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2017 State of College Admission: Executive Summary

College Applications2017 State of College Admission Report
Growth in Application Volume Continues: Between the Fall 2015 and Fall 2016 admission cycles, the number of applications from first-time freshmen increased 7 percent; applications from prospective transfer students increased by 1 percent; and international student applications increased by 13 percent, on average.

Colleges Accept Nearly Two-Thirds of First-Time Freshmen Applicants; on Average; National Average Acceptance Rate Rebounds: The average selectivity rate—percentage of applicants who are offered admission—at four-year colleges and universities in the United States was 66.1 percent for Fall 2015. The national average acceptance rate has edged up from 64.7 percent in Fall 2013, after reaching a low of 63.9 percent in Fall 2012.

Decline in Average Yield Rate for First-Time Freshmen: The average yield rate for Fall 2015 (35.1 percent) decreased slightly from 36.2 percent in Fall 2014.

Transfer Acceptance Rate Slightly Lower than Freshmen Rate; Yield Much Higher: Among institutions that enroll transfer students, average selectivity for Fall 2016 was 62 percent, compared to 66 percent for first-time freshmen. However, almost two-thirds (65 percent) of transfer applicants who were admitted ultimately enrolled, compared to only 28 percent of freshman admits.

International Student Acceptance Rate is Low; Yield Slightly Higher than First-Time Freshmen: At institutions that enroll first-time international students, the admit rate for this population (55 percent) is lower than both transfer and first-time freshmen. The average yield rate for international students is 32 percent.

Recruitment and Yield Strategies
College admission offices use a variety of strategies to recruit prospective students, particularly those who would be likely to attend if admitted. Colleges are broadening their recruitment efforts to bring in more transfer and international students.

Beyond the High School Graduate: More than two-thirds of Admission Trends Survey respondents indicated that transfer students are considerably important to meeting overall recruitment goals, and almost 40 percent rated international students as considerably important.

Top Recruitment Strategies: Email and institutional websites are the primary means by which colleges recruit first-time freshmen, transfer students, and international students. Email and websites are also the top two recruitment strategies for first-time freshmen. However, colleges employ a broader range of strategies when recruiting these domestic high school students. Four other factors were each rated as considerably important by more than 50 percent of colleges in 2016—campus visits, high school counselors, high school visits, and direct mail..

Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) Activity Increases: Between Fall 2015 and Fall 2016, colleges reported an average increase of 5 percent in the number of Early Decision applicants and 6 percent in ED admits. The number of Early Action applications increased by 15 percent and the number of students accepted through EA increased by 16 percent.

Wait List Activity Increases; Likelihood of Wait List Acceptance is Low: For the Fall 2016 admission cycle, 39 percent of institutions reported using a wait list. Institutions accepted an average of 23 percent of all students who chose to remain on wait lists. From Fall 2015 to Fall 2016, the number of students offered a place on an admission waitlist increased by 11 percent, on average, and the number admitted increased by 31 percent.


Factors in Admission Decisions
The factors that admission officers use to evaluate applications from first-time freshmen have remained largely consistent over the past 20 years. Students’ academic achievements—which include grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores—constitute the most important factors in the admission decision. Admission decision factors for first-time international students are similar to those for domestic students, but the transfer admission decision process differs in significant ways.

Admission Offices Identify Grades, High School Curriculum, and Test Scores as Top Factors for First-Time Freshmen: The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2016 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses, overall high school GPA, admission test scores, and strength of curriculum. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.

Top Factor for International Students is English Proficiency Exam Scores: After English proficiency, the factors for admission decisions with international applicants are remarkably similar to those for domestic students, with one notable exception. A greater proportion of colleges rated the essay/writing sample as considerably important for international applicants, likely because of the additional confirmation of English skills that the essay provides.

For Transfer Admission Decisions, College Grades Matter Most: The only transfer admission decision factors that were rated considerably important by a substantial proportion of colleges were overall GPA at prior postsecondary institution(s) and average grades in transferrable courses.


College Counseling in Secondary Schools
Access to college information and counseling in school is a significant benefit to students in the college application process. For many students, particularly those in public schools, college counseling is limited at best. Counselors are few in number, often have large student caseloads, and have additional constraints on the amount of time they can dedicate to college counseling.

Student-to-Counselor RatioAccording to US Department of Education data, in 2014-15 each public school counselor (including elementary and secondary) was responsible for 482 students, on average.

College Counseling Staff: In 2016, 28 percent of public schools reported employing at least one counselor (full- or part-time) whose exclusive responsibility was to provide college counseling, compared to 49 percent of private schools.

Counselor Professional Activities: On average, public counselors spent 20 percent of their time on postsecondary counseling in 2016, while their private school counterparts spent 31 percent of their time on college counseling.

 

Download the report to learn more.

Explore Other 2017 State of College Admission Highlights

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  • Chapter 1: College applications

    Each year, US colleges and universities receive hundreds of thousands of applications from first-time domestic students, transfer students, and students from abroad. Key findings concerned application volume, acceptance, and yield rates.

    Read More
  • Chapter 2: Recruitment and Yield Strategies

    College admission offices use a variety of strategies to recruit prospective students, particularly those who would be likely to attend if admitted. Colleges are broadening their recruitment efforts to bring in more transfer and international students.

    Read More
  • Chapter 3: Factors in the Admission Decision

    The factors that admission officers use to evaluate applications from first-time freshmen have remained largely consistent over the past 20 years. Students’ academic achievements—which include grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores—constitute the most important factors in the admission decision.

    Read More
  • Chapter 4: College Counseling in Secondary Schools

    Access to college information and counseling in school is a significant benefit to students in the college application process. For many students, particularly those in public schools, college counseling is limited at best. Counselors are few in number, often have large student caseloads, and have additional constraints on the amount of time they can dedicate to college counseling.

    Read More

NACAC Research

Use of Predictive Validity Studies to Inform Admission Practices

This report sheds new light on the important role predictive validity research can play in informing admission practices.

Career Paths for Admission Officers: A Survey Report

This report presents the results of a survey of NACAC admission professionals, offering insightful observations on their career experiences and advice to others to advance in the profession.

Individualized Learning Plans for College and Career Readiness: State Policies and School-Based Practices

This report, developed by NACAC & Hobsons, highlights promising state- and school-level practices using individual learning plans (ILPs) to prepare students for success beyond high school.