LAUNCH founder Lauren Joyce Hensel shares her thoughts about one of the biggest mistakes parents make while assisting their child in the university search process.
This blog post is for you. We know you love your child and want the best opportunities for them. We know this transition of them applying to and attending university is a difficult one. While your child is about to embark on a huge personal growth journey and develop into an even better version of themselves, you still see them as your child. We understand.
Throughout the university selection process, it is easy to succumb to previous notions, but please keep an open mind. From parents I have spoken to over the years as a head volleyball coach and admissions director, making the right choice is one of the most stressful aspects for families. Although the selection process should allow discovery and encourage self reflection, I often see one big mistake made by parents - judging schools on their past rankings, views, opinions, or sentiments. While we will share our top 10 tips for parents on our Instastories, I want to bring you up to date on how outdated notions hinder and close doors to opportunity in the 21st century university admissions process.
Times are changing
I am here to tell you that getting into university in the 21st century is not the same as it was 20-30 years ago. Although you may have been just as stressed as a member of The Breakfast Club, the 21st century is different. The creation and widespread use of the Common Application, increased offering of AP courses, and society’s push to obtain a university degree caused the admissions landscape to become more competitive than in the 1980s and 1990s. Simply put, the process is more difficult due to the sheer number of students applying to schools and increased accessibility of the college preparatory curriculum. So while the number of seats for an incoming class have remained consistent year over year, the number of qualified applicants continues to rise at an exponentially higher rate.
To compete for “the best” students, many schools have poured immense resources into campus and program revitalization, developed robust alumni engagement programs, and increased the amount of faculty research. All these factors among others can lead to an increase in university rankings. As schools are constantly chasing higher rankings on the US News and World Report among many lists, they will often increase their admissions standards year-over-year. If you are unaware of these changing standards, you cannot put your child in the best position for success.
The safeties are no longer safe and the Ivies are even more difficult
By combining more applications with the quest for higher rankings, even schools once considered “safeties” in the 80s and 90s are no longer safe bets for students. A perfect example of this changing landscape is the University of California system. Students who could once rely on being accepted to UC-Riverside, -Merced, and -Santa Cruz are now being handed denial letters. Another example is George Washington University (DC), which accepted 76% of its applicants in 1988 compared with 37% in 2018, all part of changing the competitiveness and future of the university, as mentioned in The Georgetown Voice article.
In the past few months, I’ve heard parents state they “would only pay for school if their child was accepted into an Ivy League.” Based on data as seen in Chart 1, acceptance rates are at an all time low in the Ivies as well as Stanford, MIT, and Cal as well as other “top” universities with Columbia being the most dramatic with a 60 percentage point drop.
Chart 1 - Acceptance Rates Over 30 YearsChart 1 - Acceptance Rates Over 30 Years Sources listed at end of post
In regards to standardized testing, we researched the concordance of scores before 1995 to those in present day to see what scores you would need to obtain to get into two top universities. You can see that the SAT score needs to be higher now than it was before 1995 (Chart 2). So if you scored a combined (M+V) score of 1180, your child may need to score a 1360 to get into Cal today. If you got into Yale with a 1360 (M+V), your child may need a 1470 today. You may be asking, what does all this mean?
It means while it may have been viable to get into the Ivies 20-30 years ago, a student’s application is going to have to be near perfection to obtain an acceptance letter.
What is perfection?
Perfection is high quality, rigorous coursework, often containing a minimum of 8 AP courses and a very high unweighted GPA, SAT scores of at least 1500 (34 ACT), international or national achievements with strong leadership roles (you can’t just be a member, you need to lead), and a thoughtful, carefully curated, insightful personal statement that has received professional feedback (let me stress professional is not a teacher or parent or peer). And while you may have all these factors, it does not guarantee you admission. It simply shows you are a competitive applicant.
What can you do as a parent?
Please keep an open mind when compiling a school list. Dig deep into research of a school to find unique programs that will suit your child. As my dad used to say to me, “the only thing constant is change.” This adage is true even in higher education. Universities evolve. They adapt. While some become stronger, others become weaker. Some develop unique programs to match the workforce needs. Universities change their program offerings. Some become test optional. Others become stricter with SAT/ACT scores. Others may start to offer generous scholarships based on family income. And remember, the 80s and 90s were a grand time full of opportunities for you. Your child is not in that decade so don’t forget about it, but remember the only thing constant is change. #dreamlaunchsoar
Analyzing College Admissions & Acceptance Rates Over Time - https://tinyurl.com/y2pa35hr
When Safety Schools Aren’t Safety Schools - https://tinyurl.com/y5nm7lcv
The Stanford Daily - https://tinyurl.com/y5p6kqhm
2018 ACT/SAT Concordance Table - https://tinyurl.com/ya4zht5w
Harvard Acceptance Rates Will Continue to Drop - https://tinyurl.com/yxwmka2r
Is the College Admissions Bubble About to Burst? - https://tinyurl.com/y56gbq4l
Yale Freshman Admissions - https://tinyurl.com/y68qnkjj
2023 Ivy Admissions Stats - https://tinyurl.com/y578wvlh
Admissions Rate Changs at Yale, Stanford, and Princeton Since 1980 - https://tinyurl.com/yxcad8qk
Freshman Class Sets Application Records - https://tinyurl.com/yy2cfcgv
A Yale Book of Numbers - https://tinyurl.com/y2j59ex8
1992 freshman applications show little change from 1991 - https://tinyurl.com/y3knx2va
New SAT vs Old SAT Conversion Chart - https://tinyurl.com/y5vtpwr4
The Recentering of SAT Scales - https://tinyurl.com/y2p8ef4l
SAT Score Conversion Chart - https://tinyurl.com/y4nk8e6e
The Effects of SAT Scaling on Percentiles - https://tinyurl.com/yy6py5wj
2008 ACT-SAT Score Concordance Table - https://tinyurl.com/y5thwgyl
Princeton is pleased to offer admission to 1,895 students for Class of 2023 - https://tinyurl.com/y3v5thm6