Elite U.S. colleges turning away even top students

WASHINGTON – It’s not all in your head. It is harder to get into college this year.

Selective schools nationwide are reporting more rejections than ever. There has been a bulge in the number of college-age students, which is expected to continue until the end of the decade. Add in an increased desire among their baby boomer parents to enroll their kids in elite schools – and the inflated number of applications from students trying to hedge their bets – and you have the ingredients for a season of frustrated hopes and unexpected disappointments.

Many of the best-known and most-selective universities announced record low admission rates this year. Yale set an Ivy League record, accepting only 8.6 percent of its 21,099 applicants. Last year, the school accepted 9.7 percent of its 19,448 applicants. Other record lows were reported by Columbia University, 9.6 percent; Stanford University, 11 percent; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 13 percent; Brown University, 13.8 percent; Dartmouth College, 15.4 percent; and the University of Pennsylvania, 17.7 percent.

About 3 million students are expected to graduate from high school this year, and about two-thirds of them are looking for college spaces.

The number of rejections is further inflated by the increased number of applications sent out by each student, reacting to the uncertainty of admission and the ease of online applications. This produces a self-perpetuating cycle: It is harder to get in, so seniors apply to more schools, which makes it even harder to get in, at least for the most sought-after schools.

Shirley Bloomquist, an independent college counselor in Great Falls, Va., said: “Things are sufficiently unpredictable. … Even the top students are worried that no one is going to accept them. It’s a real scary time.”

Research indicates that attendance at a well-known school does not appear to give any long-term advantage to students, at least as measured by incomes 20 years after they graduate. College counselors advise students to look for a school that offers the size and range of courses and activities they are looking for, and not worry so much about where it ranks on the U.S. News &World Report list of top schools.

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