The winter waiting game for high school seniors can be brutal. As they begin to wonder if they applied to the right schools, if their scores were high enough, if financial aid will be enough, if they are enough, a false sense of urgency builds. At the same time, colleges are “dangling more merit-based financial aid and urging applicants to commit early in the process” (Oberlin, University of Chicago and Other Elite Colleges Extend Application Deadlines, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29, 2019).
Class 101 helps students navigate the admissions process before, during, and after they apply. This is a critical time for students, and we guide them with patience to wait for all the information to come in before they make their final decision. That starts with understanding all of the factors at play. First, The Common Application has made it easier for students to apply to more colleges: “thirty-five percent of seniors applied to at least seven schools in 2016, up from 18% a decade earlier. In that same time span, the yield, or share of admitted students who enrolled at a given four-year college, fell to 34% from 45%” (WSJ, Jan. 29, 2019). Application pools are growing, and admission rates are sinking.
At the same time, colleges are competing for a smaller population to fill the same number of seats in each freshman class. This trend will only continue. According to Nathan Grawe, an economist at Carleton College in Minnesota, “the college-going population will drop by 15 percent between 2025 and 2029 and continue to decline by another percentage point or two thereafter” (Colleges Set to Fight for Fewer Students, US News & World Report, Sept. 10, 2018). Students can expect to receive messages of extended deadlines, invitations to apply for additional programs and merit-based scholarships, and encouragement to make their decisions sooner.
Seniors should take time to compare their top three to five schools, weighing all of the costs and even comparing required courses, optional programs as well as things like housing and dining options. The winter waiting game is long, but students and their families should never feel rushed into making a decision.