Get Insight On The College Admissions Process

Learn about the admissions process from the officers' perspective to gain the inside track.

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: February 6, 2018

We put you in the shoes of college admissions officers, so that you can sense their point of view with these facts:

  • They report that the top three factors in determining a first-time college freshman’s admissibility are grades, high school curriculum, and SAT/ACT scores.
  • Among the next most important factors are college application essays, demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.
  • Private colleges placed relatively more weight on grades in college prep courses, strength of curriculum, and the application essays. Public schools gave slightly more weight to admission test scores.
  • Smaller institutions and more selective colleges attributed more importance to college application essays than did their larger counterparts.
  • Small colleges give more weight to a family’s ability to pay.
  • More selective colleges value first-generation status and gender.
  • The high school attended has little or no influence on college admissions for over 80% of college admissions officers. Selective schools may take note, however.
  • The average admission rate for all four-year colleges was 66.1% for the fall of 2015.
  • Colleges that accept fewer than half their applicants received 37% of all fall 2015 applications, but enrolled only 22% of all first-time undergrads.
  • Two out of every three first-time freshmen enrolled at colleges that accept 50-85% of their applicants. One third of all applicants, then, are vying for spots at more selective schools, where the competition tends to be more intense.
  • An average of 23% of students who chose to remain on college wait lists were eventually admitted; however, for the more selective schools, only 14% of waitlisted applicants were accepted.

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Meanwhile, in the realm of high schools’ college counseling, the statistics paint a bleak picture:

  • While the American School Counselors Association recommends a maximum student/counselor ratio of 250:1 to allow the time needed to properly counsel each student, the national average in public schools was almost twice that at 482:1 in 2014-15 (according to the US Department of Education). Unfortunately, Florida’s ratio was a whopping 485:1.
  • Counselors have so many other duties that they can devote only about 21% of their time to post-secondary counseling. That’s little more than ½ hour per student!
  • 49% of private schools (about half) have at least one full/part-time counselor whose sole responsibility is providing college counseling, but only 28% (less than a third) of public schools had a dedicated college advisor.

How high school students “spread the application wealth”:

  • More than 80% of first-time freshmen have applied to at least three colleges.
  • 35% of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges.

These data are not only the essence of current information; they are essential in plotting a course of action when applying to college. We update this knowledge every year when we attend the NACAC conference, so that we can provide the most comprehensive counseling possible to our families — and significantly more time to each student. And there’s a lot more to tell.

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College Admissions Secrets Revealed

Topics: College Admission College Application College Counseling College Planning Educational Consulting


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