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Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020

Once again, it was a wild year in college admissions. Assessing the likelihood of acceptance to highly selective private and public universities was as unpredictable as ever, and while some applicants were lucky enough to receive early admission to their top choice, many students were dealt an uncertain hand of deferrals and spots on waitlists.

As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020, here’s an in-depth comparison of this year’s regular decision statistics to recent college admissions cycles. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance tended to either hold steady or drop slightly. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications, including Bowdoin, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Northwestern, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Princeton’s applicant pool has doubled over the past decade.

Many of the country’s most selective institutions, with overall admit rates under 15%, became even more competitive over the past two years. For example, Johns Hopkins dropped from 15% to 11.5%, Northwestern fell from 12.9% to 10.7%, and Swarthmore declined from 16.8% to 12.5%. Stanford has the lowest admit rate at just 4.7%. This year, Barnard, Bowdoin, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Tufts, UC-Berkeley, and USC all reported record-low admit rates.

According to Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University, these ultra-low admit rates are the product of several factors: top students applying to many more schools, higher demand across many demographics (including international applicants), and college advising that encourages students to apply to their dream schools, as opposed to schools that are a good fit and offer a better chance of admission. According to U.S. News, higher applicant numbers are the result of the Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted. Universities also use innovative ways to market themselves to prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Notre Dame has seen a 34% increase in applications over the past six years, and their overall acceptance rate has dropped from 24.3% to 18.3% over the past five years. According to Don Bishop, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment at Notre Dame, as competitive as the Class of 2020 is, these numbers would be even more selective if the University practiced admissions strategies used by other schools seeking to improve their rankings.

“There are colleges being criticized for going out there and getting a large number of applicants that they’re going to reject. A group of schools that seemingly are recruiting students they’re going to turn down. Notre Dame has not engaged in that practice.”

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2018 through 2020

College

 

(Note Early Admissions Plan:

ED vs EA)

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6% 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a n/a 9% 27% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) n/a 13% n/a 13% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) n/a n/a n/a 44% n/a 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3% 16% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) n/a n/a n/a 19% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%

Rice University

(ED)

n/a n/a 15.6% 20.4% n/a 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%

UC – Berkeley

(EA)

n/a n/a n/a n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2% 28.8% 28.5% 28.9%

USC

(No early program)

16.5% n/a 17.5% n/a 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 15% 42% 14.5% 41% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Large Percentage of Freshman Class Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making regular admissions even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding so universities are guaranteed the applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and allows students until May 1 to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps in determining admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools that admitted 40% to 50% of their incoming class through their early decision program include Brown, Duke, Northwestern, Penn, Williams, and Vanderbilt.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are accommodating increased applications with plans to expand enrollment. Princeton, Stanford, UVA, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years. Princeton’s plan to expand the class size by 11% was motivated by the desire to “enhance the quality of the overall educational experience at Princeton and make more effective use of the University’s extraordinary resources.” At the same time, University President John L. Hennessy says that Stanford has plans to grow but wants to be careful that size does not diminish experience, and the school will make future growth decisions dependent upon feedback from students and professors.

Determining Yield

Many schools are struggling to predict yield, the number of admitted applicants who will decide to attend their institution, as universities increase in popularity and selectivity. This, in turn, can impact admissions rates. For example, Duke’s Dean of Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said that one factor in this year’s low admissions rate was last year’s exceptionally high regular decision yield rate.

“Because the number of students we admitted last year resulted in over enrollment, we admitted fewer students this year on the assumption that the yield will be similar,” Guttentag said. “We have admitted 150 students fewer than last year.”

At Lehigh, the Class of 2018 hit overcapacity, and caused the university to accept fewer students in 2015. However, the Class of 2019 was still over capacity, forcing Lehigh to further recalculate yield predictions for the Class of 2020.

Similarly, MIT has also experienced increasing yield over the years, from 65% in 2011 to 73% in 2015. Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions, only expects it to keep going up as students continue to recognize “the value and excitement of MIT.”

