2018 State of College Admissions Trends



The 2018 State of College Admission report was recently released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).  As an active member of NACAC, I have been reviewing this report that has been published over the last fifteen years.  The report is based on data collected from the U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Education Research Institute.

The State of College Admission Report provides up-to-date information on a number of issues that impact students’ transition from high school to post-secondary education, as well as the admission process for transfer students and international students attending post-secondary institutions in the United States. The report covers the recruitment strategies that colleges use to attract each group of prospective students and the process by which candidates are evaluated. The report also includes a chapter dedicated to school counseling in US secondary schools, given the integral role school counselors play in putting students on the path to post-secondary success.

Here are some interesting trends in college admissions and highlights of report:

College Applications: The increase in the number of colleges to which each student applies continues a near perfectly upward trend, which is reflected in college reports of increased application volume.  Growth in application volume continues: Between the Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 admission cycles, the number of applications from first-time freshmen increased 4 percent; applications from prospective transfer students increased by 3 percent; and international student applications increased by 8 percent, on average.  There is continued hyper-competition to Ivy League and highly selective colleges and BS/MD Programs.

Recruitment and Yield Strategies:  College admission offices use a variety of strategies to recruit prospective students, particularly those who would be likely to attend if admitted.  To recruit students, colleges use the following strategies: Email, institutional websites, hosting campus visits, outreach to parents and high school counselors, high school visits, and college fairs.  These strategies help schools attain their enrollment goals.

Factors in Admissions Decisions: The factors that admission officers use to evaluate student applications from first-time freshmen have remained largely consistent over the past 20 years. Students’ academic achievements—which include High School Curriculum, and Test Scores as Top Factors for First-Time Freshmen: The top factors in the admission decision were: overall high school GPA, grades in college preparatory courses, admission test scores, and strength of curriculum. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, class rank and extracirricular activities. Admission decision factors for first-time international students are similar to those for domestic students, but the transfer admission decision process differs in significant ways.

Guidance Counseling Trends for College Admissions:  Post-secondary admission counseling is one of many functions of school counselors. On average, the time that public high school guidance counselors spend on college admissions: 21 percent, down from 26 percent in 2017. This demonstrates that high school guidance counselors are spending less time with students on college admissions.  See admissions blog: High School Guidance Counselors/College Admissions: Big Caseloads and Little Time

Student-to-Counselor Ratio: The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250-to-1 maximum student-to-counselor ratio.  New Hampshire and Vermont—had ratios below this maximum.  Data regarding the extent to which college advising is part of counselors’ job responsibilities showed the average student-to-college counselor ratio was 297-to-1.  With this ratio, it implies that high school guidance counselors have little time to provide individualized attention to students applying to college.

“Year after year, I hear the horror stories from parents whose kids got in nowhere because they thought the college admissions race was just about grades, SAT scores, their perceived  ‘unique’ applications, generic essays and perfect connections.” – Dr. Paul Lowe

“Top qualified applicants, after all their hard work (and parents’ work) and preparation deserve the best and should not settle for less.” – Dr. Paul Lowe

“Admissions is a competitive sport!  Why gamble with uncertainty?” – Dr. Paul Lowe

Paul Reginald Lowe, founder and managing director of Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group, provides comprehensive counseling advice, exclusively for admissions to top private schools; Ivy League and highly-selective colleges/universities; BS/MD programs; graduate and medical schools and top visual and performing arts programs.   The admissions affiliate: Ivy League Admissions Advisors specializes in admissions to Ivy League and highly selective colleges,  Dr. Lowe also specializes in helping students who have been wait-listed, deferred or rejected gain admission into their top-choice schools: College Application Rejected and student who wish to transfer to another college: College Transfer Admissions Advisors.