Getting into college is easier than your clients may think — and debunking the myths about college selectivity could be the key to a better deal on their children's education.
People mistakenly believe that rejection rates are high because the media often focus on schools that are "insanely competitive," said Lynn O'Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution.
Those schools include Harvard University with its 5.9 percent acceptance rate or Stanford University, which offers admission to 6.6 percent of its applicants. It also can be tough to get into the well-regarded public universities, such as University of California, Los Angeles (22 percent) or University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (31.3 percent).
"Families worry that they won't get into any college," O'Shaughnessy said. "If you're only applying at the schools at the top of the rankings, you may not (get into any of them)...but only 2 percent of schools reject 75 percent or more of applications."
Most schools accept most of the students who apply to them. Acceptance rates did decline in recent years as the population of college-age people swelled, but the average acceptance rate was 63.8 percent in 2011 compared to 69.6 percent in 2002, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. More students also send in more applications these days, with the vast majority (79 percent) applying to at least three schools and 29 percent applying to seven or more.
Furthermore, most students get accepted by their first-choice school. UCLA's annual survey of incoming freshmen found that 76.7 percent were accepted by their top choice in 2012.
The odds may now be tilting even farther in students' favor. The number of high school seniors peaked in 2011 and isn't expected to grow again until 2020. That's left most colleges worried about meeting their enrollment goals.
Inside Higher Ed's survey of college admission directors found that 76 percent of admissions directors were either "very" or "moderately" concerned about meeting their enrollment targets. As of May 1, the date when many colleges require deposits for the fall, 61 percent of public colleges and 56 percent of private ones hadn't hit their enrollment goals, the survey found.
Furthermore, one out of three admissions directors said their schools were offering bigger discounts in an effort to attract more students.