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.

Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs. Pomona College, for example, partners with A Better Chance, Chicago Scholars, the KIPP Foundation and the Sutton Trust, as well as numerous local and regional programs, to connect with applicants from under-resourced schools. The University of Pennsylvania and Williams have similar programs.

This year, Duke began the Washington Duke Scholars, which nationally seeks to find first-generation college students who demonstrate financial need. Georgetown has a comparable program, called the Georgetown Scholarship Program.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. At Cornell University, a record 27% of the admitted applicants self-identify as underrepresented minority students and 49% are students of color, which includes Asian-Americans and underrepresented minorities. UC-Berkeley has increased admission of Chicano/Latino students by 28.8% and African American admissions by 32% since last year.

Harvard also set records in admitting a freshman class comprised of 14% African Americans and 22.1% Asian-Americans. Nearly 37% of Johns Hopkins regular decision admits self-identify as members of underrepresented minorities, a school record. Northwestern admitted a record number of international and Chicago Public Schools students through early decision, and a record number of Pell-eligible students through regular decision.

Tips for Future Applicants

In a competitive admissions climate that’s increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Therefore, apply to 10-12 colleges (a manageable number) so that you can visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.

If you are applying early admissions, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying regular admissions visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Highly selective schools are experiencing higher applicant pools, acceptance rates are low and dropping, and many students are told to dream big. When crafting your college list, make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, applying early has become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are happy to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019

As a follow-up to our blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019, we bring you highlights from this year’s Regular Admissions outcomes! From increasing selectivity to expanding financial aid programs, here are some of the most noteworthy trends in college admissions.

Overall Acceptance Rates

Overall, application numbers and acceptance rates were fairly steady compared to last year. Duke’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said, “Nationwide we’ve stopped seeing that sharp increase [in applications] that we saw from about 2008 to 2013 across the board. I think for most schools that has settled down.” But many selective universities still showed modest increases in selectivity.  For example, Harvard’s overall acceptance rate over the past year declined from 5.9% for the Class of 2018 to 5.3% for the Class of 2019; Princeton’s, from 7.28% to 6.99% and Williams, from 18.2% to 16.9%.

In general, colleges continue to admit a much higher rate of students from the early, rather than the regular, applicant pool. The early versus regular acceptance rates, cited in the table below, illustrate the impact of students demonstrating interest to top-choice schools by applying early (and thereby improving their chances of acceptance). While this may make applying early that much more enticing, keep in mind a binding Early Decision admissions program (as opposed to a non-binding Early Action program) should only be pursued if the college is your absolute first choice, and you understand your binding commitment to attend.

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2019 versus 2018

 

 

School

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Bowdoin College n/a n/a 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.2% 20.3% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a 9%
California, University of, Berkeley n/a n/a n/a 17%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.8% 26% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 7.4% 26% 9.4% 9%
Georgetown University (EA) 18.1% 13% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.2% 16.5% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 11% 28.9% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University n/a n/a n/a 34%
MIT (EA) 7.1% 9.6% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED) 14.7% 45.3% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 10.8% 36.2% 13.1% 12.9%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.9% 19.9% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University n/a n/a 14.7% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.9% 10.2% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College n/a n/a 12.2% 16.8%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 16.2% 29.8% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7.5% 24% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Southern California n/a n/a 17.5% 17.8%
University of Virginia n/a n/a 28.5% 28.9%
Vanderbilt University 9.5% n/a n/a 12.3%
Washington University in St. Louis n/a n/a n/a 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 14.5% 41% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.7% 16% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Notable Moments from this year’s Regular Admissions Process

Some schools did see a jump in the number of applicants

Though many schools continued to see application numbers level off, a few did experience significant growth. Vanderbilt, an increasingly popular university, has had its acceptance rate plummet over the past eight years due to a significant rise in the number of applicants. This year, 27,822 students applied to attend Vanderbilt during the regular decision period, whereas in 2007, only 11,798 students applied regular decision. Vanderbilt’s regular decision acceptance rate was 31% in 2007. This year it was 9.5%, a continued drop from the 11% rate the previous year.

