[MOTHER OF INVENTION] Vegas or Vassar: Which Has Better Odds?
As summer comes to an end, the college admission process starts to heat up. Soon, high school seniors nationwide will find themselves in the throes of essay writing, gathering letters of recommendations and waging their odds of admission—called “chance me” available on various online college admission websites.
Since the 1980s when I was a rising senior, the process of applying to colleges has changed significantly. Today, rather than filling out individual applications for each college, students fill out one centralized online application called the Common Application.
The Common App, as it is known, began as a pilot in 1975 with just 15 colleges participating. Now, nearly 500 do.
Initially, the idea was welcomed. What had been hours filling out applications was now streamlined and simplified. While most schools still request applicants provide supplemental materials, like short essays or résumés, the tedium of filing individual forms is long gone.
But no one anticipated how the Common App would drastically change the numbers game. It has so streamlined the process that now many high school seniors apply to too many schools, sending acceptance rates plummeting.
In 2015, Columbia University received 31,712 applications and accepted 6.9%. According to IvyWise.com, college acceptance rates this year dropped as low as 5% for the first time for colleges such as Harvard and Stanford.
In comparison, in 1988, Columbia had an acceptance rate of 65% according to U.S. News & World Report. This year, 33,531 applied and fewer than 7% were accepted.
Most concerning are California’s acceptance rates.
According to a press release generated by UCLA, more than 112,000 students applied for admission to the university this fall.
Now some are calling for reform. Ideas range from increasing application fees to doing away with the Common App altogether.
There are some who believe the numbers are misleading and it’s not drastically harder to get into your favorite school today than it was when I was a kid. Either way, it is enough to make me think my daughter’s odds in Vegas are better than her odds at Vassar.