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Why Has It Become So Much Harder To Get Into Colleg?

jc40jc40 Registered User Posts: 1,622 Senior Member
edited March 2010 in College Admissions
Why has it become SO much harder to get into college now than when I was going through this process in the 80's, and does anyone else share my frustration?

My D has done most everything she can possibly do in high school to secure a CHANCE at a few of the top schools and have choices to numerous others. She has the perfect GPA at a rigorous prep school, 11 APs (all 5s), 2250 SAT, tons of awards, ECs, leadership positions, summer research and internships, etc., etc. I feel confident she would have been able to essentially almost have her pick 20 years ago, but now, I'm not so sure. What has happened to the college admission process over the past two decades? With the economy and $50,000 price tags, at the very least, one would assume applicantions to some pricey private schools would have diminished causing less competition, but that seemingly doesn't appear true. Is anyone else amazed and bewildered at the number of applications, qualified applicants, and individuals who can afford the fee or willing to incur debt?
Post edited by jc40 on

Replies to: Why Has It Become So Much Harder To Get Into Colleg?

  • PeaPea Registered User Posts: 2,387 Senior Member
    I share your perception. My only explanation is the outreach places like Harvard have done, they go to inner cities to recruit applicants. That is one difference from what it was like 20 years ago.
  • GardnaGardna Registered User Posts: 1,013 Senior Member
    Well, kids apply to 5, 10, 15, or even 20 or more colleges at a time. This multiplies the already high number of high school graduates applying to school. Things like common application and free online applications make it even easier to apply to college; you can create one application and apply to the entire Ivy League without doing any extra work.

    Getting into a college actually isn't that hard. If you're focusing on those top-tier, Ivy League schools, then yeah it's a lot more challenging since there are less than 2,000 students admitted out of the nearly 25,000 who apply each year. State schools, by contrast, are much less difficult to be admitted to but not every student is interested in that option for many reasons (prestige, better financial aid opportunities, a well-respected specific academic program, etc.) While college admissions had undoubtedly become more competitive, the perception that one must go to the Ivy League or another highly prestigious university makes competition for those few slots even more rigorous.


    The economy actually doesn't make college admissions less competitive. With less money, people are more likely to go to school who give better financial aid to more people, and that's usually the top colleges with the largest endowments. In some cases, going to Harvard might actually be cheaper than going to George Mason or the University of Florida for families with significant need.
  • rockvillemomrockvillemom Registered User Posts: 7,091 Senior Member
    I share your frustration, but want to add some perspective. I work in a high school college counseling ofice and get to witness the college process for over 100 students every year. The kids below the top 10% of the class apply to 6-8 schools on average and do well - many have 4-5 acceptances to choose from. The top 10% of the kids is primarily where the angst and drama come in. They are all applying to the same 20 schools. They are competing with so many students from so many schools across the country - for the same 20 schools. It's like a pyramid and there just isn't that much room at the top.

    The economy has had less of am impact than people anticipated. Full pay students certainly have an edge - and although it surprises me as well - there are plenty of them out there. I also see more of the top kids applying to more schools. When the list includes HYP, they typically add Tufts, Duke, Vanderbilt, etc. Applying to 15-20 schools is not uncommon, and as a result, so many students are WL.

    So, I share your frustration. The advice we give to our students is to look beyond the top 20 schools. Look for schools that are still well known and respected - but just a little lower on USN&WR - plenty of good choices to be found.
  • ib612ib612 Registered User Posts: 447 Member
    the reason its more competitive to get into college is because many of those not suited for college or simply unqualified go, and it thus upsets the whole system from the bottom up

    and its becoming more difficult to get a high SAT score as well. Since its scored on the normal model, they are either making the questions more difficult or requiring more right answers to get a higher score to keep the normal distribution; this is so because many people are studying for the SAT a lot and taking it multiple times. Before the SAT actually used to gauge reasoning capabilities, now it just tests how much and how well you have studied for it.
  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 Registered User Posts: 2,474 Senior Member
    Outreach and the commitment of schools such as Harvard to diversity is certainly part of the reason. So is the availability of significant, loan-free financial aid at many of the elite colleges and universities. There are tens of thousands of students from the middle class and disadvantaged background who are taking a chance on the Ivies and their peers who a generation ago would not have dared to think that high. For those from more privileged backgrounds -- and I am not saying kids who are coming from private prep schools necessarily come from privileged families -- it is indeed harder to get into HYPS, etc. today than it was in 1980.
  • qialahqialah Registered User Posts: 1,899 Senior Member
    There is also a big increase in highly qualified international students.
This discussion has been closed.