What Do "Insiders" Know About College Admissions And Why Should Employers Care?

As parents, we all want the best for our children.  For many of us, this means seeing them get into and attend the best college they can without taking on huge amounts of debt.  College graduates earn more than $1 million more than those who do not attain a degree. The stakes are high.

Unfortunately, the hurdles are high as well.  The college admissions process is a far cry from what it was just a decade ago.  College is more difficult to get into and afford than at any time in history.

This increased difficulty creates a very emotional time for the entire family and the added stress drains employee productivity, focus, and overall well-being.

Key Factor: Technology and the College Admissions Process

Insiders like the experts at College Coach know that technology plays a key role in the process today.  With the Common Application, college hopefuls are now applying to (multiple) schools with the click of the mouse. According to the NACAC 2013 State of College Admission report, in 2004, colleges received 57% of applications online. In 2011, this number rose to 85%.

This ease of applying, combined with population growth, has resulted in a sky-rocketing number of applications. According to the US Department of Education, the average number of applications per institution increased 60% between 2002 and 2011.

Insiders also know that there has been staggering growth in the ratio of applications to admission officer. In 2011, a single admissions officer was responsible for reviewing 662 college applications on average! This is an almost 50% jump from 2005, when they each reviewed 359.

Resulting Shift: Colleges Becoming Increasingly Selective

At the same time, colleges are becoming increasingly selective, so a fewer percentage of students are being accepted, especially at the more competitive schools.  In 2011, over 21% of the nation's schools accepted fewer than 50% of applicants.

This selectivity trend can be seen across the country. According to a recent New York Times' The Choice article, many Ivy League schools boasted acceptance rates lower than 8% in 2012. For example, Harvard University accepted just 2,032, or 6.3%, of 32,302 applicants last year.  Similarly, out of 46,030 applicants to the University of Southern California, more than 36,400 were rejected.

Teaming Up With Experts to Help Employees Navigate a Changing Landscape

With odds like this, it is easy to understand why it's critical for prospective college students and parents understand the process and work to make their applications stand out from the rest. There are many factors that go into the college admissions package, including high school grades, strength of classes, standardized tests scores, recommendation letters, college interviews, essays, extra-curricular activities, and summer jobs. So, which matter most to each school?  What should and shouldn't be in the essay, (which is the most important factor after grades and test scores)?

Here at College Coach, we have assembled a team of former college admissions officers that have decided on thousands of college applications in their past, to answer these questions.  This team now works directly with families, offering a unique "insider" perspective on what admissions officers are actually looking for and advice on how to help prospective students stand out.  Our goal is to help employees feel more in control of the process, lower their stress levels and provide better outcomes than they might achieve on their own.

With that in mind, our new curriculum, College Admissions: The Insider's View, reflects the challenges facing today's students and families. Employees access this insider expertise through workshops, one-on-one counseling and our online Learning Center.  Our results show lower employee stress, greater productivity, and better employee engagement.

Written by: Patrick Donovan

About the Author

Patrick Donovan Bright Horizons

A member of Bright Horizons’ Executive Team, Patrick has overall responsibility for EdAssist and College Coach. Patrick and his teams are dedicated to enabling superior performance for clients and their employees through better education while also reducing stress through better financial wellness. Patrick believes that our job is to unlock human potential and is passionate about how we positively change lives here at Bright Horizons.