Students Applying for Admittance to the Country’s Most Selective Colleges Expected to Face Fierce Competition in 2012

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The number and caliber of students applying to four year colleges and universities has risen steadily in recent years and reports from private tutoring company suggest the 2012 applicant pool will be even more competitive.

As the number of college applicants continues to rise, so too do the caliber and diversity of the overall applicant pool

The application deadlines are rapidly approaching for most American universities, and high school seniors are working feverishly to put the finishing touches on their applications. Reports gathered from leading tutoring service provider and several other sources all indicate that the quantity and quality of the year’s applicants are likely to rise once again; the result—students applying to the nation’s top colleges in 2012 face astoundingly long odds.

In 2011, many of the nation’s most selective schools saw a dramatic increase in the number of applicants resulting in some of the lowest admissions rates on record. The New York Times reported that applications to Harvard rose more than 14% from 2010 to 2011 and as a result the school admitted just 6.2% of applicants. Columbia University was the second most competitive school in 2011 admitting just 6.4% of applicants. Many schools reported similar figures as the number of applications from 2010 to 2011 rose as much as 47%, as was the case for Trinity College, a small liberal arts school located in Hartford, Connecticut.

As the number of college applicants continues to rise, so too do the caliber and diversity of the overall applicant pool. According to the College Board, the number of high school students taking the SAT exam has increased by 48% since 2001. The most significant growth over that time period came from students who identify themselves as Hispanic/Latino (up 150%), Asian (up 80%) and Black (up 79%). The College Board also reported an increase in student GPAs over the past 10 years stating that 45% of SAT test takers reported a GPA of an A- or better in 2011, a 9.8% increase from 2001.
Students today are better informed about the college application process and are taking extra steps to get ahead including hiring private guidance counselors and tutors. Jacqueline Grazette, an independent college counselor in the Washington DC area, credits both increasing competition and decreasing school resources for the surge in demand for her services. “There just are not enough counselors in most public and private schools to give students the individualized attention they need to plan and prepare for testing and college applications.” On the topic of standardized tests she adds, “Few students are able to score well on standardized tests without some form of test preparation. Highly specialized tests such as the AP, IB and SAT II exams cover a breadth and depth of content that many students have not been exposed to in school. Tutors help address these issues, if contacted early enough in the process.”

A new survey by WyzAnt, Inc. confirms that even top students are looking to get an edge by hiring tutors. The recently completed poll of 283 WyzAnt tutors from 43 different states indicates that over 25% of students who hire private tutors are already honor roll students before they commence tutoring. Only 1/3 of the independent tutors surveyed say that their work is primarily for remedial purposes.

In response to the surge in applications, some schools like Harvard, Princeton and The University of Virginia have chosen to reinstate their early admissions programs in 2012 and allow students to apply early in the hopes of improving their chances for admittance. In November, The Boston Globe reported that the number of early applications submitted to Harvard in 2012 was up 5.8% from 2006 when the program was discontinued. Many schools reported similar findings for their 2012 early applicant pool including Princeton which received three times as many early applicants as there were spots in the entire freshmen class.

While 2012 may go down as the toughest year to apply to college, the future of this trend is less certain. Tuition, which is already at record highs, is projected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future even though Americans have less disposable income to put towards education as a result of the slow economy. Robert Vellani, PhD, is a teacher who has instructed at both the high school and college levels, and he is also a private test preparation tutor. He acknowledges the recent increase in competition but also suggests that it may not be permanent. “Many believe that a four year college is mandatory while others believe we need more trade schools and the four-year college is for a select few. Look at the Occupy Wall Street movement - many complain that the degrees they struggled to earn are worthless in the current economic climate.”

Whether the role of America’s four-year universities changes in the future remains to be seen, but one thing is clear—today’s young people are faced with more pressure than ever to perform in school and distinguish themselves from their peers, both for college admission and beyond.

About this company: WyzAnt, Inc. is a national tutor-student matching service specializing in connecting students with private tutors. Parents and students can visit to find a tutor that meets their individual needs. Whether it’s a qualified math tutor or a private SAT tutor, visitors can review tutor profiles, rates and student feedback to ensure they find the perfect private tutor.


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Daniel Breiner
Wyzant, Inc.
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