U.S. colleges will be bursting at the seams this fall (2008) as members of the largest high school graduating class in U.S. history arrive on campus. The large size of the incoming class of 2012 is blamed on a “baby boomlet,” as kids of the later baby boom cohort come of age.
Local institutions view the shift as a mixed blessing. Tom Willoughby, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment at the University of Denver, shares that DU saw a 32% increase in its applicant pool this spring, with 8333 prospective students applying for a total of 1140 available spaces. At the same time, the recent economic downturn is causing families to scrutinize scholarships and other aid offers extra closely in search of the best educational value – so yields are thought to be somewhat unpredictable.
While the increasing trend toward selectivity nationwide is better news for colleges than for students, it is by no means cause for undue angst for those in the college admissions process. What can college-bound students and their families do to increase the odds of desirable outcomes from their college search in an extra-competitive market? Careful preparation is key, along with a flexible attitude. This fall and next, when the record for the largest class will be broken yet again, fewer students will be in a position to set their sights exclusively on one idealized, highly competitive school and see their dreams become reality. This is a good time for families to consider alternative pathways, such as a year or two at a community college or second choice school, possibly followed by a transfer application to the institution of choice. It’s also not a bad time for ambivalent students to defer enrollment and gain work and life experience for a year or two before heading off to the ivory tower. A gap year, where students pursue travel and alternative study, or intensive volunteer and intern-type experiences can also be a great choice.
Finally, this is a good time to look carefully at the factors that constitute a true quality education and consider some of the lower profile/hidden gemstone schools, like Metropolitan State College of Denver and others, where students receive instruction from committed, engaged faculty and enjoy a degree of success in the world comparable to that of graduates of their more prestigious and selective competitors.
Lisa Ransdell is a faculty member and former college administrator who heads her own education consulting firm, Pinnacle Education Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at www.pinnacle-educ.com.