College applications gone wild

College applications have gone wild, reports the New York Times. Selective colleges urge students to apply, streamline the online application and then brag about how few students are admitted.

Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called “simply amazing,” and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff “deeply impressed and at times awed.” Nine percent were admitted.

The biggest boast came from the University of California, Los Angeles. In a news release, U.C.L.A. said its accepted students had “demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their lives.” Citing its record 57,670 applications, the university proclaimed itself “the most popular campus in the nation.”

“They want you so they can reject you,” says Shaun Stewart, a senior in Minnesota who has a 3.5 grade-point average and scored a 27 (out of 36) on the ACT. He’s savvy enough to know his grades and scores are below average for the elite colleges that are sending him applications and brochures.

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  1. Yeah, and at 35-50 dollars an application, it’s a fundraiser as well.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    If everyone should go to college…. why shouldn’t everyone want to go to Brown?

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    The biggest boast came from the University of California, Los Angeles. In a news release, U.C.L.A. said its accepted students had ‘demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their lives.’

    I do not want to turn this into a pro/anti illegal immigrant thread, nor do I wish to open the can of worms that is affirmative action. But this LA Times article suggests that not all the UCLA admits have “demonstrated excellence in all aspect of their lives. The profiled student “got a 21 out of a possible 36 on the ACT college admissions exam, ranking her in the 48th percentile in California. She scored 380 out of a possible 800 on an SAT subject test, putting her in the third percentile nationwide.”

    I can accept that some students like this will be admitted to UCLA, but I’d really prefer that the university not try to pass this off as demonstrated excellence in all aspects of life. 48th percentile isn’t demonstrated excellence. It just isn’t.

    -Mark Roulo

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    Darn it, I wish we had preview.

    My bad.

    The *point* to my first post was that it is pretty obvious that universities are getting applications from students who don’t (usually) have much chance of getting in. I suspect that the schools are encouraging this so as to boost their selectivity as measured by US News and World Report.

    I figure that if they are willing to lie about one aspect of the admissions process (the part I mentioned before), they are probably willing to lie about others (“Really, please *DO* apply … you have a better chance than you think!”).

    -Mark Roulo

  5. superdestroyer says:


    I have found that the white and Asian kidswith1300 SAT I scores (Math and Verbal) are much more rational about their changes. I suspect that UCLA benefits from having a large number of foreign student applications.

    The Washington Post had a story last year about an AFrican-American female student who was complaining that Georgie Tech was too expensive. The Asian and white kids with 1200 SATs would not bother but minority students seem to believe that they will get in on a huge discount.

    I also suspect that many students believe that their 4.2 GPA will make up for their 1170 SAT or the kids who believe that their 1450 SAT will make up for the C’s on their transcript. The Washington Post had a story two years ago about a high school student with overa1400 SAT scores but could not even get admitted to James Madison University.

  6. As a college consultant, I get the most frustrated with the schools that send students brochures, emails and other communications indicating how interested they are in these particular students. Most of the students have good grades and test scores, but not what these schools are looking for. It gets their hopes up unfairly and it continues to make the college admissions process more and more stressful.

    Susie Watts
    Denver, Colorado

  7. Mike Curtis says:

    I think acceptance has to do with the applicant’s ability to pay, or with a sponsor’s ability to pay, as much as any other “qualification” factor.

    I graduated high school in 1969. When I applied for entry into a bachelor’s degree program at my state university in 1995 (not a typo), I could not spell SAT, ACT, nor GPA. What I could do; however, was write a check for full tuition without asking for any assistance. No problem. 3 years of paying in full, on time, and exceeding the grading requirements, culminated in my diploma being sent to my home by mail…I opted out of wearing a robe.

  8. This whole college thing is driving me nuts.

    My son is stressed about it and I’m stressed and confused.

    The prestige factor is going to cost a lot of money or a lot of disappointment.

    Mollify, abstruse, obdurate, phlegmatic, propinquity. I’m so sick of SAT word study.

    I’m be glad when it’s over.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    People should remember that the real stress of college admission is moving down the U.S. News lists means taking entire career fields off of the table. Attending the state flagship university (enormous state university) means taking the high paying jobs in Manhattan, DC, and Boston off of the table. Attending a directional state university means taking most of the high paying jobs off the table and just concentrating of being employable.

    In the credential mad U.S., white and Asian parents have to work harder to get the limited number of credentials.

  10. Cranberry says:

    “Attending the state flagship university (enormous state university) means taking the high paying jobs in Manhattan, DC, and Boston off of the table.”

    Not true. If you doubt me, spend some quality time looking up chief officers of leading hedge funds, etc. on Wikipedia.

  11. Michael E. Lopez says:


    I think he’s talking about the recruited-out-of-college entry-level jobs in the fields, and I think he’s mostly right about that.

    But I also think that you’ve got a good point: giant salaries at 21 are nice, but there are many paths to being rich if that’s what you’re interested in.

  12. Somebody ought to connect the dots between the electronic Common Application (which many colleges, even the elite) accept & the rise in the numbers of colleges applied to per student.

    My daughter (oddly enough, also named Allison) applied to college in the 2006-2007 academic year. Since she was at a private school, the college admission counselor was able to issue a diktat that students could apply to AT MOST 10 colleges, and strongly discouraged applying to more than 8. Caveat: we live in California; applying to more than one UC only counted as one; applying to one or more CSU counted as another.

    The reason for the limitation was the burden on the faculty for writing application letters.

    Stanford’s undergraduate application fee is $90 this year; the numbers work out to about $2.9 million. I doubt that it is a cash cow for the university (salaries, facilities cost, printing, postage and so on do have to be paid for) but it isn’t probably much of a burden, either.

  13. I think he’s talking about the recruited-out-of-college entry-level jobs in the fields, and I think he’s mostly right about that.

    This is only true for those without family connections. My comes from a lower-middle-class family (both parents are retired schoolteachers) and he had to work his tail off earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ivy caliber universities to get his foot in the door. Yet he’s got a bunch of colleagues with only a bachelor’s from a 2nd (or even 3rd tier) school who were able to bypass the normal recruiting process because Mummy and/or Daddy is an important client.

  14. As soon as I read this yesterday at the coffee shop, my instinctive response went back to the first words from Charles Murray’s book on education – “Too many people are going to college.”

    With the country currently at 29% bachelor degrees, and many overqualified and unemployed people, we need a new narrative that moves beyond the focus on “college.”

    We need skilled labor and infrastructure development, and we need more associate degree holders than bachelors. The gut reaction to send kids to universities – especially ones with such small acceptance rates is a colossal waste of time and money

  15. It’s a moneymaker for them. I was talking to a friend of mine who is applying to med schools. It cost him about 600.00 to apply to about 10 of them. They all require going thru a centralized service. And the first application is almost always accepted, only to be told you need to do a second round – and another application fee – with very little added (1 extra essay question, generally). They have to pay those college professor salaries somehow.

  16. Put it on the calendar, boys and girls–mazenko and I agree! 🙂