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Increase in college applicants requires students to be better prepared


Wednesday, July 25, 2012
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 8.5 million students attended college in 1970. By 2009, this number skyrocketed to 20.4 million, marking a 138 percent increase. Colin Gruenwald, director of SAT and ACT programs for Kaplan Test Prep, recently explained what this increase in postsecondary students means for applicants during the college admissions process.

Does more college students mean more competition?

The short answers is yes. There are a few factors that are coming together to create a very competitive environment for admissions to top-choice schools.... So for what this is doing to students, there are a few factors. For one thing, top-tier schools reported rejections have increased. There's no question about that. They are reporting record rejection rates from top schools. Wait-listing is also becoming much more common. A lot of students are being put on wait-lists now and that did not used to be a very common thing.

With so much competition, how can students stand out during the college admissions process?

I wish everyone asked me this in about eighth grade. Schools will look heavily at your junior- and senior-level grades, especially your AP, International Baccalaureate or any college preparatory classes, but they are [also] going to look at your overall GPA. You can think of it as a series of filters. Let's say a school is going to accept students, and the first thing they do is throw out everyone who has a 2.0 GPA or lower. Then they see that they still have too many [applicants], so they throw out everyone who has lower than a 2.5. Now, they throw out everyone who has a 3.0 or lower, until they are at a reasonable percentage and can start getting into their individual grade differences.

This means that if you had really low grades your freshman or sophomore year and then junior or senior year you're trying to turn it around, you may not have enough time. Moving the needle from a 2.5 to a 3.0 is, for most students, not a one-year project and, in many cases, not even a two-year project. You really need to consider the impact of your freshman- and sophomore-year classes on your overall GPA.... Even if you're totally qualified today, you spent two years digging yourself a hole that you couldn't spend one year digging yourself out of.

The other thing students need to start thinking about early is the track they need to be on in order to get into AP classes that are going to be meaningful to them. College admissions counselors have reported regularly for years that grades in college-preparatory courses, traditionally your AP courses, are the number one consideration in college acceptance. But what most students don't think of is that you don't just need to do well in that class. You also need to be on a track to get you into that class. You can't take French I freshman year, do OK and decide to repeat it sophomore year, then vault in AP French junior year. They're not going to let you in. You need to be on the right track and discuss this with your guidance counselor early on. ADNFCR-16000756-ID-800826270-ADNFCR

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