Ask anyone connected to a senior in high school if it’s harder to get into college these days and you are likely to get a resounding “Yes”. However, if you take a look at the reality of college admissions in terms of numbers, you might find yourself hesitating for a moment before you answer that question.
On the one hand, there is no denying that admission to the highly selective colleges in the U.S. is much more difficult to achieve now than it was two decades ago. Highly publicized college rankings, along with students’ willingness to travel far from home for college and a general perception that some schools are more equal than others, have driven more students to apply to these colleges. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. The more students who apply, the harder it is to get in and the higher the bar is set.
However, a recent study published by Caroline M. Hoxby with the National Bureau of Economic Research, presented data which showed that if you look beyond the sphere of those highly selective colleges, you will find that it is actually somewhat easier to get into college than it once was. In fact, a somewhat less qualified student has a better chance of getting into college than in the past. The reason? There are many, but the overriding factor is most likely economics. Colleges need to have students in order to survive. As students have chosen to attend colleges further away from home, some local colleges have had to find new sources of students. By broadening their admissions criteria, a school can draw from a larger pool of applicants to fill their seats. The result is a school is able to continue serving the people in the local community and students, who at one time would not have been admitted, get the opportunity to prove they have what it takes to be successful in college. It can be a win-win situation – especially for students who started to hit their academic stride later in their high school career. It should be noted that a college’s decision to accept a broader range of students is in no way a reflection on the quality of education being offered by that institution.
So, the answer to the question posed above is a resounding Yes and No. To be honest, the standards for getting into college have remained the same for the majority of colleges in the U.S. and an average student has just as good of a chance of getting into a good college as they had ten years ago. The differences have more to do with numbers of applicants to a particular school than anything else.