Douglas Christiansen, Vanderbilt’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions, explains that the rise in applications is caused by increased interest from international students, as well as those who live in other regions of the country.

“[Students are] responding to the educational brand, to the educational experience we’re offering. Vanderbilt has really moved into being a true national institution with national (and international) reach.”

Similarly, the University of Chicago received a 10% increase in applications from last year. According to The Chicago Maroon, “Much of the University of Chicago’s steep increase in applications is credited to recent changes in the application process. Applicant numbers rose after the University announced earlier in 2014 that it would be utilizing the Universal College Application (UCA), an alternate application system to the Common Application, for the Class of 2019. Technical glitches in the Common Application system around the time of application deadlines earlier last year resulted in a decline in applicants.”

The University of Chicago has also increased construction plans, from the new Institute of Molecular Engineering to the Logan Center for the Arts, which has attracted many new applicants.

Financial aid expands 

Stanford University made headlines this year when they raised the income thresholds at which parents are not expected to contribute toward tuition from $100,000 to $125,000. For parents with annual incomes below $65,000, there will be no parental contribution toward tuition and room and board.

Similarly, The University of Chicago announced that “No Barriers,” an expansion of the Odyssey Scholars program and other financial aid policy reforms, will take effect beginning with the Class of 2019. The university aims to eliminate loans, waive application fees, and provide additional funding and support for low- and middle-income students.

“With UChicago ‘No Barriers’ and our other commitments, we are ensuring that people from all backgrounds and all incomes can afford to attend the University, and that they can thrive and succeed in whatever path they choose,” said President Robert J. Zimmer.

According to The Washington Post, Franklin & Marshall College has also expanded its need-based financial aid program and decreased its merit-based aid program.

A continued shift in the popularity of intended majors

Due to the economic climate, the overall popularity of business, healthcare, and STEM-related majors continues to rise. Swarthmore College states that engineering is the most popular intended major among the admitted students for the Class of 2019.

According to USA Today, four of the five fastest growing majors are in STEM or pre-pre-professional fields: health and medical prep programs (31%), homeland security and emergency preparedness (26%), physical sciences (25%), and engineering-related fields (23%). The only exception is behavioral science (89% growth), which falls within the liberal arts.

As a result, many schools have filled up the admissions slots in these areas, and are looking to accept liberal arts or undecided majors. At Georgetown, for example, science classes and spots for incoming science majors have all been filled. Therefore, the College waitlist is expected to only see movement for students with undeclared majors. The McDonough School of Business and the School of Nursing and Health Studies have also been completely filled for the class of 2019.

Likewise, the University of Notre Dame has recently capped enrollment in its Mendoza Business School at 550 students per class, due to overcrowding from internal transfers, especially from the College of Arts and Letters. Bloomberg Business has ranked Notre Dame’s undergraduate business program number one in the country for the past five years.

“While the total number of Notre Dame undergraduates has essentially held constant over the past 10 years, the number of undergraduates enrolled in Arts & Letters has plummeted,” said the Observer. “Political science, once the most popular undergraduate major with 684 enrollees, has lost 38% of its students since the spring of 2004. Likewise, the history department has dropped from 324 to 196 undergraduate majors, and English has fallen from 424 to 239. Over the same period, the number of finance majors has climbed from 368 to 482 (25%). It is now the most popular major at Notre Dame.”

Application extensions

This year, several colleges, including Bates, Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Vanderbilt, offered extensions for their January admissions deadlines.

The University of Pennsylvania gave applicants an extra four days to submit application materials. “The Office of Admissions chose to extend the deadline in order to provide students with more time to enjoy their holidays. Previously, the deadline had only been extended in the case of extenuating circumstances, such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Common Application glitches last year.”

According to Bloomberg Business, “Colleges that extend deadlines say they are merely trying to give more students a chance to apply and receive scholarships. Yet students and even some colleges are asking whether the extra days are penalizing on-time applicants. The extensions are bewildering teenagers and high school guidance counselors.”

