NACAC member Nicholas Soodik has seen the trend with his own eyes.
As college acceptance rates have declined over the last decade, many students feel compelled to apply to more and more colleges. The shift has changed the application process for college-bound teens, and not necessarily for the better, Soodik noted in a recent column published by Inside Higher Ed.
“Students have to balance being successful high school seniors while working on college applications, many of which include supplemental writing sections,” writes Soodik, assistant director of college counseling at The Pingree School (MA). “The applications add stress, and we live in a cultural moment when anxiety diagnoses, rates of depression, and sleep deprivation among teens are rising. We ought to worry about how college applications contribute to these problems.”
More than a third of first-year freshmen applicants now apply to seven or more colleges, according to data from NACAC’s State of College Admission report.
The national average acceptance rate for first-time freshmen across all four-year institutions in the US was 66.1 percent for the fall 2015 admission cycle, data show. The most selective four-year colleges—defined as those accepting less than half of all students—received 37 percent of all applications, but enrolled only 22 percent of all first-time undergraduate students.
“As acceptance rates go down, students feel less comfortable with their chances of admission and grow compelled to send out more applications,” Soodik explained. “Rising tuition costs also force applicants with financial need to shop for aid offers at more schools. The cycle becomes self-propagating and the ultimate winners are the schools, not the students.”
His advice to students? Stay motivated and focus on the big picture.
“Students should know that the investment they are making is not in a college but in themselves,” Soodik noted. “Their educations are far more determined by their own efforts than by the colleges that admit them.”
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