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Top College Admissions Rates Have Fallen

The news about top colleges and universities accepting fewer and fewer applicants each year may be alarming, but it is also complicated. Instead of giving up, take critical look at how and why this is happening.

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(Photo Credit: JohnRH4/Flickr)

The New York Times reports that the top colleges and universities are turning away 95 percent of applicants in a given year. At first blush, this statistic would cause any college-preparatory high school student to panic. The dynamics behind how we got here, however, are complicated and may shed light on how to get into a college -- any college, not just that brand-name school, or even the best-choice school for you.

Streamlined Application Process

Gone are the days when students acquired separate applications for each school they wished to attend. Today, the widespread use of the Common Application gives students the ability to more easily apply to any school and multiple schools. Years ago, a California student may have applied to the University of California, Stanford, and one or two additional west coast schools with one application. Today, those west coast students are applying to the local schools as well as Harvard, Yale, and Brown, etc.

With more students applying each year at any given college for the same number of admissions, of course the rate of refusal will go up. The response to this dynamic is understandably to apply to even more schools in the hopes of getting accepted to one. And the cycle continues.

One downside of applying to as many schools as possible is that each school has an application fee. Therefore, families with more resources can afford to apply to all of the good schools around the county, while equally intelligent students may not be able to afford close to $1,000 total in application fees. But with a five percent chance of getting into any one top school, it is better to apply to as many as possible.

Getting Into College Today

The bad news is that the top schools are turning away applicants that are practically identical to those they are admitting. Therefore, having the best application is not necessarily going to land you a spot on campus.

Best for students to recognize this fact and not assume if they don't get in, that they are failures. Rather, they might be better off applying to as many schools as they can -- and if by some chance they are not accepted to any, try again next year.

The Gap Year

Some students benefit from the experiences they have during a "gap year." This a year off, taken between high school graduation and first year of college. Some kids choose to travel during this time, or work to save money and gaining experience before returning to school. If you end up taking a year between high school and college, you may use it to your advantage when you tell college admissions boards about your experiences.

Tell Us What You Think

Are the top schools overrated? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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