Dear High School Senior, Please apply to our college even though we’ll likely reject you

Colleges actively recruit students as the number of applicants impacts their standings.

This morning my 17-year-old twins received more than a dozen emails from colleges around the country reminding them January application deadlines were approaching. The colleges ranged from Ivy League universities that admit 9 percent of applicants to little-known campuses that take almost everyone.

Several emails offered application fee waivers, explaining, “I want to make sure that a talented student like you receives all the notable advantages that come with your status.” Or, “A successful student like you deserves an edge when applying to college.” (Application fees are usually $50 to $75.)

Many parents assume these emails mean colleges have somehow sorted through the 3.3 million seniors who will graduate U.S. high schools this year and discerned the tremendous potential in their child.

Yes, there is some sorting by test scores and self-reported student profiles, but the process is more akin to dredging the ocean floor than delicately picking up shells on the beach. If your children take the bait and apply, they’ll end up in a bucket with thousands of other students sucked in by the promising emails. Many will be rejected despite all the solicitous comments about their talents and their success.

There is a name for this aggressive practice – recruiting to reject. Why do colleges spend time and money romancing applicants they will likely not embrace as students?

Because it improves their standings in national rankings that both students and parents take seriously.

Colleges are not just judged by how many students enroll but also by how many apply. That has caused even highly selective colleges to bombard high school students with enticing emails and glossy packets.

College brochures arrive daily in the mail; the record at our house is 22 in a single delivery. After touring some colleges, my kids have even received telephone calls from current students telling them how much they love the school and what an awesome place it is.

A friend’s son took advantage of an application fee waiver offer and applied early action to a Midwestern college still inundating my kids with recruitment emails this week.

Under early action, students apply by around Nov. 1 and find out by Dec. 15 whether they’re admitted. (An exception is Georgia Tech, which will not notify its early action applicants until Jan. 14.)

My friend’s teen has a 4.4 GPA and scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT, putting him well above the students admitted to the university. Given his credentials, I told his mother he would be a shoo-in. Yet, he just learned he was deferred, which means his application will be held over and considered later. In the meantime, this school is still churning out emails urging more kids to apply.

I can’t be sure why colleges court and then rebuff even applicants who exceed their qualifications, but I assume admissions officers realize kids who apply in response to admission fee waivers but have never demonstrated interest — visiting the campus, inquiring about it or meeting with an alum — probably aren’t going to enroll.

And that is the other side of this college application racket. Today, students apply to many more schools than a generation ago because it’s easier to do so. Online applications have made the process much quicker. In the equivalent of one-stop shopping, students can fill out the Common Application, a single undergraduate application accepted by 700 schools. (Some of the schools require additional essays.)

About 29 percent of high school seniors apply to seven or more colleges, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. The recommended number I hear most often is six to eight, which is what the National Association of College Admission Counseling deems typical.

The LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden earned national attention last year when it announced its students apply to an average of 45 colleges to increase their options and opportunities.

So, we have colleges lobbying kids they don’t intend to admit, and students applying to schools they don’t intend to attend. Parents pay a price for this charade as it costs money to apply and send off SAT and ACT scores and financial aid information.

Is there a better way? If so, what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

24 comments
Neal Towey
Neal Towey

Schools try and solicit applications from students they know won't be accepted because they think a high rejection ratio will make them look exclusive. I think it makes them look like jerks.

VRSR
VRSR

High school counselors need to tell students & parents to be realistic both financially & academically but they probably can't do that for fear of being accused of not being supportive of the students.

So, many students apply & attend colleges they can't afford.  A $10,000 scholarship is not such a great thing if the yearly tuition is $30,000+. This contributes to the college debt problem.

 My four children applied in total to 9 colleges that we could afford. Thankfully they were all accepted at their 1st choice. They too received the mailers & emails offering various scholarships from colleges all over but no full scholarship including room & board.  So while it may have been a great ego booster to say they were accepted at XYZ, we couldn't afford it so there was no reason to waste our money and apply. 

JDinMarietta
JDinMarietta

Nice article Maureen. I couldn't agree with you more. UGA is a fine example of selectively letting in certain students from all corners of the state, regardless of how easy their HS education was.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

If there is a preference for IB, it is directly

related to the concept of being college

ready. In the mind of a university official

maybe actually taking a class on a campus

,or with a college professor is being weighed

more than AP and honors classes. I don't buy

the line of college admissions as a racket. You

have a service (education) that is abundantly

available, but certain limited brands are sought

out more than others-simple supply and demand

pressures meet pressures of equity and access.

