Why College Admissions is Like the Stock Market

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One of the statements that you always here from investment houses is, “Past returns are not guaranteed” and the same is true of statistics in college admissions. It is helpful to see the admit rates and test scores of the accepted class of a college. These tools are useful guides to determine if a school might have a place on your list. But the challenge is that these numbers can go up or down in any given year, much like the stock market.

There is a wonderful school with a national reputation in a beautiful city that high-achieving students used to be able to apply to Early Action and receive a letter of admission with a generous merit scholarship around Thanksgiving. This was an excellent way to go into the holiday season, with an acceptance in your pocket. Two years ago this school pivoted and stopped doing that. High achieving students were deferred into the regular decision pool around Christmas. Last year a selective state flagship that used to let in many high achieving students Early Action went in an entirely different direction. They put the majority of the early applicants into the regular round and accepted a much lower percentage of students. Every year in professional groups, as colleges release decisions, there is chatter about a school that used to be reliable to admit a certain type of kid making a change that leaves counselors and consultants scratching their heads.

And for the class of 2020, George Washington University has announced that they are going “right-size” their undergraduate population and reduce the size by 20% over the next five years. So if GWU is on your list, wherever you classified it, high probability, 50-50 or, reach, you probably need to go back and revisit the data with this new information. The good news about GWU is that they have announced this early enough that applicants will be able to plan accordingly. The article about this change is here.

In the end, all we can do is use the data from prior years as a general guide. One never knows how a school’s institutional goals might change from year to year, or how the applicant pool might shift the numbers. Kudos to GWU for announcing their plans so early in the application cycle!

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