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Isn't College Admission supposed to be Getting Less Competitive?


Replies to: Isn't College Admission supposed to be Getting Less Competitive?

  • bclintonkbclintonk Registered User Posts: 7,311 Senior Member
    700+ SAT CR: 2012 62% / 2016 71%
    700+ SAT M: 2012 65% / 2015 73%
    30+ ACT: 2012 72% / 84%

    700+ SAT CR: 2012 62% / 2016 69%
    700+ SAT M: 2012 73% / 2016 77%
    30+ ACT: 2012 80% / 2016 89%

    700+ SAT CR: 2012 64% / 2016 70%
    700+ SAT M: 2012 72% / 2016 80%
    30+ ACT: 2012 86% / 2016 87%

    That certainly looks more competitive on the face of it.
  • turtle17turtle17 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    as someone who has written "flight to quality", I endorse writing "flight to perceived quality" instead. The "flight" is to things where the quality can readily be perceived - stats of admitted students, name recognition, visible resources, etc.
  • ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,610 Senior Member
    edited July 14
    @bclintonk -
    That certainly looks more competitive on the face of it.

    This is somewhat of an illusion. Based on the links provided in post #212, you will see the following distribution of ACT scores for 2012 and 2016.

    Score _____2012_____2016____Change_____% Change
    30_______36,676____45,914 _____9,238__________25%
    Total____ 117,986___173,322____55,336__________47%

    Between 2012 and 2016, the pool of high (30+) test scores has increased by 47 percent, or a whopping 55,000+ students.

    Someone else on CC posted the following list of schools ranked by average ACT score. To give you an idea of the scale of test score inflation, one could fill the top 39 schools in the country (about 51,000 slots) with just the increase in high 30+ test scorers shown in the table above.

    Rank Slots College ACT
    1 230 California Institute of Technology 34-35
    2 220 Harvey Mudd College 33-35
    2 1111 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 33-35
    4 1300 Columbia University 32-35
    4 1600 Harvard University 32-35
    4 1300 Princeton University 32-35
    4 980 Rice University 32-35
    4 1500 University of Chicago 32-35
    4 1600 Vanderbilt University 32-35
    10000 slots

    10 1300 Johns Hopkins University 32-34
    10 2000 University of Notre Dame 32-34
    10 1600 Washington University in St. Louis 32-34
    13 1700 Stanford University 31-35
    13 1300 Yale University 31-35
    15 470 Amherst College 31-34
    15 1300 Brown University 31-34
    20000 slots

    15 1550 Carnegie Mellon University 31-34
    15 1750 Duke University 31-34
    15 350 Haverford College 31-34
    15 2800 Northeastern University 31-34
    15 2000 Northwestern University 31-34
    15 2500 University of Pennsylvania 31-34
    30000 slots

    15 550 Williams College 31-34
    15 500 Bowdoin College 31-34
    25 475 Hamilton College 31-33
    26 250 Cooper Union 30-34
    26 3300 Cornell University 30-34
    26 1100 Dartmouth College 30-34
    26 1600 Georgetown University 30-34
    30 400 Pomona College 30-34
    40000 slots

    31 2000 Boston College 30-33
    31 1200 Case Western Reserve University 30-33
    31 800 Colgate University 30-33
    31 3000 Georgia Institute of Technology 30-33
    31 400 Grinnell College 30-33
    31 1200 Tufts University 30-33
    31 3000 University of Southern California 30-33
    50000 slots

    31 660 Vassar College 30-33
    31 450 Washington and Lee University 30-33
    40 400 Swarthmore College 29-34
    40 6500 University of California—Berkeley 29-34
    42 500 Carleton College 29-33
    42 350 Claremont McKenna College 29-33
    60000 slots

    44 1400 Emory University 29-33
    44 200 Reed College 29-33
    44 7100 University of Michigan—Ann Arbor 29-33
    44 3700 University of Virginia 29-33
    70000 slots

    44 600 Wellesley College 29-33
    44 700 Middlebury College 29-33
    44 1400 University of Rochester 29-33
    44 700 Wesleyan University 29-33
    75000 slots
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    From all the takes on the various data, it does seem that the basic math of the competition for top school admission has leveled off -- the flight to quality has mostly already happened; the big increase in the percentage of U.S. kids going to college has mostly already happened; the number of internationals joining the pool has leveled off. As the admissions guy from ND put it, you've got about 50,000 high stat kids chasing about 15,000 seats available to them at the top 15 or so schools.

    While you can flyspeck and line-draw those numbers differently if you want to, there probably isn't a real driver that will make the ratio of high stat kids to seats any worse in the coming years. If it is something like 15/50 today, I can't see a reason why it would move to be 15/75 in the next five years.

    But since the 15/50 ratio is so tough, the game is still very much on and escalating among the 50k working very hard to get into the 15k. Which could explain the increasing test scores and why 35 ACT is the new 34.
  • IWannaHelpIWannaHelp Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    Where are these data coming from? The ACT range should be 32-34 for Northwestern.


