2012: A New Hope

Submitted by ashley on Sat, 01/21/2012 - 11:35am


With the regular decision application deadlines finally behind you, you (the high school seniors and their parents) must be breathing a sigh of relief. Since your fate is essentially out of your hands at this point, assuming you don’t fail any classes or commit any crimes between now and April, I thought I’d brighten your Friday with a dose of good news. On Wednesday, my husband emailed me an article on higher education, and when I saw “elite colleges” in the subject line, I figured I would be reading some depressing statistics on record numbers of applications and abysmal odds.

You can imagine my surprise when I read the first paragraph: “Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Applications for freshman admission to elite U.S. colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University are slowing after years of record-high increases.” If you got into Columbia last year, you can pat yourself on the back for essentially winning the lottery: since it was the first year this Ivy League school was accepting the common application, submissions skyrocketed 33 percent. This year, numbers are back down 8.9 percent (31,818 applications, to be exact).

Now the question is, what does this mean? The fact that Harvard and Princeton both reinstated their early action programs this year probably affected Columbia’s volume a bit. Also, schools have started limiting the range of their marketing to ensure they attract a smaller, more qualified applicant pool as opposed to the largest one. The single-digit rates at most ivy league schools apparently sent students flocking to institutions like Duke and Georgetown, which both saw increases this year. Ivy league admission suddenly seems “unattainable,” and people are seeking out more realistic, yet equally excellent, options.

There are two ways to interpret this year’s data: one, that the pendulum is swinging back into a realm where students seek not the school with the highest status, but the school with the best resources and programs for their specific interests, or two, that next year, Columbia will face record increases because Ivy League hopefuls see it as their best shot once again. I prefer the pendulum theory to the cyclical one; sure, the admissions game will always be competitive, but there is more to getting a good education than a school’s name value.