Gail Hannah
Gail Hannah

Yes. Better way in my opinion is to give your child options with a limit on the money you will spend. When that money is used, the options are closed. Teaches them to think and budget their time and money. We told our son what money we would put out for his education. Then he could chose based this amount plus what he wanted to added. He ended up a local college for two years getting his AS in Physics plus drafting. Then to Clemson for ME degree.His AS and drafting helped him get great co-op job plus employment after college. And he had enough money to help buy first house due to co-op job.

Jeff A. Taylor
Jeff A. Taylor

Of course college admissions is a racket -- ALL of American education is a racket. Serving smart kids is the last thing most bureaucracies are interested in doing, insulating the status quo is the top job. Once you realize that things start to make sense and you'll make much better decisions. As interested consumers and observers all we can do is try to get good info on the ongoing racket at any given time, which brings me to a challenge to the AJC. Find out next month what percentage of GT's early action admissions took either IB Calc or actual college dual-enrollment calc. (Not AP Calc.) Last year the anecdotal evidence suggested IB/dual-enrollment was HEAVILY favored by GT admissions. The facts either support that or not. And if the facts DO support that, it is preference that parents and students need to know about in order to informed decisions. And I imagine you will have the start of a very interesting story.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Jeff A. Taylor Good point. What I am seeing from UGA -- and its admission folks acknowledge -- is a preference for students in schools with IB to take IB. There seems to be a penalty when kids in schools that offer IB choose not to participate. (In my own local high school, I have found there is IB and then there is pablum. If you are not in IB, you are in academically weaker classes.)

As for dual enrollment, that's an interesting issue as I just was looking at grade reports at a local college that show a startling number of Move on When Ready students earning As in one standard freshman class. In fact, every student in one class earned an A. The question is whether that program is as rigorous as kids staying at their high schools and taking AP classes or IB. A question I hope to explore: Are teachers giving out As to the high schoolers to build support and participation in MOWR. Years ago, I published a piece by a Woodstock valedictorian who said the dual enrollment college courses were much easier than her high school courses. 

Another comment
Another comment

My oldest child started out in IB. She then got very ill with swine flu, we had no choice ( in my mind at least) but to drop down to AP classes. She then did 15 credits of Dual Enrollment her senior year. She has a 3.76 GPA as as senior in a 5 year STEM college major.

These are my observations, and my daughters. IB is overblown and made ridiculously hard, with unnecessary amounts of homework. Some AP classes were great and then again others such as AP US History and the teacher of that course were absurd. Colleges no longer want to give anyone who does not get a 5 on the AP exam any credit. Dual Enrollment classes at what was Ga Perimeter sets up, students that were IB/AP students to be the smartest kids in the class, but gives them a taste of what college is like. The Dual enrollment department head will tell you the professors love these students. Try to enroll them in Honors level at the old GPC ( Now Ga State 2 Year campus). My child got her wake up in a Statistics class at GPC when even though she got one of the higher grades the professor did not curve the class and her 79 was a C. It has been her 1 and only C in her entire 4 years of college. She has had no grade of less than a B+ in a STEM major of college. I literally forced her to take dual enrollment when she wanted to take 1/2 days her senior year of high school. Today she thanks me, that those dual enrollment classes taught her what college was more than any IB or AP class.

Yes it is true that UGA gives the tie breaker to the IB students on admission. My child lost that lottery. The one that one the admit to UGA, transferred to Ga Southern after a year and has since dropped out completely.

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

@MaureenDowney @Jeff A. Taylor I teach an AP course at a local high school that partners with a technical college for MOWR. The course rigor and the syllabus is a complete joke for the tech school. I think this has provided some students with a false hope and ultimately has undermined the more rigorous AP courses in high schools. I find it alarming, but not unexpected, that the school you looked into gave students all As. 

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

@MaureenDowney @Your Teacher @Jeff A. Taylor Participation, but the demand aspect makes it so the two are not mutually exclusive. A number of students (especially this year) have decided to complete classes at the technical college because they know demands are significantly less. 


In my opinion, they would almost be stupid not to (if the opportunity is there). Almost all tech schools credits transfer to four-year institutions like UGA. AP classes, whether you did well or not, do not automatically transfer to four-year schools. In fact, schools like University of Georgia wants students in many AP classes to get a four on the AP exam in order to get credit. Think about it, after you've been in an AP class for a year, take the AP exam (nearly $100), you might have a chance if you get a 3 or higher - again if you aspire to go to a four-year college like UGA. By the way, the AP exam is scored in a bell-curve type of manner - so even if you did well it all depends on how the rest of the nation did on the test. College Board makes it so that roughly 50% of students get a 3 or higher. Whereas you take the Tech class (many times for free) through MOWR, the only thing you've got to do is pass the course with a curriculum that is far inferior and structured to the liking of the instructor. 


