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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Unraveling today’s challenging college admissions process

The crest of Saint Joseph’s University; one of the most welcoming college campuses I’ve visited. Photo by PHLCP14 through Wikipedia.

High school can be challenging sometimes. We have days when we never want to graduate and we have days when we cannot wait to leave and go to college, but that second option may not be as easy as it sounds. As a second-semester senior in high school, I recently experienced one of the most stressful and busiest parts of high school, college applications.

Out of the 13 colleges I applied to, I’ve been accepted by seven, deferred by one, rejected by two, and I still await the rest of my results. Between my essay, all of the ACTs and SATs, the different supplementals, and applying for scholarships, I was mentally exhausted and drained. 

What didn’t help was the internal feeling of failure as I wasn’t sure which of these colleges would accept me. Not only was this stressful for me but also my peers, as 74% of students reported high stress during this process. Much of the stress was our uncertainty about the future as we didn’t know what schools we would end up attending; everything felt out of our control.

Why does it feel like college is harder to get into now? Maybe it’s because some colleges are refusing to grow with the rising number of applicants. In a study by Melanie Hanson at the Education Data Initiative, she found that from 1970 to 2020 college enrollment has almost tripled from 7.4 million to 19 million

In contrast, Jeffrey Selingo, a professor at the University of Arizona, found that out of the top 50 universities in the country, 35 of those schools have only increased size by 18% while many universities outside have increased by over 55%. The refusal to grow denies students who seek higher education that opportunity for the sake of a school’s acceptance rate. 

When I was undergoing my search for the perfect college, the acceptance rates at many of the “top schools” worried me and made me feel like I might not be good enough to get in. Eventually, I got over my fear and decided to apply to the University of Pennsylvania, but paying that $85 application fee killed my vibe. I was shocked by UPenn’s $90,000 tuition. Even if I did get accepted, would I even be able to afford to?

Not only have colleges become harder to get into due to size, they are also more expensive, sometimes limiting what students can attend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average total cost of attending any four year school has risen from $16,009 in 1990 to $31,111 in 2020

The United States Census reported that the median household income in 2020 was $67,521. Colleges are beginning to become too expensive for many families, which begins adding stress onto the parents as well.

Should more top colleges expand? Yes! Do they have to? Obviously not. Many top ranked colleges use their low acceptance rates to manufacture scarcity, as everyone wants to come but only a select few can get in. I believe that more students should stop applying to “top schools” and look for schools that actually want them to attend. 

My college search is coming to an end and I’m prepared to settle down for the next four years at Saint Joseph’s University. This school has made me feel like I’m a part of its community already even though I haven’t even put down my enrollment deposit. Its welcoming emails and friendly guides on their tours have made me develop an attraction to the school. I won’t be paying anywhere near UPenn’s tuition price, and St Joe’s 85% acceptance rate made me feel as though they were calling out to me to apply.

Instead of spending $85 on an application fee to the University of Pennsylvania, apply for free to a less popular school like Saint Joseph’s University. If it feels like the college application process has become impossible recently, it’s because it has, but students can make it a little easier for themselves by applying to schools whose names don’t make their reputation, but by applying to schools who want to make college enjoyable for students. Make the impossible possible.

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