The 2018 State of College Admissions Report

Since its founding in 1937, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), a preeminent trade association in the admissions field, has had as its mission the support of students in the transition from high school to college. Given the extent of the changes in academia in recent decades, NACAC considers the role of admissions professionals to be more important than ever in assisting students in this transition.

 IvySelect has been a member of NACAC for many years. Michael Goran, J.D., our Founder and President, has attended a number of NACAC conferences and utilizes the information garnered from these national counseling meetings, as well as its publications and research, to inform his practice and guide his students..

NACAC released its 2018 State of College Admissions Report this past November. The methodology is based partly on their annual Admission Trends Survey of member institutions. The association collects data including: application volume, application practices; the use of various enrollment management strategies such as wait lists, Early Decision (ED), and Early Action (EA) programs; the weight assigned to various factors in admissions decisions; and admissions office staffing levels.

In their 2018 study, NACAC received 493 survey responses from the 1,264 institutions that comprise NACAC’s membership of 4-year, nonprofit, baccalaureate degree-granting institutions. The membership represents 70% of the eligible institutions in the U.S. and the survey’s response rate of 39% is well above typical survey results.

Although NACAC surveys all types of member institutions rather than just the more highly selective ones in which IvySelect specializes, a student aspiring to attend an Ivy League or similarly elite institution may find the trends that the report identifies useful in guiding their decisions. The report also provides pertinent information on a number of issues that will impact a student’s application process.

A summary of the findings in the NACAC’s 2018 State of College Admissions Report is presented below:

College Applications: The increase in the number of colleges to which each student applies continues to trend upward. This is reflected in the 7% growth from the 2017 study to 2018 study in the overall number of first-time freshmen applications received. Thirty-five percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more schools. Given that colleges are improving their recruitment results by increasing their emphasis on websites, email, and social media, this growth trend shows no signs of abating.

ED and EA Programs: Between 2016 and 2017, colleges reported an average increase of 4% in the number of ED applicants and 5% percent in ED applicants. The number of EA acceptances increased by 9% and the number of students accepted through EA programs increased by 10%.

Wait Lists: The likelihood of wait list acceptance remains low. In last year’s admission cycle, 40% of institutions reported using a wait list. From the 2016-17 cycle to the 2017-18 cycle, the number of students offered a place on a wait list increased by an average of 12%. Institutions accepted an average of 25% of applicants who elected to remain on a wait list.

Personal Characteristics: The report’s findings on the influence of personal characteristics on admissions for first-time freshmen is recapped in Table A, below:

Table A: The Influence of Personal Characteristics on

 Admissions Decisions for First-Time Freshmen

Characteristic Considerable  Influence Moderate  Influence Limited Influence       No Influence
High school attended 3.6% 18.1% 36.7%     41.6%
Race/ethnicity 2.4% 13.0% 20.7%     63.9%
State or county of residence 1.2% 7.9% 23.6%     67.3%
First-generation status 4.2% 12.6% 32.3%     50.9%
Ability to pay 1.2% 4.2% 13.7%     81.0%
Gender 1.8% 3.0% 17.9%     77.4%
Alumni ties 1.2% 11.3% 38.1%     49.4%

Academic Factors: More important than personal characteristics are the academic factors that contribute to favorable admissions decisions. Table B, below, focuses on these considerations.

Table B: Academic Factors in Admissions

Decisions for First-Time Freshmen

Factor Considerable Influence Moderate Influence Limited Influence     No Influence
Grades (all courses) 80.9% 10.4% 5.8%    2.9%
Grades (college prep) 70.8% 17.5% 8.8%    2.9%
Test scores (SAT, ACT) 52.3% 30.8% 14.5%    2.3%
Strength of curriculum 51.2% 29.3% 12.9%    6.5%
Essay or writing sample 16.7% 36.9% 20.8%  25.6%
Counselor recommendation 10.8% 46.1% 28.7% 14.4%
Demonstrated interest 15.5% 21.4% 34.5% 28.6%
Teacher recommendation 7.1% 46.4% 29.2% 17.3%

IvySelect, a leading college admissions consulting firm, provides superior comprehensive, individualized counseling based on years of experience in guiding students to achieve their educational goals. The list of top-tier colleges and universities to which our students have been admitted includes Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Penn, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, MIT, Cal Tech, Oxford (U.K.), Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Rice, Washington University in St. Louis, Emory, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, USC, Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, Boston College, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Tulane, Boston University, University of Rochester, Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Haverford, Wellesley, Vassar, Barnard, Colgate, Hamilton, and many others.

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