Do admission officers put more weight on your SATs or on the grades from your college prep classes? What about recommendation letters and essays? You can glean some answers to these and other questions by reviewing The 2019 State of College Admission report, which The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) recently released.
The volume of college applications continues to increase, the report indicates. The number of applications from first-time freshmen increased six percent and international student applications increased by seven percent between the fall 2017 and fall 2018 admission cycles. Transfer applications were up two percent overall, put public colleges experienced an average 1.7 percent decline in transfer applications while private colleges had a 4.7 percent increase.
The national average college acceptance rate for first-time freshman across all four-year higher education institutions was 66.7 percent in fall 2017, up from a low of 63.9 percent in fall 2012, according to data collected by the US Department of Education, which NACAC included in the report. The average acceptance rate at private institutions was approximately six percentage points lower than the average rate at public institutions (64.9 percent versus 70.3 percent).
Survey respondents of the 2018–19 Admission Trends Survey reported that the average acceptance rate for transfer applicants was slightly lower than for the first-time freshman population (61 percent compared to 66 percent). First-time international students are accepted at a lower rate (52 percent) than both first-time freshmen and transfer students.
The average number of applications for each admission office staff member (excluding administrative staff) for the Fall 2017 admission cycle was 1,035 for public institutions and 461 at private institutions.
About 71 percent of four-year, not-for-profit colleges had an application fee for the fall 2018 admission cycle, which averaged $50. Public colleges were more likely to report having an application fee than private schools (91 percent versus 57 percent).
Even though only six percent of all college applications for the fall 2018 admission cycle were Early Decision (ED), colleges with ED policies reported a higher acceptance rate for ED applicants compared to all applicants (61 percent versus 49 percent).
Thirty-eight percent of four-year colleges offered Early Action (EA). From Fall 2017 to Fall 2018, the number of Early Action applications increased by 10 percent and the number of students accepted through EA increased by nine percent, on average.
Forty-three percent of institutions reported having a waitlist in the fall 2018 admission cycle. Private institutions were more likely than public colleges and universities to maintain a waitlist (48 percent compared to 34 percent). Colleges reported placing an average of 10 percent of all applicants on the waitlist for the Fall 2018 admission cycle, and institutions admitted an average of 20 percent of all students who chose to remain on waitlists.
For many years, it seemed that the most important thing was to receive top grades in college prep courses for the best chance of admission, but that seems be changing. For the past three admission cycles, (2016, 2017 and 2018), the percentage of colleges rating grades in all courses as considerably important has matched or surpassed grades in college prep courses. Also, class rank has become much less important over the past decade.
Private colleges place greater importance on the essay/writing sample, the interview, counselor and teacher recommendations, demonstrated interest, extracurricular activities and work. Public colleges, on the other hand, place greater emphasis on standardized test scores than private institutions do.
Smaller institutions gave comparatively more weight to the interview, teacher and counselor recommendations and demonstrated interest. Larger colleges, however, tended to place more value on admission test scores.
Institutions that were more selective placed a greater emphasis on grades in college prep courses and strength of curriculum. More selective colleges also rated more highly the essay/writing sample, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities and work.
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