For high school seniors, March can be the most stressful month for one reason: college admissions. With the arrival of college acceptance and rejection letters in mid-March, college-bound seniors across the country face some tough decisions. And for current Carleton students, this means the upcoming arrival of about 300 prospective students.
For the class of 2015, Carleton received 4,982 applicants, a slight increase from last year’s 4856. Of those students, 1475 applicants were offered admission, including 205 Early Decision applicants, for an acceptance rate of approximately 29.6 percent. This represents about a one percent drop from last year’s acceptance rate of 30.5 percent.
In addition, approximately 300 students are expected to accept a place on the waitlist. By the end of April, the admissions staff “hopes to have 300 to 315 students accept admission” in the regular decision pool, says Katy Hargis, the Admissions Database Specialist and Assistant to the Dean of Admissions. In other words, the targeted size for the class of 2015 is approximately 500 students.
“Carleton is very lucky,” Hargis continues. “We have the ability to look at a holistic picture of the students [who apply to Carleton].” Of the applicant pool, she notes that a large percentage of applicants were within the top tenth of their high school classes, and that just about all of them were within the top half. In addition, she says, the admissions staff places importance on the rigor of an applicant’s curriculum, and whether or not he or she has taken the most challenging classes offered. “We look at academics, grades, classes, and also other things that the applicant has done,” such as extracurricular activities. Ultimately, “no factor really outweighs another.”
As a whole, this year’s U.S. college admissions cycle has been extraordinarily competitive, with many schools receiving record numbers of applicants. Larger universities in particular have seen enormous increases in their applicant pool, with a corresponding drop in the percent of admitted students. According to the Huffington Post, Harvard University saw its acceptance rate drop to an all-time low of 6.2 percent of students, while Stanford, Yale and Princeton admitted 7.1 percent, 7.4 percent,and 8.4 percent of applicants, respectively. In addition, Columbia University, which jumped several spots to number four on the U.S. News and World Report National Universities ranking, saw a corresponding 32 percent increase in its applicant pool. This led to a record-low acceptance rate of approximately 6.4 prospective students.
Closer to Carleton, colleges such as Northwestern University and the University of Chicago saw their acceptance rates drop to 18 and 15.8 percent, respectively.
Although the Carleton Admissions committee did indeed experience a slight increase in the number of applications received, the difference is minor – less than one percent. Hargis believes that this trend is due to the consistency of Carleton’s application. She notes that high school seniors today face a “variety of [changing] marketing messages” from areas such as the U.S. News rankings and the mass media. Carleton’s message, however, “has stayed the same.” It is this factor, Hargis says, that has led to the incremental, rather than extreme, fluctuations in Carleton’s applicant pool.
And now, with the actual admissions cycle over, it is time for the college selection process to begin. After months of waiting to hear from their colleges, prospective students must now choose a college where they hope to spend the next four years of their lives.