The Chore of Choosing Your College
by Neil Chandra on Friday, April 25th, 2014
As the May 1st deadline for responding to colleges approaches rapidly, seniors find themselves at a crossroads: for many, the upcoming decision will bring a sense of closure to the college process, while others must still navigate the treacherous waters of the waitlist.
For years, it was hardly a coincidence that May 1st was dubbed the unofficial start to senior spring. Especially for non-athletes, the last few months have been filled with late nights, college interviews, and plenty of anxiety,so the relief of receiving decisions has left many with some sense of closure. The end of the process, however, has become an increasingly unclear experience: with the rapid increase in the number of applications each student sends, the waitlist has played a far more relevant part within college decisions.
Part of this shift has been the result of the rapid increase in applications each student sends; with the same number of students applying to even more schools, waitlist decisions have become all the more relevant. According the Washington Post, of the 253,472 applications for the Class of 2018, the eight Ivy League institutions gave the green light to 22,624, yielding a total admit rate of 8.9 percent. Of course, these schools don’t perfectly reflect the process as a whole, but they do, however, provide a fairly good indication of the exponential shifts in the number of applications being sent. Only two of the eight Ivy League schools experienced decreases in their admission rates, the majority seeing a considerable rise in the number of applications sent.
The number of qualified candidates hasn’t increased at the same rate as the number of applications being sent, suggesting that students are sending out more applications than they would have even five years ago. According to Time Magazine, in 2000, only 9% of applicants applied to seven schools or more. Today, over one-third of applicants apply to seven schools or more. The developing online application platform, most specifically the Common Application, has lead to this dramatic increase in the per student average. Barry Schwartz, the noted author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, stated, “applying to more schools just makes everything worse.” Applying to more schools has resulted in many of the same students receiving more acceptances; candidates, who may have otherwise filled those slots, are either getting rejected or suffering through the tortuous waitlist. Admissions Officers, fearing over-enrollment, are forced to say no or delay decisions to the droves of otherwise qualified students.
The highly variable length of the college process for the senior class has left some questioning the validity of any such process. As one senior who opted to remain anonymous inquired, “Why do the athletes get to commit in junior spring when many qualified students have to wait until late spring or even summer for their decisions to be released?” Chris McDonough (I) mentioned that he “wasn’t particularly fond of the whole process. I won’t miss it.”
Iladro Sauls (II) stated that the juniors are “definitely a little concerned about the decreasing admit rates at many colleges but still optimistic about the overall college process.” In response, Chris McDonough (I) commented, “Haha, juniors and their optimism.” Regardless, the college process has completely changed in the last couple years alone; who knows where it will be when the current freshmen get there?
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