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How Colleges Admit Students

January 15, 2010 By: Category: Admissions insider, College requirements, Get into College

One of the things I have noticed students admitted to college starting to ask is, “How many students are admitted to my major?” or “How many students do you accept each year?”.  While valid questions, these answers need to be placed in the right context.

What many students may or may not realize is that the landscape of applying to colleges have changed.  The University of New Haven is not alone in an increase in the number of applicants to the school.  While we have seen a tremendous surge in applications over the last 3 years … many universities have seen a steady increase in applications as well.

The national average of students who accept the college’s offer of admission is about 25% … that means that if, for the sake of an example, a college receives 100,000 applications and has 2,500 seats to fill, that university would need to admit 10,000 students from that applicant pool to yield the incoming class.  This benchmark has been much more difficult to predict for a number of factors. 

  1. The Common Application.  Many students use this now to fill out 1 application and send it to 10+ schools.  When I applied to college, I applied to 3 schools and was serious about all three.  Students now will apply first and ask questions later.  Admissions offices cannot differentiate based on simply the application how “interested” a student is in attending our particular school, so we have to do our best to admit the students we feel are a good “fit” and go from there.
  2. The economy.  It is hard to know which student’s will be impacted by negative economic conditions … Lack of a summer job, parents losing income, etc … Colleges need to prepare for a larger number of students declining the offer of admission based on that factor alone.
  3. How well people understand the value of attending your particular college.  For example … in the Forensic Science program at the University of New Haven, about 66% of the students who are offered admission, actually choose to enroll.  Why is it so much higher than the “average”?  Easy.  Reputation.  People know the program is good … so we can be and are significantly more selective with that program, as we have a pretty good idea of the number of students who will enroll from year-to-year.  Other programs do not have as high of enrollment, but need to have a certain number of students enrolled to stay open … so we have to accept more students.

What this means, is just because a school may admit a lot of students to a particular program or major, it does not mean that program is not good or that university is not a good place for you.  It means that colleges know that you have choices, and we need to be prepared for a lot of you to choose to attend schools that may not be ours.  You need to ask more about the outcomes of the education.  What internships do students get in the program?  What are Alumni up to?  What research do students get to work on with their faculty?

Ideally each college would receive the exact number of applications for the exact number of seats available in their class, and every student would be admitted.  We all know that this is not the case … otherwise why would the number of applications you fill out be more than “1”?