Does applying early help my admission chance? Should I do college visits? Would it be harder to get in if I applied to a competitive major?
These are a few of the most commonly asked questions we answer as we work with families applying to colleges. With college acceptance rates going down every year, a student’s admission chance is also decreasing every year. Knowing just some basic strategies about college admissions can make a significant difference in your college admission outcomes, especially for selective colleges.
1. Apply Early
Early Decision and Early Action acceptance rates are usually higher than those of Regular Admission. For example, for Fall 2019, Harvard's acceptance rate for Restrictive Early Action was 13.4% whereas its Regular Admission rate was only 2.8%, and a similar trend is seen across all colleges.
Why does this difference exist? Colleges want their “yield,” or matriculation rate, to be as high as possible since it corresponds to their overall ranking and reputation. Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), or Restrictive/Single-Choice Early Action (REA) is a way for these colleges to secure good applicants early by either legally binding them to the school once accepted (ED) or just offering them admission early and hoping that they will commit early (EA).
Also, at colleges practicing Rolling Admission, such as Texas A&M, it is just as critical to apply as early as possible because applications are reviewed as they come, and seats are filled as the application period progresses.
2. Choose Your Major Wisely
Do some research on how competitive your chosen major is and plan accordingly. For example, at Carnegie Mellon University, the School of Computer Science has a 7% acceptance rate as opposed to 30% for the School of Architecture.
Given these differences in acceptance rates among majors, some people believe that the simple workaround for improving their admission chance is to declare a less competitive major. Choosing a less competitive major, or even no major, however, will not always help your admission chance. If you choose a major for which you have poor support in your application materials, it will not help you get into the college. Similarly, applying to colleges with an “Undeclared” major is not recommended because your application will generally appear weaker and less focused.
Overall, the best major to choose is the one that you would genuinely like to pursue and is strongly supported by your academic and extracurricular history.
3. Show Strong Demonstrated Interest
For the Class of 2021, due to COVID, one of the most important admission factors the admissions officers will consider is “Demonstrated Interest,” which helps them predict how likely the student is to matriculate when offered admission.
How can you show colleges Demonstrated Interest? First, apply early, as mentioned above. Secondly, get in contact with the colleges you are interested in. Each time you speak to an admissions officer or a college rep, a record will remain on your account. These days, colleges even track your online activity such as opening their emails or visiting their websites. You should also tour the campus, even virtually. Lastly, research the college thoroughly when answering any “why this school” essay and demonstrate that you have done the research and determined that the school is the right fit for you.
Applying to college is much more than filling out some personal information and writing a few essays. Instead, it is important to know how to navigate the world of college admissions and strategize your applications so that you can improve your chance of getting accepted to your dream college.
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Need a guide for navigating the world of college admissions? We can gladly help you plan for the years ahead at any stage of your high school career. Already a senior? No worries! We can strategize your college applications to improve your admission chance. Check out our College Admissions Services for more information!