Another reason for these extensions may have to do with the fact that application numbers are beginning to level off. Perhaps colleges have extended deadlines in order to increase or keep applications numbers steady, so that selectivity figures are not negatively impacted.

The tuition cost of public universities continues to rise

As a recent New York Times article recently highlighted, most elite public universities are raising tuition for in-state students. At the same time, they are also restricting the number of in-state students admitted in order to make way for out-of-state and international students (who pay even higher tuition). Overall, the result is that college is becoming less and less affordable for many families.

The LA Times discusses the particularly heated battle between the University of California system and state government over university funding. “In recent years, UC sharply increased the numbers of students from outside the state because they pay about $23,000 more in tuition than Californians do. But the rising presence of non-Californians is a hot political item, and legislative proposals to increase state funding to the UC require a freeze on their ranks.”

UC President Janet Napolitano said the number of out-of-state students offered admission will be capped next year at UCLA and Berkeley, “where the demand is highest,” but she did not freeze non-resident admissions at the other seven undergraduate campuses.

Deciding where – and how – to apply to college can be daunting. For guidance deciphering your options and understanding the changing landscape of college admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help.

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019

This fall marked another exciting year for early admission. Whether you applied early decision or early action, there were some surprising trends among several highly sought-after schools. Each year, the early admissions landscape and university policies can change, and this year was no exception.

Overall Early Application Numbers

This fall, many colleges saw fairly steady numbers year over year for their early application process. Some schools experienced slight declines in early applicant numbers, while a few universities received record-breaking increases. Overall, the general trend seems to be that colleges accepted a slightly higher percentage of early applicants to the Class of 2019.

The following chart compares early admissions application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2019 versus the class of 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1 to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early Decision applicants typically benefit from a higher admissions rate than Early Action or Regular Decision because the student has demonstrated strong interest though a binding commitment to attend. Accepting ED applicants also benefits the university, as these students will be very enthusiastic and spirited contributors to campus life, and strategically, the college will increase its yield rates.

School

Early Applications received for

Class of 2019

Early Applications received for

 Class of 2018

Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019

Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018

Brown University (ED) 3,043 3,088 20.3% 18.8%
Dartmouth College (ED) 1,859 1,678 26% 27.9%
Duke University (ED) 3,180 3,180 26% 25%
Georgetown University (EA) 6,840 6,749 13% 14%
Harvard University (SCEA) 5,919 4,692 16.5% 21.1%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 1,865 1,595 28.9% 33%
MIT (EA) 6,519 6,820 9.6% 9%
Northwestern University (ED) 2,793 2,863 36.2% 32.3%
Princeton University (SCEA) 3,850 3,854 19.9% 18.5%
Stanford University (SCEA) 7,297 6,948 10.2% 10.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 5,489 5,149 24% 25.2%
Williams College (ED) 593 554 41% 42.8%
Yale University (SCEA) 4,693 4,750 16% 15.5%

Notably, Brown University accepted 617 early decision applicants this year, representing the largest early decision cohort since Brown adopted its early decision program, 13 years ago.

Harvard saw a record-breaking 26% increase in early applications this year. According to The Harvard Crimson, this marked the lowest admissions rate in the last six early action cycles.

Johns Hopkins saw a 17% increase in early applications compared to last year. This caused their acceptance rate to fall by 4%, but overall more students were admitted (539 ED students this year versus 526 ED students last year).

Stanford University had 7,297 early applicants this year, the most in school history.

More Deferrals

This year, more students who applied early admissions received deferrals. At Harvard, 72.5% of early applicants were deferred (4,292 students). Princeton deferred 75.8% of early applicants (2,918 students), and MIT deferred 4,456 students, 68.3% of its early applicants.

In the case of the University of Michigan, this was part of a plan to avoid over-enrollment.

