College Competition is Increasing More Than Ever

College Competition is Increasing More Than Ever

Nuha Maflahi, Reporter

It’s that time of year again for high school seniors all over the country. In November, seniors filled out college applications and submitted application essays, hoping to be accepted into their dream schools. Now, March has finally arrived meaning after months of waiting, students will find out whether they got accepted or rejected from the colleges they applied to. This time of year is an emotional time for many students. They’ve been working for that acceptance letter from their dream college for years, and it’s a big deal when they get in. There are a lot of students that have had to sacrifice sleep, time with their friends, and their mental health in order to have as impressive of a college resume as possible.

When talking to high-achieving students, most of their dream colleges are elite colleges, like Stanford, Dartmouth, UCLA, or Yale. Elite colleges like these only accept from ten percent to under four percent of students. To get into elite colleges like MIT or UC Berkeley, students have to get perfect grades, play multiple sports, have perfect SAT scores, run committees or clubs, do community service, and join whatever extracurricular activities they can fit into their already packed schedule. Even then, with all those achievements, many excellent students don’t get accepted into elite colleges, simply because these colleges are so selective. Most students who apply to top colleges don’t get in, even with perfect SAT scores and 4.0 GPAs, and the number of students applying to selective colleges is rising. In 2022, colleges like Harvard, Brown, and Yale received a record-breaking number of students applying for the same few spots. So why is college getting so competitive?

One big reason that colleges are getting so competitive is simply because there are more kids in school right now. Most college applicants today are from the “Echo Boom”, the kids of Baby Boomers and Gen X. According to the National Center for Education Statistics the number of high school graduates in America went from 2.5 million in 1990 to almost 4 million in 2022. This wave of high school students graduating is Gen Z, a group that’s set to be the most educated generation yet. There are more kids in schools now. With many schools facing overcrowding, all these students are graduating high school and looking to get into college; most of them are looking to go into more prestigious fields.

An article from the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed the Gen Z students are becoming less interested in becoming educators and more interested in health professions, careers that require a decade or more of college education. More interest in prestigious careers means more interest in prestigious colleges. This is where the increase in competitiveness comes from. It’s not that colleges in America are harder to get into. Statistics show that the average college acceptance rate is a comfortable 68%. But for the top 50-100 elite colleges, application rates are skyrocketing as more students try to get the best education they can for the fields they’re going into. So in reality, the rise in college competitiveness is only for the most prestigious colleges. Most colleges aren’t so hard to get into.

More recently, one big thing that’s led to more competition for top colleges is the Covid pandemic. Most of the colleges mentioned in the previous paragraph saw the rise in applications during and after the pandemic. During the Covid pandemic, some of the requirements to apply to colleges were dropped. During 2021 and 2022 many colleges, including the UC system, dropped SAT and ACT scores. In addition, since the Covid pandemic shut down a lot of schools, students are allowed to be missing a semester or two of grades because many schools switched to a pass/fail system for the pandemic. While there are a lot of issues with standardized tests, and it was time to let them go, this also means there’ll be a surge in applications as students are more encouraged to apply now that these requirements are gone. In addition, there’s been an increase in applications from international students since Biden was voted president in 2020. All this combined is making it nearly impossible for admission officers to decide who to accept. Often, they are forced to turn away students who are more than qualified.

As education becomes more accessible for students of all different economic backgrounds, college has become much harder to get accepted into than in previous generations. Qualified students that are getting rejected are having to find other colleges that maybe aren’t as prestigious. Not all hope is lost though. Despite the increase in competition, 75 percent of students are still getting into their first-choice colleges. There are many programs that allow students to get into great universities. It also isn’t necessary to get into one of the top colleges in the country, as there are many great colleges that aren’t ivy league, but still get students ready for the workforce. For students that are worried about getting into college, just remember as long as you work hard there’ll always be a college out there that’s right for you.