College Admissions Statistics 2011: The Meaning Behind the Numbers

By Purvi S. Mody

college admissions statistics 2011Over the next few weeks, official college results will become public and much discussion about the difficulty of getting into college will ensue. Each year seems more competitive than the last when it comes to reviewing the college admissions statistics. The quality of applicants seems to be rising to superstar levels. And debates around the fairness of admitting more international, low-income, and disadvantaged students will occur.

Current high school seniors now have the enormous task of choosing the right school. But high school juniors and their parents are now just in the nascent stages of planning for college.  I hope this article will bring a little peace of mind to all families.

The reality is that admissions to the country’s most selective universities are exactly that – selective. I don’t really think it is a surprise that six of the eight Ivy League schools have acceptance rates in the single digits. But when was it ever “easy” to get into Harvard? Cornell accepted almost 18% of its applicants, and Columbia accepted 22 more students than it did last year. UCLA continued to lead the nation in number of applications received with more than 61,000, yet it accepted more than 15,000 students. Its acceptance rate climbed up 2.5.% in a year when most schools are quoting significant drops.

The hype will focus on the most well-known schools. But there are more than 2,000 four-year colleges in the US alone. Some are still accepting applications for the Fall! This is good news for students that might have overreached when applying in the Fall and are still looking for options for next year. This is also important for families of Juniors to know. If you are open-minded and think beyond brand, the opportunities are potentially unlimited. But what do the numbers really mean?

The number of high school students graduating is not going up.

The number of graduates applying to college is. And students are applying to more and more schools each year. I imagine that trend will continue next year.

More international students are applying to colleges in the US.

And while many international students used to only apply to the most prestigious schools, that is no longer the case. These students see value in a degree from the United States and are now applying to a range of schools. Schools that are particularly strong in engineering, business, and the sciences are the most popular.

The number of minority students continues to increase.

More students from diverse backgrounds are applying to four-year programs as outreach and financial aid programs are becoming more effective.

There is no substitute for strong grades.

This year, more than any other year, has proven that GPA is king. So Juniors – keep those grades up and create a college list that is ambitious yet realistic based on your grades.

Being involved in extra-currucilar activities is crucial.

Being involved in your community through service, sports, clubs, music, or simply hobbies shows who you are outside of academics. This is very important to colleges because it demonstrates what you will contribute to the campus community. But this involvement should not come at the sacrifice of academics.

Test scores, while important, cannot completely off-set a lower GPA.

Balance your tests and the time you spend on them. The SAT tends to get overemphasized in certain geographies. But remember that a high SAT score means nothing if the rest of your application is just mediocre.

Letters of recommendations from your teachers and counselor should not be taken lightly.

Make sure you are building strong relationships with school faculty and administrators now. They are real people so treat them as such – with respect. Complaining about every minor thing will not bode well for you down the road.

Whether you are a high school student or a parent, remember one thing:  Where you go to college only determines the exact opportunities available to you.  If you did not get into you desired schools this year because you just did not have the muster for it, take this as a lesson and work hard over the next four years. And if you did get into your dream school, whichever school that might be, don’t get complacent. You will have to continue to work hard to pursue your long term goals.

College admissions statistics will always seem bleak, but those numbers should not define your destiny.

Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the country and internationally to achieve their educational goals. Get in touch with her via email at or follow her on Twitter @InsightEduc.

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