Admissions competition: fact or fiction?
ormer president of Mercy College Lucie Lapovsky has a unique perspective on the admissions process – unique in that she doesn’t buy the headlines and stories that are scaring students and parents alike into thinking that the college admissions process has become more prohibitively competitive than ever before. The current school of thought would have the public believe that more students than ever are applying to colleges, but also, more students than ever are getting rejected by colleges. It seems that the typical applicant today is a high-achieving, almost too well-rounded student who applies to many institutions, is almost invariably denied by their top choice and has to settle for a safety school. Ms. Lapovsky is sick of it.
According to her, that picture is not representative of the vast majority of students (though it does ring true for a small percentage in wealthy suburban areas applying to truly selective colleges) or their admissions experience. Now an educational consultant and researcher, Ms. Lapovsky wants to debunk the competition myth that is sending so many students and parents into a tailspin every spring. She chose to do it with numbers.
In the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007, Ms. Lapovsky surveyed 750 high school seniors, each semester asking them pertinent questions about their plans for higher education. Some of the more interesting findings included the fact that the idea of students applying to a slew of colleges, had actually been blown way out of proportion. Less than one percent of the students surveyed wound up applying to more than ten colleges, whereas nearly half applied to only 4 or more.
Average Number of Colleges Students Planned to Apply to and Actually Applied to
Number of Colleges Percentage Who Planned to Apply, Fall 2006 Percentage Who Actually Applied, Spring 2007
1 7% 22%
2 10% 15%
3 25% 19%
4 or more 58% 44%
Also debunked? The myth that students are getting rejected across the board from their first choices. In fact, the majority of students surveyed (88 percent) who applied to college immediately after high school, were admitted to their first choice and safety schools. And overall, Lapovsky and her peers discovered that students are accepted by 81 percent of the colleges to which they apply.
Proportion of Students Accepted by Their First-Choice College
Percent Accepted at First Choice (Including Off Wait List)
All Students 88
Asian/Pacific Islander 80
African American 84
All other 83
Finally, the study went a long way toward dispelling the stigma that can follow application to a 2-year college. The study showed that despite the prevailing opinion that most students who apply to community colleges have no other options or chose not to apply anywhere else, 17 percent of students who attended these schools applied at five or more other institutions, and 70 percent of those who attended community colleges after having been accepted at other institutions, wound up accepting a spot at the school with the lowest tuition – almost exclusively two year institutions. It is clear that students who are attending these colleges are taking the price of admission into heavy consideration.