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Current Trends in College Admission

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) surveys thousands of admission officials at colleges across the U.S. yearly about their admission practices. The resulting re-port, The State of College Admissions, provides insights into trends in college admission. Some highlights follow:

Nationally, the average college acceptance rate edged up to 66%. NACAC examined admission data to determine the national average acceptance rate for first-time freshmen across all four-year colleges in the U.S. This number has increased slightly for each of the last five years. As a group, private colleges have a slightly lower national acceptance rate than public institutions.

Sixty-five percent of students apply to six or fewer colleges. 35% applied to seven or more colleges last year, com-pared to 36% the previous year.

Your grades matter more than anything else to admission. When asked to weight the importance of different factors they use in making admission decisions, admission officers were very clear: your grades in high school are most important. Colleges want to see that you are ready for college success, and the best indicator of that is how you’ve done in your high school classes. But don’t think you can slack off and take easier classes in order to boost your chances; 87% of the admission officers surveyed also said that the strength of your high school curriculum is important.

Test scores matter, but not as much as they used to. 54% of those surveyed reported that an applicant’s SAT or ACT scores are of considerable importance in making an admission decision. Test scores were of moderate importance to another 28%. However, overall, colleges today are putting slightly less emphasis on test scores in ad-missions than they did a decade ago.

Your recommendations matter just as much as your application essay. Your personal statement is important to college admission officers. 54% said that applicant essays were either of consider-able or of moderate importance when reviewing applications. But don’t sell the importance of your recommendations short. 56% of admission officers said counselor and teacher recommendations were of similar importance.

If you have to choose between studying and an extracurricular, hit the books. Colleges do care about extracurriculars, but probably not as much as many students and parents believe. Only 6% of admission officers ranked extracurriculars as being of considerable importance to their admission decisions, while another 30% said an applicant’s extracurriculars were of moderate importance. That means to 64% of admissions officers, extracurriculars aren’t a major factor in the decision to admit. Extracurriculars have many benefits, so it is still important to get involved with activities you enjoy. But, your grades will almost always be more important than your extracurriculars.

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