According to The Michigan Daily, “This fall, the University enrolled 6,532 freshmen — an increase of 307 over last year — and about 500 more than University officials had intended.” Provost, Martha Pollack, stated, “We have been over-enrolling every year for the past five years, and we have to stop this.”

Trends influencing Michigan’s admissions policies include record-breaking applications received for the fall of 2014 admission and a higher than expected yield (more students accepting admittance than anticipated). To avoid facing the same situation this year, Michigan was very conservative in early admissions acceptances and chose to defer many more students this year.

Higher Percentage of Freshman Class Filled

On the other end of the spectrum, some schools are admitting larger portions of their incoming freshman class from the early applicant pool. For example, the University of Pennsylvania welcomed 1,316 (24%) of its early decision applicants this year.  Early admission will comprise 54.4% of the Class of 2019, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the largest portion in UPenn’s history.

This is the second consecutive year that UPenn has admitted more than half of its incoming freshman class early decision. UPenn has also seen an increase in ED applications: 5,489 this year, a 6.6% growth from last year and all-time high.

As a result, regular decision admission becomes much more competitive. Last year, UPenn’s record low regular decision acceptance rate of 7.3% occurred after receiving a record high 35,788 regular decision applications.

Duke also admitted more early decision students, despite steady numbers of early applications. The Triangle Business Journal states that Duke’s early decision applications this year will represent 48% of the incoming freshman class. Northwestern’s early decision program this year will represent 49% of next fall’s class, which is expected to total 2,025 students. Williams College admitted 244 early applicants this year, with an acceptance rate of 41%, comprising 44% of Williams College’s class of 2019. At Dartmouth, the admissions office expects early decision students to comprise 41% of the incoming class of 2019.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are increasing their freshman class sizes as part of a strategic plan to increase the size of the school and accommodate more applicants.

Princeton enrolled 1,308 students for the Class of 2018; this class size was slightly larger than the previously reported estimate of 1,290 because the University determined it had more capacity for the next academic year.

Since 2005, Princeton has enacted a plan of continued gradual expansion to increase its total undergraduates from about 4,600 to about 5,100 students. This year, Princeton accepted 767 early action students out of 3,850 EA applications (19.9%).

Stanford University also has plans to increase its undergraduate enrollment slowly over the next few years. According to the Washington Post, “Stanford University, which turns down roughly 19 out of every 20 applicants, wants to grow its entering freshman class by an estimated 100 students in the fall of 2016. That would translate to a class of about 1,800.” Stanford’s President, John L. Hennessy, said they will gradually expand entering classes until they reach a comfort level with their overall student population.

This fall, Washington University in St. Louis’ administrators unveiled plans to admit freshman classes at the large freshman class size of 2018 (1,765 students) for the next several years until the undergraduate population reaches a total enrollment of 7,000.

Honors Program Inclusion

Some of the most talented early admits were invited to partake in honors programs. For example, UVA automatically reviews all applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences for inclusion in their Echols Scholars Program and typically notifies students of this honor around the time of their acceptance.

According to UVA, “Many Echols Scholars have told us that the privilege of being selected for the Program contributed substantially to their choice of the University of Virginia over other peer institutions and top-tier liberal arts colleges, because of its unique academic structure and flexibility.”

UMass Amherst (Commonwealth Honors College) and  UNC-Chapel Hill (Honors Carolina Program) follow similar policies in that they consider all incoming freshman for admission to their honors programs. There is no separate application process and students are notified of their selection shortly after receiving their letter of admission.

Merit Aid

Some talented applicants have received early admission, as well as merit scholarships to sweeten the deal.

Tulane University is well-known for its generosity in this regard. According to their website, “Tulane offers both merit- and need-based aid programs. All admitted students are considered for merit-based scholarships, and the review process is need-blind. All freshmen applicants are considered for partial merit scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $32,000 per year.”

Muhlenberg College is also very generous in their distribution of merit-based scholarships. In 2013-2014, 34% of Muhlenberg students were receiving merit scholarships. They consider all applicants for these awards which range in value from $1,000 to $18,000 and are renewable for all four years at Muhlenberg. The College states, “We want to encourage strong students to include Muhlenberg in that group of colleges that will receive their serious consideration.”

