Some Perspective on Getting Into College

Admissions office representing reality of getting into collegeYou know getting into college must be tough when some of the highest achieving high schools are experiencing suicide clusters. It’s not really that surprising given what you hear in the popular media. Come April 1st every year, you would think that most high school students don’t have a chance of getting into their first choice college.¬†All you hear is how few students colleges are accepting into their freshman classes and the despair of the worthy students and their families.

I have a database of over 1,500 four-year institutions with 500 or more full-time graduates. Do you know how many of these only accepted 30% or less of their applicants in the Fall of 2013? 80. That’s five percent of all of the colleges.

A total of 291 colleges, less than 20% of the schools, accept 50% or fewer applicants.

Now there are those that argue that the top five percent colleges are really the only ones worth going to. But you might be surprised at some of the schools that show up on the list.

The list includes College of the Ozarks (13% admission rate) where students don’t pay tuition but work for their education.

Robert Morris University Illinois accepted only 21% of its applicants.

CUNY Lehman College made the list with its admission rate of 23%.

Texas Wesleyan University admitted 30% of applicants.

Obviously students who apply to these colleges aren’t the same ones mobbing Harvard and Stanford. But it is a reminder that selectivity isn’t everything.

Then there is the view that if you get into Harvard, you have to go. However, approximately one out every five students admitted actually choose not to attend. What’s wrong with them?

Now a 80% yield rate (percentage of admitted students who enroll) is impressive in anyone’s book given that the average is probably under 30% or so. But other colleges have a large percentage of students who are admitted and are happy to attend. University of Arkansas at Little Rock admitted 53% of applicants and 83% choose to attend and Dickinson State University admitted 49% and enrolled 80% of those accepted. The yield rate for those two universities was actually higher than that of Stanford, 76%, and MIT, 72%.

Am I suggesting that these colleges are peers to the top 20 listed in US News College rankings? No.

I’m saying that it’s not hard for most people to get into college. Most students actually get into their first choice.

Furthermore, selectivity or popularity alone are not the deciding factors for what is a desirable school. That means that there must be other factors involved in selecting a college. For some (okay, unfortunately many) it is ranking high in the US News College Rankings or some other variant of prestige.

However, once you start looking, there are plenty of indicators that national rankings are not the final verdict on education quality. As you begin to dig into the differences between colleges and figure out what’s important to you, you might find you actually have a very good chance at getting into the college that will provide you with the education you want.

For more about the odds of getting into the most highly ranked colleges, see Yes, It is Harder to Get Into Top Ranked Colleges.

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