entirely unapologetic about using the dreams of waitlisted students to further enrollment goals focused on filling freshman classes with the best and brightest high school students.

After all, the waitlist is simply a tool used to shape a class profile that will be balanced between males and females, is geographically and racially diverse, meets legislated residency requirements, fills the needs of obscure departments or sports teams, and still covers some part of the college operating budget.

Waitlists aren’t usually prioritized or predictable. 

And quite often, schools advertising “needs blind” admissions quietly convert to “needs sensitive” when it comes to plucking a few lucky students from the list. Consequently, most bets are off for financial aid if you come through the waitlist.

In other words, there’s no ranking, no money, and really not much hope. 

And sometimes, the list is hardly more than a thinly disguised PR scam designed to keep agitated parents, alums, and other interested parties at arm’s length. 

Waitlisted is an uncomfortable place to be. If you’ve been accepted or rejected, at least your status is clear. But waitlisted is fuzzy.

Face it:  very few waitlisted students are eventually invited to the dance.

Here are some Common Data Set (CDS) statistics (Question C2) published by local colleges and universities for 2013-14:

University of Virginia
Waitlisted: 4,172  (2,606 accepted a position on the waitlist)
Admission offers: 185 (287 the previous year)

Christopher Newport University

Waitlisted: 1639 (524 accepted)
Admission offers: 137 (7 the previous year)

College of William & Mary
Waitlisted: 3196 (1474 accepted)
Admission offers: 96 (147 the previous year)

George Mason University
Waitlisted: 2228 (929 accepted)
Admission offers: 252 (158 the previous year)

University of Mary Washington
Waitlisted: 225 (81 accepted)
Admission offers: 55 (73 the previous year)

Virginia Commonwealth University
Waitlisted: 607
Admission offers: 1 (0 the previous year)

University of Richmond
Waitlisted: 4129 (1641 accepted)
Admission offers: 95 (13 the previous year)

Virginia Tech (2012-13 data)
Waitlisted:  2217 (1367 accepted)
Admission offers:  110 (241 the previous year)

Washington & Lee University

Waitlisted: 2261 (705 accepted)
Admission offers: 96 (89 the previous year)

American University
(2012-13 data)
Waitlisted: 1379 (92 accepted)
Admission offers: 0

George Washington University (2012-13 data)
Waitlisted: 2865 (722 accepted)
Admission offers: 26 (112 the previous year)

Johns Hopkins University
(2012-13 data)
Waitlisted: 2730 (2442 accepted)
Admission offers: 1 (19 the previous year)

Goucher College
Waitlisted: 160 (38 accepted)
Admission offers: 2 (20 the previous year)

Loyola University of Maryland
Waitlisted: 2504 (560 accepted)
Admission offers: 47 (177 last year)

Numbers vary by year depending on how accurately the admissions office pegged its “yield” or how desperate the need to control the composition of the freshman class. For colleges with unfilled seats after May 1st, the pool of waitlisted students is something like a candy jar from which they can pick and choose depending on needs and wants.

For most students, being waitlisted is more frustrating than simply being rejected. 

“There's no way around it,” commented Jeannine Lalonde, UVa senior assistant dean of admission. “This is probably the toughest decision to get from a school.”

A candidate who is denied admission to his or her first choice school is free to accept other offers. S/he can move on with his or her life. But a waitlisted candidate who really wants to attend a particular school is stuck in limbo.

Sure there are steps you can take to try to get off the list—write a letter, get another recommendation, meet with an admissions rep—but there is an emotional cost which must be factored in.

Is it worth it?

Sometimes, but not usually.

Mar 26, 2014

UVa admits 8,972 for Class of 2018

University of Virginia

Seconds after the admissions folks at the University of Virginia pushed the button releasing decisions on Friday night, the “regulars” on College Confidential began lighting up the discussion board.

“Accepted in-state after previously being deferred!” said one happy Virginian.  “Ahhhhhh I’m so happy!!!”

I can honestly say that I'm surprised,” exclaimed an out-of-state applicant.  “I didn't think that my essays were good at all.”

But the news wasn’t universally happy.
UVA wasn't my first choice, but it's definitely disappointing to get flat out rejected,” mused an applicant from Michigan.

And for those who thought there was no logic to the decisions, Jeannine Lalonde, senior assistant dean of admission (Dean J) was quick to point out, “We dedicate months to this process and arrive at decisions after collaboration and discussion.”

To give the decisions some context, Dean J posted preliminary numbers for this year and recommended that admissions junkies with a real “need to know” could research numbers as far back as 1977 on the webpage maintained by the UVa Office of Institutional Assessment.

But the simple comparison with 2013 is interesting enough. Last year at this time, UVa reported receiving 29,005 applications (this number tends to jump around a little) and made initial offers to 8,528 students.

For this year’s class, the total number of applications went up by seven percent to 31,042, with the number of in-state applicants increasing from 8,831 reported this time last year to 9,014.

But the bulk of the increase in applications came from out-of-state students who submitted a grand total of 22,028 applications.

To provide for a larger class size, the admissions increased offers to 8,972—about five percent more than last year. Of these offers, 3,903 went to Virginians (3,594 last year), and 5,069 went to out-of-state students (4,934 last year). Overall, the initial admission rate remained steady at about 29 percent.

According to information provided by UVa to the Common Data Set, 4,172 students were offered spots on the wait list last year, and 2,606 accepted the offer.  Of those students, 185 were eventually admitted.   

In any event, here are all the "unofficial" numbers released today by the UVa admissions office:

Total number of applications: 31,042 (up from 29,005 last year)
Total number of VA applications: 9,014 (up from 8,831 last year)
Total number of out-of-state applications: 22,028 (up from 20,174)

Overall offers:
8,972 (8,528 this time last year)
Total VA offers:  3,903 or 43.2% of resident applications (3,594/40.7% last year)
Total out-of-state offers:  5,069 or 23% of nonresident applications (4,934/24.5% last year)

The offers for nonresidents are higher because historic yield—or percent of students accepting offers—for nonresidents is generally lower.

Dean J also reports that the middle 50% SAT score for admitted students was 1970-2240 (ACT composite:  30-34). And 92.5 percent of the students receiving offers of admission were in the top 10 percent of their class.

 “Remember that your decision is not a statement about your value. Most of our applicants are qualified,” said Dean J on her blog. “The vast majority of the applicant pool is perfectly capable of doing the work at UVa. Our first-year class just isn't large enough to accommodate everyone.”