What Colleges Are Stressed About Filling Their Seats

The prospect of rejection is one of the most stressful aspects of the college admission process.

In reality, however, most students don’t have to fear rejection. In its annual survey of college freshmen, UCLA always seems to find that about 75% of students are accepted into their first-choice school.

Today, I wanted to share a study, conducted by Inside Higher Ed, a respected trade publication, that illustrates that it’s a buyers’ market at many schools. Most colleges can’t be nearly aren’t as selective as you might assume. Here is the story where you can find the link to the study:

Feeling the Heat: The 2013 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers

The annual survey of college admission directors revealed that 56% of private colleges and universities and 61% of public institutions hadn’t met their enrollment goals by May 1, 2013, which is the traditional day that high school seniors must submit their deposits.


In the survey, 46% of all institutions said they were “very concerned” about meeting their admission targets for the current 2014-2015 admission season and 30% were “moderately concerned.”  The schools that were the least lightly to be concerned were private doctoral universities, which makes sense since they include institutions that enjoy some of the most recognizable brand names such as the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Northwestern, University of Chicago and Georgetown.

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Here is a statistic that surprised me: 29% of schools admitted that they recruited students after the May 1 deadline. That is against the ethics standards promulgated by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. So even though students had made their deposits to reserve their space in a school’s upcoming freshmen class, some schools were trying to entice teenager to attend their institutions instead.

Dropping Their Prices

With household income stagnant for the majority of Americans, many schools are finding that they have to increase their “tuition discounts” to attract students. The average tuition discount at private institutions today is 57%, which means the typical student who receives grants and scholarships from a private school (and 87% do) gets the equivalent of a 57% price break.

On a one-to-five scale (five = strongly agrees and one = strongly disagree),  42% of private liberal arts and baccalaureate colleges nearly evenly gave responses of four or five to this statement:  We have increased our discount rate in order to enroll more students. Private master’s level universities had slightly more admission directors saying they were increasing their discount.

For those looking for bargains, public and private research universities were the least likely to be increasing their discount rates. Zero percent of public doctoral universities and just six percent of private doctoral institutions strongly agreed that they were fattening their scholarships and grants. This makes sense because the public research universities are typically the flagship universities in the 50 states which are usually the most highly sought-after public institutions among their residents. And, of course, I mentioned earlier the allure of the most elite private research universities.

Bottom Line:

If you are looking for a bargain, you’ll want to research schools that are more likely to be worried about filling their freshmen seats.


Do You Want to Shrink the Cost of College?

Help is on the way!scissors

Michelle Kretzschmar of Do It Yourself College Rankings and I have been working hard on developing an online class for parents  that will explain how to make college more affordable. We have designed this six-week course to help make you an empowered consumer as you navigate your child’s college choices.

This class will also be extremely valuable for high school counselors and independent college consultants, who want to help their families find generous schools.

Our class starts Feb. 12 and we will be sharing more details soon. If you are interested in learning more about the class, please email me (Lynn@TheCollegeSolution.com) and I will put you on the notification list.

We hope to see you in February!




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4 Responses to What Colleges Are Stressed About Filling Their Seats

  1. Matthew December 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    It would be interesting to see surveys over the past 5-10 years asking colleges if their acceptance standards have gone down with respect to GPA and ACT/SAT scores to achieve their enrollment goals. It seems that some programs are not protecting the professions that they represent by lowering their acceptance standards. Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean that there are not enough in the economy for the number of graduates. The law profession comes to mind as a recent example.

  2. Brenda Breton December 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your resources and information. It is extremely helpful to me and my families and students.

    Happy Holidays.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy December 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      You’re very welcome Brenda!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  3. JP Lee February 6, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    Interesting, but how does one research “schools that are more likely to be worried about filling their freshmen seats”?


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