Oberlin College offers many merit scholarships, some require separate applications and some consider all accepted students. According to U.S. News and World Report, Oberlin awarded merit aid to 36% of their students for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Notable Moments from the Fall of 2014

294 students who were rejected or deferred from Johns Hopkins were mistakenly sent an email two days later entitled, “Embrace the YES!,” discussing their acceptance. As a result, those students were led to believe their admissions decisions had been reversed. Shortly after, however, they received a second email explaining the error.

Some early admission deadlines were extended. Due to technical difficulties, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and George Mason University extended their early decision deadlines to November 10. The University of Chicago extended their early action deadline to November 15 for students planning to apply for need-based financial aid as part of its new No Barriers program.

Finally, there was a large cheating scandal in Asia centered around the SAT test administered there on October 11. “Responding to cheating allegations, the company that administers the SAT tests around the world is withholding scores, at least temporarily, for thousands of Chinese and South Korean students just days before the early application deadlines for most American colleges and universities,” states the New York Times. Concerned students expressed fears that these delays could affect their early admission chances. Eventually, those students who were identified as likely cheaters had their scores canceled, and the majority of test takers received valid scores.

Navigating the decisions of where to apply early decision or early action can be daunting, but here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us – as always, we’re happy to help.

The FAFSA: To File or Not to File?

If your family is able to fully fund your child’s college education, you might feel that there is no reason for you to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You may think you won’t qualify, and may even believe there is an advantage to demonstrating to colleges that you are able to pay full tuition. There is some credence to these concerns. On the other hand, if your child is gifted academically or talented in a unique field of interest (for example, athletics, arts, or community leadership), you could be missing out on consideration for the segment of merit scholarships that require submission of a FAFSA form. In the end, deciding whether or not to file is a complex decision based on a number of factors.

Can filing the FAFSA hurt admissions chances?

Since the economic downturn in 2008, students who are able to pay full tuition are perhaps more desirable to some colleges. As a result, many families worry that indicating an intent to file the FAFSA will impact their child’s admission negatively.  This concern does have some validity. Whether or not it actually will depends primarily on two factors:

  • Whether the college’s policy is need-blind or need-aware, as well as the percentage of needs-met.  The “need-blind” and “need-aware” policies apply to the admissions process itself.  “Need-blind” means that the college reviews applications without consideration of the applicant’s intent to file the FAFSA. Examples of schools that use need-blind admissions policies include MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst College, and Dartmouth. “Need-aware” colleges, on the other hand, take the applicant’s intent to file the FAFSA into consideration when they make admissions decisions. Colgate University, Washington University in St. Louis, Occidental College, Gettysburg College, and Bryn Mawr College are examples of schools that use need-aware admissions policies.

“Needs-met” is a financial aid policy that refers to the percent of the applicant’s financial need that is met AFTER the applicant is accepted and decides to matriculate; it comes into play only during the process of granting financial awards. While Harvard and MIT are need-blind, these schools also meet 100% of an admitted student’s demonstrated financial need. On the other hand, Boston University and NYU use a need-blind admissions policy, but do not guarantee that they will fully meet a student’s demonstrated need. Therefore, a student might be admitted, but not receive the financial assistance necessary to pay the tuition. According to Union College, they are need-aware, because “once we admit you to Union, we will find a way for you to attend. We will put together a realistic financial aid package based on your family’s ability to pay, and you will most likely be able to afford our school.”

  • The college’s financial resources, as reflected in the endowment. Colleges use their endowment, not their annual operating budget, to fund financial aid.  After the 2008 economic downturn, most colleges’ endowment took a hit. As a result, many were required to alter their policies toward funding both need-based and merit-based financial aid.