As a teacher of an AP course, I have to teach the curriculum as it is stated by College Board. Even after that, the students have to take a test with multiple questions and written responses that could be about anything in the curriculum. Tech school instructors can pretty much tailor it to the way they want.


Hopefully colleges are looking at difference in courses taken and weight the AP courses significantly more than Tech schools.



MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Your Teacher @MaureenDowney @Jeff A. Taylor My concern: These MOWR classes are being taught by adjuncts in some cases. (A quick look at the grade reports suggests adjuncts give out As far more often than tenured faculty.) Have we created a program where there is a financial incentive to these adjuncts to make the classes easy so these high school student keep signing up? 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaureenDowney @Your Teacher @Jeff A. Taylor

"My concern: These MOWR classes are being taught by adjuncts in some cases."

And who do you think is teaching the first two years of college?  Maybe the reason adjuncts give out more A's is that they teach the basic, core curriculum.

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

Better question is who receives the financial incentive at these higher education institutions that do MOWR? I doubt it's the instructor (they probably are pressured by Admin to give out good grades just like in public schools). But if the program were to end, who loses money at the tech schools?

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

I had educational experiences at both a tech school and a four year school. Honestly the adjunct professors and Teacher assistants at UGA were a hell of a lot harder.

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

Rejection is a part of life .. Get used to it snowflakes . You're an adult now and this is where you stop getting you're way everytime and No longer get a trophy for everything .

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Remember, this is not the only "dog and pony show" that institutions of "higher learning" engage in.  Take a gander at all the crap that professors vomit out as "research" in their "publish or perish" quest.  Also think about all the students who get admitted into degree programs that have zero economic benefit, just to get the tuition and fee dollars rolling in.  These institutions do not give a rip if the student is saddled with crippling debt that will impact them for decades.

Basically, much of what passes for "higher education" is little more than a Ponzi Scheme.

========================


"My friend’s teen has a 4.4 GPA and scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT, putting him well above the students admitted to the university. Given his credentials, I told his mother he would be a shoo-in. Yet, he just learned he was deferred, which means his application will be held over and considered later. In the meantime, this school is still churning out emails urging more kids to apply."

Let me guess, he is either White or Asian.

kaelyn
kaelyn

I don't even bring the college flyers in the house anymore. They get dumped in the recycle bin on my way back from the mailbox. My son has applied to one reach school, two good matches, and a safety school.

We don't believe the hype of the "designer school syndrome," so we're not too impressed with the glossy flyers from high tuition schools. Cornell has sent my son at least a dozen flyers and just as many emails. I had to explain to him that it's all a game, and students are used as pawns to make the numbers look good to people naive enough to take them seriously.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Best way to deal with this is for parents to not cover the cost of applying to all these colleges.  Then the kids will make smart decisions.  


Simply let them know you'll cover x number (3 in my case), and then the rest are either 100% on the child, or at least they have to pay 50% from their own pocket.  


Kids make smart decisions if they have to pay the cost of stupid ones.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

And that LEAP academy school probably likes to brag, "Last year our 55 students applied to 2, 341 different colleges, and were admitted to 2,000 of them!" Not telling you that 1,975 of these were open admission colleges.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

U.C.L.A. had about 97,000 applications for their freshman

class this year (Fall 2016) and slightly over 17,700 were

admitted, but less than half (Approximately 37%) of the

admitted students were enrolled in the freshman class

for fall of  2016. I suspect that a larger number of transfer

 students were accepted in, but it is difficult for students 

with grade point averages above 4.0 to get admitted. 

This year over 102,000 applications have been accepted

 for the freshman class for the fall term of 2017. If the student

 is not able to get a fee waiver for the application, it will cost 

 about $70 .

ILoveToWrite81
ILoveToWrite81

@E Pluribus Unum  That's millions ($7.1 million to be exact if no waved fees were granted) in just application fees alone! I respect earning a college education, but the costs are getting ridiculous. It's just a money-maker these days, but what are students really learning in the end?

jamiejer
jamiejer

Of course there is a better way, to start, have your student meet with their school counselor to talk about their choices...Ni student should be applying to 45 colleges. Not only is it a ton of work, money and time for the student, but also for their counselor who likely has well over 100 seniors doing the same thing. The issue on the college side is not as easy to solve, unfortunately. I hate hearing those types of practices are

Going on, but the reality is the more students that apply the lower their admit rate will be, therefore increasing their perceived "selectivity".