The College Admissions Report 2011 of NACAC reveals the following trends.  For the past decade, there have been increases in the number of high school graduates, the number of students applying to colleges and the number of students enrolled in higher education. Women have enrolled in college at a higher rate, causing some colleges to have differential rates of admission for females and males to try to narrow the gender gap.  Applications have increased, and as a result, selectivity has increased and yield (the percent of accepted students who choose to attend) has decreased. With the increasing unpredictability of admissions, colleges are relying more on Early Decision to fill up to half the incoming class, and making more use of Wait Lists to offset the uncertainty of yield.

High School Graduation and College Enrollment

  • The number of high school graduates has been steadily increasing for over a decade;
  • The percentage of high school graduates who go to college has increased since the 1970s, and reached a new peak of 70% in 2009;
  • The total number of students enrolled in higher ed has increased steadily over the past 35 years, with 20.4 million students enrolled in 2009; and is projected to increase an additional 13% by 2020; Most of the enrollment increases have been in public institutions.
  • Rates of enrollment in college are directly correlated with family income;
  • Women have enrolled in college at a higher rate than men since the 1980s, with a gap of 8 percentage points in 2009;

Applications to College

  • Students are submitting more applications to college;
  • 25% of fall 2010 freshmen applied to 7 or more colleges;
  • Average yield among four-year colleges for Class of 2010 was 41%, e.g. less than half of all students admitted to an institution accepted.
  • Average yield has declined because students are applying to more institutions, making it more difficult for colleges to predict yield and obtain target enrollment numbers.
  • Gender trends:  Females comprise 56% of applicants of four-year colleges for fall 2010 admission, 56% of accepted students and 56% of enrolled students. Average acceptance rates for male and female applicants were nearly the same, at 64.9% vs. 65.2%.

NOTE:  The pattern among individual institutions varies greatly, with some schools accepting a higher percentage of male than female applicants to try to achieve gender equality in numbers.

Admission Strategies

  • Early Decision: 38% of colleges report increases in # of ED applicants; 12% of all applicants for fall 2010 admission to ED colleges were received through ED; 38% of colleges saw an increase in ED applications; Colleges with ED policies have a higher acceptance rate for ED (57% vs. 50% for Regular);
  • Early Action: 72% of colleges saw an increase in EA applications; Colleges with EA report a nearly identical acceptance rates for EA than Overall (66% vs. 67%);
  • Wait Lists: % of institutions that used WLs increased from 39% (fall 2009) to 48% (fall 2010). On average, only 11% of wait-listed students were ultimately admitted from the group of most selective colleges.