Indeed, some colleges that were formerly “need-blind” became “need-aware.” Wesleyan University, Reed College, and George Washington University, for example, have moved away from an entirely need-blind admissions policy to a combination of need-blind and need-aware admissions. Wesleyan estimates that they admit about 90% of students through a need-blind process, and then consider need as an admissions factor for the remainder. Therefore, if a student’s application is on the fringe of qualifying for their admissions standards, their financial ability to pay is considered.

What if I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid?

Some families feel that a high income will not prevent them from qualifying for any financial aid. Others believe that their child’s grades are not high enough to be considered for scholarships, or that the FAFSA form is too confusing and time-consuming.

The perception that your family’s income is too high to quality for need-based financial aid may be inaccurate.  Filling out the FAFSA enables students to learn about the possible scholarships, grants, federal work-study programs, and student loans for which they might be eligible.

In reality, colleges and the federal government consider many factors in determining who is eligible for financial aid, including the number of children in your family, how many of these children are simultaneously attending college, and the age of the oldest parent.

More importantly, each college evaluates the FAFSA in a different way.  Colleges are now required to post a financial aid calculator on their websites to provide applicants with an estimate of the amount of financial aid they can expect from, given their particular financial situation. Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and the publisher of FinAid.org, provides several calculators to help families estimate how much school will cost, how much they need to save, and how much aid they will need, as well as a wealth of information concerning scholarships.

Submitting the FAFSA can help you obtain merit aid.

Even if you are able to pay the full sticker price for college, filling out the FAFSA can open doors to free money: merit scholarships. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, “Some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get— fill out the application and find out.”

If a student’s academic profile would place the student in the top 10% of the matriculating class (in other words, the student is likely to be admitted), the college may be more inclined to offer merit-based aid. Some schools, like Tulane University, University of Miami, University of Chicago, and University of Southern California, give many merit-based scholarships to entice highly qualified students to attend.

Merit offers can serve a variety of functions regarding yield, or the likelihood of attendance.  “Rather than lose bright students to less-expensive public colleges, universities like Tulane offer sizable amounts of aid based mainly on academic promise,” states the New York Times.  In addition, some public universities use merit aid to draw wealthy students from private universities, according to Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education.  Finally, many of the most selective colleges in the country, including the Ivies, do not award merit-based aid, and other colleges, such as Chicago, use merit aid to lure high-performing applicants to matriculate.

When Should You File the FAFSA?

Even if you have not checked off an intention to file the FAFSA on your child’s college application, you can reconsider this option and still apply for financial aid. The FAFSA can be filed online on or after January 1 of each year, using your family’s estimated taxes from the previous year if your current taxes have not yet been filed. The FAFSA application takes the average person about 1-2 hours to complete, according to the Department of Education.

For students applying in the fall of 2014 for matriculation in the fall of 2015, the federal deadline for the online FAFSA is midnight Central Time, June 30, 2015.  Note that each state has a different deadline, and that colleges may have different deadlines as well.  Most importantly, keep in mind that there are advantages to filing as early as possible, because “Most student financial aid is limited (there isn’t always enough for everyone who applies) and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis,” according to Student Financial Aid Services, an established aid advisory group.

Navigating the financial affordability of college and opportunities for scholarships and grants can be an overwhelming prospect. There is no one right answer for everyone; each family must decide what makes the most sense given their financial situation.

For more information about financial aid and the scholarship opportunities available to you, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

Merit Scholarships: A Beginner’s Guide

There are many need-based financial aid opportunities out there for college students. But for those who don’t qualify–or who don’t qualify for enough–there are a large number of merit-based scholarship options as well.  With perseverance and dedication, some students have been able to finance nearly their entire college education through merit aid!  The question is: how do you find these opportunities?

As always, we’re here to help!

Scholarships from Colleges

Often, students receive merit aid directly from colleges themselves. These usually come in the form of “merit awards,” determined by a variety of factors including your academic performance: grade point average, standardized test scores, and the strength of your high school curriculum. Generally, the better you do in high school, the better your chances of being offered merit aid by colleges. For many students, this is can be the largest source of scholarship funding. In fact, some colleges, including Boston College and Duke award full-tuition merit scholarships to small groups of exceptionally qualified students.