    Northeastern has rather unbalanced scores; its ACT range is almost as high as Northwestern's but its SAT range is noticeably lower. One may want to look at both.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 858 Member
    "As the admissions guy from ND put it, you've got about 50,000 high stat kids chasing about 15,000 seats available to them at the top 15 or so schools."

    The top-15 schools would have about 30k-40 seats, unless you're you mean 50,000 high stat kids chasing unhooked slots, which could be 15,000 seats, but that assumes that 50% of the class is hooked, which I'm not sure is the case.
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    edited July 16
    You should look it up yourself before flyspecking the guy, who obviously should know exactly what he's talking about..

    Posted again:


    Check out minutes 3 through 10. That's about the best single summary/presentation on the top end of the admissions market I've seen.

    His conclusion is you've got about 50k high stat kids trying to chase 15k seats WHICH ARE AVAILABLE TO THEM. Because about one third of the 25k seats in the top 15 go to kids for reasons other than high stats.

    After you've taken a look, tell us what part of his data set you think is in error.

  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    The money slide in the ND presentation is at 5:30.
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    "The top-15 schools would have about 30k-40 seats"

    I don't see where you get the numbers on that. 15 times an average of 2k frosh per school would get you to 30k.

    But of the top top 15 being referred to by the ND guy, only Cornell takes in 3,000 frosh per year. Penn is just under 2500. ND and NW are right at 2,000 freshman a year. Every other school is under 2,000 with some well below that size.

  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 858 Member
    Cornell admitted 6300 (which I'm assuming is what you mean by seats) with 3300 enrolling (or is the definition of seats)
    Northwestern, admitted 3500, 2000 enrolled
    Notre Dame, 3700, 2050
    Penn, 3700, 2500
    JHU 3200/1300
    Duke 3600/1750
    MIT 1500/1100
    Stanford 2000/1600
    Cal Tech 550/235

    The other ivies are about 2K each with 1600 enrolling. So the top-15 will give out 40,000 acceptances, and with one third to hooks, would give about 27K for high stats. They'll enroll 25K so 1/3 of that is 17K, so I see how you got the 15K.

    But I thought we were talking about the 27K number.
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    Seats are enrollment. Since each kid can only attend one college. Although some kids will get an admittance to multiple top colleges.

    Admit rates and yields can be influenced by lots of factors, and does not necessarily directly reflect the competitiveness of the market. The ratio of highly qualified kids to available seats would seem to be the fundamental driver of the market.
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 1,672 Senior Member
    As the cost of college continues to increase at well above increases in inflation, I think there will continue to be an increasing number of high stats kids of full pay parents who either determine the cost is not worth it or find there is an inability to pay.
  • turtle17turtle17 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    The reason I think this problem hasn't hit yet, and don't predict it will in the future is this. Very roughly 50% of the kids at the top 15 or so schools get financial aid, usually so that it doesn't cost more to go there than anywhere else. So 50% of their market is set through financial aid. It isn't obvious from what is published what fraction of the other 50% are really in the "donut hole" of being somewhat too well off for any or much financial aid, but not so well off that the difference between 70k a year and say 30k a year isn't a lot. My completely random guess is that half of the no financial aid group are well enough off that 40k year isn't an issue. So that leaves 25% of the students in the donut hole. I'm not sure that's enough to really drive things. Already that group is the central target of state flagships and merit programs. And many of the top 15 schools could shift more money to fin aid or tweak their systems if they needed to. So I don't see the arms race of students aiming for the top 15 changing any time soon.
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 1,672 Senior Member
    There are significant numbers of kids with stats, educational backgrounds/goals, ECs, etc. who would otherwise be good candidates for "elite" schools who do not apply to any such schools for financial reasons. No doubt most of these kids would not gain admission (as is true with any unhooked candidate). But presumably some would. There are also kids who do apply, gain admission but do not attend for financial reasons. Not sure I have seen any data tracking that (nor do I think that would be easy data to track/gather).

    But those kids exist today. And as college costs continue to rise faster than inflation, again I expect to see more kids/families in that situation. I have already seen families with older siblings going to "elite" schools but with younger siblings in that same family (with similar stats/resumes and sometimes better ones than older siblings and families in the same or sometime in better financial positions) being told the "elites" are off the table for financial reasons. And as income distributions are bell curves, the lower income levels that begins to say no for financial reasons will mean more families saying no than did so at the higher income levels.

    You are talking about families who do not think that $160,000 after tax dollars is a lot. And that is on top of $120,000 in after tax dollars. And now factor in multiple kids. From everything I know, there are a significant number of families for whom that is too much. Increase the after tax dollars necessary at a rate faster than a lot of incomes are increasing and it seems to me that the number of families for whom it is too much will only increase. How many families are we talking about and how much of an impact will that have on colleges? I don't know (not sure anyone does). Though I suspect those lower down the "elite" ladder will be impacted first.

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