The Future of College Enrollment: 10 Trends Coming Soon


Some of these trends actually launched a little earlier than 2013, though they hold the potential to gigantify into something significant soon or in the near future. But the shape of college admissions, whether it be student-side or school-side, will most assuredly change in due time. After all, most elements of higher education already are thanks to demographic and technological fluxes.

  1. Challenging, creative essay prompts:

    University of Chicago, Caltech, and other schools decided to jettison the usual, “Discuss a challenge you overcame!” or “Who has left the biggest impact on your life?” in favor of essay topics far more unconventional and creative. Asking applicants to describe Waldo’s whereabouts or some other fanciful scenario tests their capacity for imagination and innovation – not to mention lessens the chances of meddling parents coaching them on well-worn “right” and “wrong” responses. Some colleges and universities also see it as a means of gauging who is and is not the most interested in their programming as well, since the not-so-serious likely wouldn’t exert too much effort.

  2. Applying as a junior:

    Most schools allow juniors to apply, but more and more seem to be taking advantage of this option in order to open up new opportunities and hopefully get their name out there. Unfortunately, this motion doesn’t exactly grant them any sort of advantage. Sending in applications early does not equate to hearing a “yes” early, no matter how eager and go-getting it makes them seem. In fact, it may very well hamstring their motivations since they still compete against seniors; just because schools send rejection notices doesn’t exactly mean they wouldn’t succeed in later years. But receiving a “no” runs the risk of demoralization, which they don’t really need when trying to carve out their futures in higher education.

  3. Test optional:

    SATs, ACTs, and other migraines enjoy buckets of criticism levied at the fact that they just don’t provide the most accurate assessment of a student’s academic potential. As a result, more and more colleges and universities consider them optional rather than a major player in the admissions process. So far, more than 850 schools decided to shunt the exams to the sidelines and focus on other factors illustrating a candidate’s preparedness and acumen in the classroom. While the trend certainly stretches back a little further than some of these, increased pressure from administrators, parents, and students concerned about the not-so-standardizing elements of standardized tests means a more significant shift away in the coming years.

  4. Submitting more than three applications:

    Back in the day, hopeful college enrollees applied to their No. 1 choice and one to two “safety schools” just in case. But finances and other concerns mean graduating seniors (or idealistic juniors) open themselves up to even more options these days. Seventy-nine percent reported submitting information to three or more schools in 2011, marking an uptick from 67% in 2010. A further 29% applied to a staggering seven or more, an increase from 25%. And this trend shows very little sign of abating anytime soon, as hand-wringing kids and parents hope to wait out the recession with education.

  5. More students in medical school:

    Medical school enrollment regularly experiences increases, with the Association of American Medical Colleges expecting to grow by 30% between the 2002-2003 and 2016-2017 school years. Fifty-six percent of this has already happened; suffice to say, the AAMC feels pretty confident that the next few years won’t disappoint, either. More first-time medical students means more doctors. Which is great with Baby Boomers aging and life expectancy increasing. Unfortunately, though, primary care enrollment is down. That’s kind of the most important position needed right now.

  6. Less competition:

    Maybe. With declining numbers of high school graduates, this means fewer students applying to colleges nearby and across the country (if not world). This has less to do with dropout rates rather than declines in the amount of babies born annually and fewer immigrants. About 3.4 million kiddos graduated from high school last year, but the amount will likely decrease to around 3.21 for the 2013-2014 semesters. In order to keep numbers up, admissions offices will have to start courting more international, nontraditional, and returning students over time.

  7. One-year master’s programs:

    Linda Abraham of Accepted.com predicts a surge in one-year master’s degree plans, which tend to focus largely on business-related subjects (like entrepreneurship) these days. University of Michigan, Cornell, Kellogg, and Columbia all offer up “more accelerated MBA programs” to help b-school graduates finish school faster and cheaper without compromising their ability to score jobs afterwards. She also believes that, over time, such programs both in the United States and other nations might wind up overtaking their two-year counterparts thanks to the appealing ease and cost.

  8. More early applicants at Ivy League schools:

    Save for Dartmouth, curiously, which experienced a drop of 12.5% in early applications last year. Harvard and Princeton saw a swell of 14.9% and 10%, respectively, with the rest of the schools underneath the Ivy League banner upticking to a more modest extent. Likely this blooms from the same logic as juniors who just can’t wait for senior year to see which schools bite, as early application might very well reduce the amount of competition over primo class spots.

  9. Gap years:

    Life quite often proves the best classroom, so states the cliche. But the sentiment certainly roots itself in reality. About 1.2% of incoming freshmen in 2011 elected to wait a year before beginning their studies, and it seems as if this trend continues on into 2013. Research at Skidmore noted that students who opt to take a gap year enjoy higher grades and retention rates than those who do not. It also helps improve their motivation levels, which do kind of very much feed into grades and staying in school.

  10. “Hooks”:

    Blues Traveler knows that the hook brings you back, and it also happens to increase your chance of securing a spot at your aspiring alma mater. Application rates may drop, but demand for students to show off their special snowflake attributes increases. They might very well boast some excellent grades, but schools increasingly want them to stand out in other areas, particularly extracurricular activities. Schools want to see more well-rounded individuals applying, with the logic being that they add texture and diversity to the campus, not just a sexy GPA.

Posted on 01/21/13 | by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

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