But keep in mind that additional factors related to your character play a role as well, as demonstrated by your extracurricular activities, community service and leadership roles.  Furthermore, the unique institutional priorities of each college influence the nature of their merit scholarships; colleges often offer special scholarships for students of diverse backgrounds, or with particular academic, service or career interests.

Some colleges, such as Tulane, Oberlin, and NYU automatically consider all applicants for merit scholarships.  Other colleges require that prospective students take the initiative to apply for merit aid, and require the submission of additional essays.  For example, the University of Richmond encourages students who have demonstrated strong involvement in community service to apply for the Bonner Scholars Program.  Emory provides the opportunity for entering freshmen to become Emory Scholars. Likewise, Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University have numerous merit scholarships that students need to actively apply for.

The colleges with the highest percentage of students receiving non-need-based aid range from specialized colleges, such as Olin College of Engineering, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and New England Conservatory of Music, to small liberal arts colleges such as Rhodes College, to medium-sized national research university such as Tulane. Additionally, according to recent data from the New York Times, the colleges with the highest average merit award included Trinity College, with $41,980 average merit aid (95% of the tuition/fees of $44,070) and University of Richmond, with $36,860 average merit aid (85% of $43,170 tuition/fees).

When evaluating different options, however, keep in mind that merit scholarships can offer more than just monetary rewards. Many, such as UVA’s Jefferson Scholars offer significant enrichment opportunities – in this case, access to leadership programs, study abroad, and internships with program alumni. As with any of the college-granted scholarships, the best sources of information on these programs can be found on the college websites themselves.

State-based scholarships

State scholarships are awarded either directly by your college through state-based programs or via local scholarships, and are another very common way to earn merit aid. Resources such as Cappex and Fastweb can help you search for opportunities particular to your state.  For example, let’s focus on New York State.

New York Scholarships: You can get scholarships just by being a resident of the Empire State… and by being a good student. The Scholarship For Academic Excellence, for example, is intended for students who will attend a New York college, and is based on the results of the Regents exam.

Additionally, many scholarships in New York and elsewhere pay particular attention to applicants pursuing certain high demand fields. The NYS STEM Incentive Program, for example, provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school. Note though, that this scholarship (like many others of its kind) comes with conditions: awarded students must often either remain in the state or work in their particular field, for a certain period of time. In the above example, students must pursue a STEM major and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for five years after graduation.

Corporate Scholarships

Many of America’s largest and most profitable corporations sponsor high-paying scholarships for high-achieving students. Every year, for example, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards 250 achievement-based scholarships for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The top 50 are designated as National Scholars and receive $20,000 while the remaining 200 are designated as Regional Scholars and receive awards of $10,000.  Likewise, the Discover Scholarship Program offers an average award of $30,000 to 10 students who demonstrate leadership and community service in the face of adversity, and who have a GPA of at least 2.75. Others have more subjective standards, such as the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway, which is based on video submissions, and awards $100,000 dollars to students with creativity and unique personal stories.

In additional, there are a large number of merit scholarship opportunities from private non-profits. For example, you’re probably already familiar with the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards three types of scholarships based on PSAT/NMSQT scores: National Merit, corporate-sponsored, and college-sponsored. Additionally, the  Ayn Rand Institute is a very well-known foundation that sponsors annual essay contests based on a variety of Rand’s books, awarding generous scholarships to those with the strongest essays.

Online resources such as Cappex and Fastweb are a great way to find all these opportunities, whether they’re offered by states, colleges, corporations, or foundations. They boast impressive and up-to-date databases of well-established scholarships in every subject – from engineering to art – as well as listings of some of the more obscure (see, for example, the Victor Bailliet Scholarship in Sugar Technology).  No matter how esoteric or unique your interests, abilities and background may be, these sites are a terrific way to search for and find scholarship sources.

There are thousands of potential merit scholarships for you beyond what we’ve mentioned here. For more guidance and information, contact Collegiate Gateway.  We’re always happy to help.