Jay Mathews: College NOT Harder to Get into (Wash. Post)

<p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/01/AR2007050100673.html?hpid=topnews%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/01/AR2007050100673.html?hpid=topnews&lt;/a> </p>

<p>Believe it or not.</p>

<p>Thank you.</p>

<p>That is one of the most important college admissions articles written in years.</p>

<p>For those without access to the Post, Matthews cites statistics that the number of acceptance letters from the top 30 most selective schools has increased just as fast as the growth in the number of applicants. The reason people believe admissions is tougher is that the number of applications (not applicants) has skyrocketed. To borrow his example. If you send five applications and get accepted to 2 schools you draw a different conclusion about admissions difficulty than if you send 10 applications and get accepted to the same 2 schools. Even though the perception is different, nothing has really changed.</p>

<p>I have been wondering for months (years?) about the actual number of unduplicated applicants; to the Ivy's, in particular, as that seems to be the subset where many kids apply to all at once as if they were interchangeable. Not sure if the Carey article totally gives me that information, but it points in the direction.</p>

<p>The author is correct to a certain extent. However, he cites that there are 8.4% more applicants and 8% more fat envelopes. The increase in the number of fat envelopes is because people are applying to more colleges so average yield rate should go down (students would have more choices in April, but can only accept one of them). Take an extreme example: if everyone applies to only one school, the yield rate must be 100%. To account for the decrease in yield, more acceptances must be given out.</p>

<p>That said, there is still 8.4% more applicants but not that many more spots. Admissions is still harder.</p>

<p>Sorry, the article is incorrect. It assumes the increased number of acceptances are randomly distributed across the applicant population. They are not. So the number of students with at least one acceptance to a selective school (which is the only relevant statistic since they can only attend one) has not increased proportionate to the total applicant population, and admissions is consequently harder.</p>

<p>(To illustrate, if the increased number of acceptances were all sent to students already admitted to a selective school, the numerator (#students admitted to selective schools) would not change while the denominator (total # students) would increase, and thus the fraction of admitted students/total students would decrease.)</p>

<p>I-dad, based on your "recommendation" of the article, I clicked on the link. To be truthful, I was wondering what could have happened to ol' Jay for him to pen an article worthy of his august readership. </p>

<p>Unfortunately, I have to disagree with your endorsement, as I consider the article to be of Jay's typical quality, which is abysmal </p>

<p>For what it is worth, since every application --and every admission-- at ONE school is unique, the number of non-unique applications is not relevant when a student ascertains HIS or HER chance of admission at THAT school. And THAT is what people are interested in!</p>

<p>Further, the relevance of the total number of the Barron's 30 or 60 most selective schools is particularly poor. Replacing a small LAC by a mega public university could skew the numbers from one year to another. Did Jay or his friend control the composition of the Barron's list?</p>

<p>Jay is still the same!</p>

<p>Good point, drb, but I'm not sure that it doesn't correct back to what Mathews proposes. The student who once would have applied to five schools and gotten into two, now applies to ten. As you point out, such a student doesn't necessarily still get into two. Some are getting into four or more, leaving others who apply to ten with nothing but rejections and waitlists. But ultimately, the applicant with four acceptances can only attend one, so s/he chooses one and turns down the other three, which then go to their waitlists, taking students away from lesser institutions until the acceptances are, more or less, finally randomly distributed.</p>

<p>I keep hearing people say that it isn't actually harder to get into schools but then I remember the admitted stats for schools like the UC's and Cal States over the past five years and I think that the admitted students' GPA's have all gone up, as have test scores and number of AP/honors, etc. From what I have seen (and i have seen a lot of transcripts the past five years), it IS harder to get into the same schools than it was just a few short years ago, at least in California. If we go back ten or twelve years ago, there is no contest. This subject seems to one of those where the statistics don't consistently paint a clear picture one way or the other. Maybe the IVY's are the same: ridiculously hard and not applicable to the majority of college bound seniors.</p>

But ultimately, the applicant with four acceptances can only attend one, so s/he chooses one and turns down the other three, which then go to their waitlists, taking students away from lesser institutions until the acceptances are, more or less, finally randomly distributed.


Only if they actually go that far down the waitlist. We'd have to have the data re whether class sizes (averaged over all the selective schools) have increased proportionate to the applicant population. Its in the CDSs if someone has even more time to waste on CC than we already do.</p>

<p>Demographics is a big part of the answer. Each year for the past decade there has been an increase of 50,000 to 100,000 18-year olds in the U.S., thanks to the huge baby boomer generation. Assuming the same percentage of 18-year olds apply to college each year, and that new colleges aren't springing up, college admissions ARE getting more difficult, and will continue this way until 2009. Just look up U.S. birth (vital) statistics from, say 1980 - 1992. (I haven't figured in foreign applicants.)</p>

<p>The article contains one shocking piece of information: colleges' yield models have improved so little in 4 years that 18 percent more applicants are getting 8 percent more letters. What are they paying all those consultants for?</p>


<p>Doesn't that assume the data to be correct?</p>