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Discussion Paper: Putting the College Admission "Arms Race" into Context (2010)

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  • Putting the College Admission "Arms Race" into Context: An Analysis of Recent Trends in College Admission and Their Effects on Institutional Policies and Procedures. The discussion paper documents recent trends (2001–2008) in admission statistics (number of applications, number of students accepted and enrolled, and acceptance and yield rates), as well as demographic shifts in the college-going population, using readily available data. Results of the analysis show that applications, acceptances and, to a lesser degree, enrollment have all increased during this time frame, while both acceptance and yield rates have declined. Although the data analyzed did not allow the authors to definitively determine the relative contribution of increasing high school class size versus increasing number of applications per student, they do speculate based on experience that changes at more selective institutions are likely due to increased applications per student, while changes at less selective institutions are more likely a function of growth in the number of high school graduates. Because open admission institutions are not required to report admission data to IPEDS, the authors’ ability to make conclusions about certain groups of institutions—community colleges, for-profit institutions and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs)—was limited. The data presented for these groups should be interpreted with caution, as they represent only those institutions with competitive admission.