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College applicants: apply Early and often

Most of the results are in, and while some college applicants are celebrating, many students, parents and counselors are finding causes for concern. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Application Volume When applicant volumes soar, record low admit rates follow. This is relevant to my wonderful students, many of whom like the same colleges. Tulane reported over 38,000 applications, an increase of 9 percent; its ED apps rose over 37 percent. University of Richmond, with an 18 percent increase in applications, reported a 45-point increase in its mean SAT score.

Early Decision In the most competitive application season ever, students had to go Early or go home. The statistics tell the story.

Class of 2022: Reported Acceptance Rates


Early Decision Rate

    Regular Decision Rate













As far as we know, colleges will continue to accept more applicants from Early pools. The popular Northwestern, for example, now accepts 50% of its freshman class from in the ED round.

Northwestern takes about 50% of its class ED.

While those of us in college counseling were analyzing the stats, Penn State announced new Early options for the Class of 2023. If you have a junior, note that November 1, 2018, will be the new EA and Honors College priority deadline, enabling applicants to learn their fate by December 24.

Waitlists Huge waitlist volumes were reported across the board, confusing students and annoying counselors. In “Are Waiting Lists Out of Control?” Admissions Insider’s Scott Jaschik uses examples from my alma mater to show what’s going on. Brown admitted 2,566 students and waitlisted even more: 2.724. As Jaschik points out, “If every single admitted applicant rejected Brown’s offer, it would have wait-list candidates to spare in building a class larger than the last one.” C’mon, man!*

Brown’s beautiful in the spring, but c’mon, man!

*Phrase borrowed from ESPN

Meanwhile, students on these waitlists are usually told nothing about the (very low) probability of coming off. And while they shouldn’t hold false hopes, students should follow up if stuck on a particular college that has waitlisted them. I instruct my students exactly how to handle a waitlist but also remind them to put down a deposit at their top-choice admit by May 1. Please email meif waitlists are affecting an applicant you know.

The WSJ put it all in perspective, stating, “Despite the fervor around Ivy League admissions, the vast majority of college students actually go to a college where nearly everyone gets in, and many less prestigious institutions are struggling to fill their classes amid questions about the financial return on a college education.”

Michigan or Villanova: Sounds Like Something from the New Jersey Applicant’s Playbook Every year, prospective college students ponder a future at the NCAA tourney’s finalists.

  1. Villanova added another round of Early Decision this year. The university reported 3,300 of its own at an Easter mass in San Antonio. I’ve never seen so many Nova flags around New Jersey!

  2. Michigan accepts about as many in-state as out of-state students, according to the Washington Post. Other popular flagships (e.g, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Texas) don’t open up nearly that many spots to out-of-staters. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Michigan Wolverines top the list of New York’s favorite college sports teams.

Other Developments (Literally) STEM applicants: Tulane is watching out for you! The New Orleans university announced plans for a School of Science and Engineering building, which it will start to construct in late 2019.  The building is funded in part by a $10 million alumni donation.

Social Media: Click It and Get a Ticket! Last week, I had a delightful meeting with Alan Katzman, founder of Social Assurity and my inspiration for encouraging proactive use of social media in the college process. NY Metro applicants are invited to join Alan and me on Tuesday, April 17, at 7:00 pm at The Hudson School in Hoboken. To register, use this link.

Parents: you are not alone on the college journey! I’ll be on the campus of University of Texas at Austin later this month and, the following week, taking in the sights in and around Tulane. Be sure to follow me, @nberler, to stay informed, and email me with questions and concerns.


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