A lot of Indian students who look to do their undergraduation abroad are persistently concerned about it being harder than ever to get into selective colleges in the US. They cite ever dropping acceptance rates among top colleges as evidence.
Selectivity/acceptance rate is measured by the percentage of students who are admitted. There are many reasons why college acceptance rates continue to fall – increase in overseas applicants, higher demand, limited spots, college rankings. The obsession with magazine rankings and the media’s coverage of the most elite universities has driven up applications submitted to these top-ranked schools. A measure like selectivity which is used in the ranking methodology increases the interest in a college and a cyclical process begins, with more and more
students trying to get fortunate, merely charmed by the university name.
What many parents and students don’t realize is that increasing numbers of applications isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s harder to get into a selective college; rather, it’s a sign of changes in behaviour among high school seniors. More and more students who aren’t necessarily qualified are applying to top colleges, inflating the application numbers while not seriously impacting admissions. Pay no heed to qualification for one moment; it is not necessary that a very selective college be the right fit for the student in any case. The inflation in the number of applications can also be traced to the Common App — a single application and essay that works for multiple colleges. Today, applying to six or seven colleges is on the low end. Many students will apply to 10 or 15, so you’re looking at doubling or even tripling the number of applications from the same pool of applicants.
The net effect of this behaviour is to create an illusion of increased selectivity. Although agreed that most of these applicants are strong candidates, students who meet the academic and extracurricular thresholds to qualify for competitive colleges will still get into some selective college or the other provided their uniqueness shines through their application.
Also, it is only a small group of highly selective colleges that admit less than 25% of their applicants. There are literally hundreds of excellent ones across the US that you may never have heard of, which offer great opportunities to reach your academic and personal goals.
Success for us at Mentor Mpact means getting you into the best college keeping in mind the environment where you will thrive the most. That could be an Ivy League university, or a state university or a liberal arts college. Our philosophy is to encourage students to do proper research and delve both into their prospective colleges and themselves. Applicants should selectively discern the intellectual and social environments where they are best suited to be challenged. Rather than looking at selectivity and choosing colleges that are least selective, we encourage students to look at parameters like the 4 year graduation rate or the scope for research or the quality of faculty. A highly selective college can never be a ticket/short cut to success. Remember that the college admissions process is strategic… It is important for students to have a balanced list of colleges, with each college being one where they will be happy and contribute to their own growth. Getting into a good, competitive college will never seem an uphill task then.