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2018 College Admissions Trends: Insights From The Experts

The college admissions landscape is constantly changing, so what can college bound juniors expect when applying to college later this year? We have some insight into college admissions trends for 2018.

Every year the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) releases its State of College Admissions report, with information on what admissions officers are looking for in applicants, what has changed from one year to the next, and more. This, coupled with our team’s over 150 years of experience in college admissions, allows us to examine the current admissions landscape and analyze trends that families can expect to see in the next admissions cycle. Hint: It all ties back to an important stat for colleges – yield.

Ready to take a look into our crystal ball? Here are the 2018 college admissions trends that college bound students should prepare for this year.

College Application Volume Expected to Increase (Again)
The number of applications from first-year students has increased 7% over the last year, and with colleges ramping up recruitment through the web and social media, and more access to applications through the Common Application and the Coalition Application, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Even though the number of high school students in the US has started to level-off, students are applying to more colleges on average, and schools are also putting more of an emphasis on recruiting international applicants. All of this creates the perfect recipe for increased application numbers – making applicant pools larger and more competitive.

Which Means Yield Will Continue to Be Hard to Predict
The average yield rate has dropped once again, from 36.2% to 35.1%. Because students are applying to more colleges than ever before, they have more options, making it harder for colleges to predict whether or not certain admitted students will ultimately enroll. Yield is incredibly important to colleges, as it’s the main ingredient in the recipe that determines a multitude of outcomes at a school like budget, financial aid, departmental needs, and more. Yield will continue to be hard to project for many institutions in 2018, which will result in schools relying on other factors to increase their yield rates this year.

Making Essays and Demonstrated Interest Most Important “Soft Factors”
According to the 2017 NACAC SOCA report, after grades, curriculum, and test scores (the “hard factors”) the most important application elements are the essay and demonstrated interest. Why are these important? Well, not only do they help provide context to students’ applications, but they can also be used to gauge whether or not a student will attend if admitted. Demonstrated interest has gained popularity over the last 10 years, but informed interest is the newest frontier. This is why colleges have increasingly added school-specific essays to their applications, in order to better gauge how well students knows the institution, if they are serious about attending, and if they have spent considerable time determining if the university is a good fit or not. Expect to see more quirky college application essays that directly relate to something about a school – a creed, motto, tradition, etc. – and more “why this college?” prompts.

And Early Admission Options More Prominent
When it comes to yield, the early application round is one of the best tools that colleges have in order to predict enrollment for the fall. According to NACAC, the average yield rate for early decision (binding) admits is 87% – considerably higher than the overall average yield rate (35.1%.) An early decision or early action application option can be an extra motivator for students to apply because admit rates tend to be higher and they’ll receive their decisions earlier in the admissions cycle. This is partly why 43% of colleges with low yield rates now offer an early action round (not binding) – up from 41% last year. More colleges, like Colgate, are also giving students the option to change their regular decision application to EDII before a certain date after submission. Students can expect more encouragement from colleges to apply in the early round, especially now that colleges are making it easier for students to apply early decision or early action in order to increase application numbers and, ultimately, yield.

There Will Also Be More Focus on Transfer Students
At schools that offer transfer admissions, the average yield rate of transfer students is much higher, 68%, than that of first-year applicants at 28%. As we mentioned earlier the number of high school students in the US has plateaued, leaving colleges to look elsewhere for a growing class. Last year the emphasis was on international students, but now, in addition to recruiting students overseas, colleges are also increasing their recruitment of transfer students. Transfer students help colleges manage their enrollment numbers, as they fill the spots left behind by students who may have also transferred, are studying abroad, or are taking a leave of absence, for example. While colleges will continue to heavily market to high school seniors both in the US and abroad, you can expect them to devote more resources than ever before to transfer student recruitment.

Colleges Will Utilize Waitlists More
More students are applying to more colleges, but many of those colleges are not significantly increasing their class sizes. Meaning more students are fighting for almost the same number of seats within a class. Since yield is paramount, colleges don’t want to turn away every applicant that wasn’t accepted, so instead they waitlist them. According to NACAC: “From Fall 2015 to Fall 2016, the number of students offered a place on an admission waitlist increased by 11%, on average, and the number admitted increased by 31%.” Not only are colleges putting more students on the waitlist – they’re also going to the waitlist more to fill spots left by students who didn’t enroll. However, the chances of being admitted off of the waitlist are still slim – but clearly not impossible. With colleges taking advantage of waitlists to manage yield, students should prepare for the possibility of waitlist decision as it’s becoming an increasingly likely outcome in the current admissions climate.

Yes, the college admissions process is constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean the process is completely out of your control. By starting your college prep early, you can be best prepared to find success in the college admissions journey. For more information on how IvyWise can help you prepare for college, contact us today!