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by Agnes Jasinski

High school students now have more proof that it's as hard to get into college as they think it is. A study released this week titled "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition" looked at the record number of students applying to the country's top colleges and the decrease in admission rates at those schools.

Not surprisingly, the "most pronounced increases in competition" were in the Northeast - New Jersey, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York - where the most prestigious schools are located. The number of applicants accepted there fell by about 25 percent between 1986 and 2003. But competition has also increased everywhere else. Between 1972 and 2004, there was a 9 percent decrease in admission rates to four-year colleges.

The study, done by scholars from Harvard University and the University of Michigan for the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at potential reasons for the numbers. Students have become more competitive on their own, taking more AP classes and upper-level math courses, and the sheer number of applicants for the same number of slots at colleges has contributed to the frenzy.

So is this good or bad?

The study suggests that students are getting more stressed than anything else. Among those applying to the most selective colleges, more students are doing homework for 10 hours or more per week. But the majority are spending less time on homework than studying for and taking standardized tests. More students are taking both the ACT and SAT, multiple times. (The results of the latest batch of SAT-takers shows a drop in two points, according to the College Board.) Students are also applying to more colleges than ever before, perhaps a reflection of more schools using common online applications and the pressure to get into the most competitive schools.

One good trend coming out of the data and contributing to a more competitive applicant pool is the higher number of female applicants in recent years compared to the 1970s when the study's research pool began, an article by Inside Higher Ed says. Overall, it seems intense competition is here to stay, and it may do well for high school students to look beyond the most competitive colleges and make decisions based on whether a school has the programs they're interested in pursuing instead.


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Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

Record High Applications Don't Translate to Equally Impressive Acceptance Numbers

April 1, 2011

Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

by Alexis Mattera

It’s not long into April Fools' Day but we’ve already encountered lots of fake educational news. First, it was revealed that GWU President Steven Schnapps’ fist pumping was responsible for the destruction in a campus residence hall. Next, Bryn Mawr announced it had partnered with Bithnian University of Science and Technology to take its alien research to the next level. And lastly, college acceptance rates plummeted at universities across the country. Oh wait, that last one wasn’t a joke at all.

The New York Times’ The Choice blog recently published a table of admissions statistics from 32 selective U.S. colleges and the data show a drop in acceptance rates across the board. Not surprisingly, the lowest acceptance rates were at Harvard (6.2 percent, an all-time low for the Ivy), Columbia (6.9 percent), Stanford (7.1 percent), Yale (7.4 percent) and Princeton (8.4 percent) but what’s interesting is that this year, records were broken for applications received. The schools’ explanations for the limited fat envelopes sent out? They just had far too many outstanding applicants.

There are many factors to consider – for example, high school seniors are applying to more schools than ever before to ensure they have at least one place to attend college – but nothing takes the sting out of "We regret to inform you..." topping a decision letter. Applicants, how have you fared in the admissions race? Were you rejected or waitlisted at a school you considered a safety? Did you score admission at your first-choice school? Are any of you still waiting to learn your higher education fates? Have you already sent in a deposit or are you still securing enough financial aid to pay for school?


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UCs Out-of-State Solution

UCs Accept Highest-Ever Rate of Non-Residents

April 20, 2011

UCs Out-of-State Solution

by Suada Kolovic

With California universities facing massive budget cuts in the upcoming year, the state has turned to a creative way to fill the void: According to data released by the University of California, out-of-state and international student admissions are at an all-time high and these students are paying pay about $23,000 more a year than their in-state counterparts.

The LA Times reports that applicants from other states or countries made up 18.1% of the 72,432 students admitted to at least one of the nine undergraduate UC campuses, up from 14% last year. At UC Berkley and UCLA – two of the most selective colleges in the UC System – the trend of accepting out-of-state and international students was most dramatic at 31.2% and 29.9% respectively. Why? The UC system is dealing with a crippling decline of investments from the state of California. Bloomberg reports that the state's current UC funding is back at 1998 levels, despite an additional university campus and 70,000 more students.

So where does this leave Californians who were looking forward to the affordability and convenience of a state school? With a slim chance that there’s a fat envelope headed their way. The fact is that higher acceptance rates for non-Californians means that more state residents were denied admissions at their first- and second- choice state campuses. Do you think it’s reasonable for schools in such serious financial strains to accept students based on their home addresses?


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Cheating Scam Busted in Beijing

by Alexis Mattera

There have been countless movie and television show plots surrounding forms of academic dishonesty but in real life, cheating doesn’t pay. The cheater’s reputation, on the other hand, does. Dearly.

The Associated Press reported 62 individuals have been detained by China's Education Ministry for selling wireless devices they believe would be used to cheat on the upcoming college entrance exam. Since the plot was discovered before the exam, however, the ministry hopes its actions will protect the test's integrity, which more than 9 million high school students are expected to take this week.

Whether it’s copying and pasting someone else’s words into your paper, crafting the tiniest of crib sheets or constructing an elaborate system of two-way radios to relay information in real time, cheating is everywhere. The good news is that educators are fighting back with new outlooks, smarter software, harsher punishments to curb students’ urges to cheat. Are these tactics working? The jury’s still out. What’s being done at your school to limit and eventually stop academic dishonesty? Do you have any suggestions how to make these methods more effective?


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Standardized Test ACTually May Not Predict College Success

by Alexis Mattera

Are standardized test scores and collegiate success one in the same? Not necessarily, a new study says.

The National Bureau of Economic Research’s latest findings reveal that while the English and math sections of the ACT are "highly predictive" of college success, the segments unique to this exam – science and reading – have "little or no" ability to help college admissions committees predict whether applicants will succeed. Because of this, the validity of the ACT as a whole is in question because colleges typically rely on the composite score rather than individual subject scores. "By introducing noise that obscures the predictive validity of the ACT exam, the reading and science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools, admitted to schools that may be too demanding — or too easy — for their levels of ability," the study says.

ACT refutes these findings, stating it has "decades of research supporting the predictive validity and application" of its scoring in college enrollment, performance and retention and is in the process of reviewing the study’s methodology and findings. For those of you who have taken the ACT, do you agree with the study or the testmaker? Do you find high school performance is a better indicator of college success than any standardized test out there?


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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.


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An Update on Early Admissions

November 15, 2011

An Update on Early Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Teens may be excited about "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" and "The Hunger Games" but it appears applying to college early is just as trendy.

Though the numbers are still being tallied, Duke, Brown, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins are all estimating sizeable increases in the amount of early applications received but they aren’t alone: The University of Virginia and Princeton – two schools which reinstated their early admissions programs this year – have their respective hands full with applicants as well. Also of note is the heightened availability of ED II, a second round of early decision with a January deadline, for students who applied to one school using the binding application option and were rejected or deferred. And with these elevated application numbers comes an expected increase in both acceptance rates and financial aid offerings, something students and their parents will both appreciate.

What do you think of these application trends? Did you apply early or do you plan to apply during regular admission and why?


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