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Is College Really Harder to Get Into Than It Used To Be?

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Yes and no!


If schools that were once considered “safeties” now have admissions rates as low as 20 or 30 percent, it appears tougher to get into college every spring. But “beneath the headlines and urban legends,” Jim Hull, senior policy analyst at the National School Board Association’s Center for Public Education, says their 2010 report shows that it was no more difficult for most students to get into college in 2004 than it was in 1992. While the Center plans to update the information in the next few years to reflect the past decade of applicants, students with the same SAT and GPA in the 90’s basically have an equal probability of getting into a similarly selective college today. The problem, according to the report, is that there is a “silent achievement gap” as low-income and minority students are much less likely than their higher-income and white peers to earn the same credentials.

“Schools with hefty endowments like Princeton for example, are able to actively recruit lower socio-economic kids,” said Princeton sociology professor, Dr. Thomas J. Espenshade, co-author of  “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admissions and Life.” “Schools however, particularly with the recession, who have to keep one eye on the amount of financial aid they are able to give, will be tougher for lower-income and working class families.” And he agrees, as more state schools recruit out of state and internationally, there may be a squeeze on working class kids in their own home state as a result of these pressures on admissions—making schools more selective.

Ouch ouch:

Social media, though, doesn’t reinforce the reality that you will still get into a good school—if not your very top choice. If anything, it perpetuates this notion of maddening selectivity. The past few weeks, I watched families process college decisions in real time, as parents updated their Facebook friends about how competitive the process has become; whether their kids were waitlisted at Middlebury and the University of Virginia, or rejected from Vanderbilt and USC. “Over the last 20 years, the admissions rates for some schools have been halved or quartered,” explained Lacey Crawford, author of the novel Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy, who spent 15 years working one-on-one with college applicants in cities all over the U.S. and Europe. “[It makes] schools today’s parents knew as backups now red-hot and almost impossible to get into.” Even if there are enough spots at highly rated schools for everyone, as application numbers rise and acceptance rates fall, the entire college process will seem endlessly more competitive and selective.

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