The questions for the crystal ball are: What can we expect for the future of university applications in 2023? What awaits today’s high school junior in the admissions process?
That darn crystal ball needs to be broken. It doesn’t show the future!
However, what helps predict the future are the trends and data we have collected over the past few years. These trends give us a pretty accurate picture of the future of college application and admissions.
Application inflation is real
In recent years, the number of applications for both public and private bodies has increased steadily and this growth shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. On the surface this seems like a good thing, but what lies beneath is a different reality. Schools do not increase their available places. The recording options remain the same. So demand is growing, but supply is not, and the basics of economics say that (if we recall the real estate market) what happens is that the power is in the hands of the provider – the universities.
Using it together has made things, well, more common. The University of Texas and Texas A&M have even switched to it, allowing the prospective student to apply with one click. This has made the whole process so much easier, resulting in more applications. However, this does not mean more entries. Just a bigger and deeper pool for schools to choose from.
A very well kept secret about universities and their success is that like any business they rely on marketing to ensure their success. What does success look like for a university? Increased number of registrations! Not only do these generate large revenues from application fees, but they also allow schools to report lower acceptance rates, giving the impression of scarcity.
Marketing for a university includes mailers, newsletters, social media blitzes, and trade shows. That brings us to the next driver of our application inflation.
An unexpected twist is the social pressure to get accepted into “good schools” that appear on short lists of questionable college rankings, such as those listed in the US News & World Report rankings. The commotion in the hallways about who is applying where has become hyperfocused, and the tie of acceptance to self-worth is unfortunately an underlying theme.
One thing comes as no surprise: STEM remains the most competitive and sought-after field of study of all departments.
Many may think that because of the difficulty of math and science, there would be less competition. However, behind the popularity of degrees in engineering, computer science, business and nursing lies the prospect of professional success. However, this goes hand in hand with a claim to excellence in the pool of applicants. This excellence is much easier to find with the increasing number of applications.
A final implication of this bid inflation — a sort of chicken-and-egg problem — is university recruiters’ drive to increase their “return rates.”
Getting good applicants is just the beginning of the struggle. Once applicants are admitted, they must say yes, and that percentage of yes to offers is called the “return rate.” In order to increase ROI, marketing, branding and competitiveness must be aligned, most importantly, competitiveness.
Back to application inflation
The upshot of all this is that there is no end in sight to the increased urge for more uses. In the MINT courses in particular, there will be no increase in the number of study places.
Ultimately, the competition for those coveted majors will be even stronger for today’s high school juniors looking to apply in October 2023. Dream that the future engineer/doctor/entrepreneur must have a plan for success, a plan to make that dream a reality to let become.
This planning process must begin as early as possible. Now it has to start. It doesn’t need a crystal ball. It is enough to observe the trends and apply this knowledge to a successful strategy. Make sure the college competes for you the same way it competes with other applicants.
Dale Price is the founder and owner of Access College America. Visit AccessCollegeAmerica.org to learn more.