Will College Admission Be Slightly Easier This Year?

Many experts believe that admission to college may be easier for high school seniors this year due to a population dip in the applicant pool.

It is expected that students will benefit this year from the population dip after a long stretch of rising competition in college admissions. Experts expect that it will be somewhat easier to obtain admission offers from many good, and even competitive, schools, writes Larry Gordon of The Los Angeles Times.

In addition, colleges, particularly private ones that are not the top tier schools, are working harder to court applicants, recruiting farther from their campuses and sweetening financial aid offers. The demographic change gives a bit of hope to students after months of writing essays, taking entrance exams and gathering recommendation letters.

The dip in applicants "may help you get into certain colleges except for the Ivy Leagues, but it's still a really stressful time," said Davone Morales, an Eagle Rock High School senior who is applying to UC and California State campuses and such private schools as USC, Syracuse, George Washington and American to study broadcast journalism.

In 2010-11, the number of high school graduates across the country rose to 3.4 million, compared to 2.6 million in 1996-97. A report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education shows that then a decline began and the low point will be this year's 3.2 million national figure. The incoming college freshman pool may shrink further since Latinos comprise a rising portion of high school graduates but enroll in college at relatively low rates.

"Students and families are a little more in the driver's seat than they were a few years ago," said Brian Prescott, the Western Interstate official who co-authored the report, "Knocking at the College Door." Chances will be somewhat better for students to be admitted to schools higher on their wish lists than older siblings faced, he said.

David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling, said many colleges face uncertainty about filling a freshman class and getting enough tuition revenue.

According to a recent survey of 381 colleges by Inside Higher Ed, 76% of schools reported they were moderately or very concerned about meeting their new student enrollment goals, while 10% said they were not concerned at all.

The population decline is partly offset at some schools by a trend among students to apply to more colleges than previous generations, made easier by the online common application form. Additionally, many schools want to enroll more international students, particularly those who can afford to pay full tuition, experts said.

The state Department of Education reported that the number of high school seniors in California is expected to be about 3.5% smaller this year compared to last year. Officials at the University of California, however, said that it will not be easier for students to get into the most in-demand campuses even though the annual growth in applications overall may slow.

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