“Back In My Day…”: How College Admissions Have Changed Since Our Parents’ Generation


Shayla Shuping

College: How much harder is it for this generation in the college admissions process?

An Easier Application Process?

With application sources like the Common Application and the Coalition Application, or even just directly applying on the college’s websites, students are finding it easier than ever to apply to college. Although the Common Application isn’t new, as it was created in the 70s, it has expanded to include around 700 easy-to-apply-to colleges and other secondary educational institutions. The program is as popular as it has ever been and it helps millions of students apply to college every year. Menchville Alumni and Media Assistant, Heather Salvato feels differently about this and says that the process was “Very difficult. There were no college advisors to help me through the process. I was alone in the process, unlike students now who have college counselors to help.” Salvato thinks that students having sources like the Common Application ”Provides them with something simple and readily available.”

How Much More Does It Cost?

It has been shown that college prices have risen by around 215% since 1980, 25% of that just in the last decade. Public colleges are around $19,000 a year, while their private counterparts are around $40,000 per year. Senior, Kenna Brown, feels strongly about these costs. “I think that college is way too expensive,” says Brown, “I think that the costs alone is what makes a lot of people turn away from going to four-year schools.” One strong advantage of college costs changing is the addition of application fee wavers. Students in certain organizations or under special circumstances now have the advantage of applying to college for free, rather than paying the $75 fee that most colleges force upon applicants. Most states, including Virginia, also have a week dedicated to free in-state college applications. (This week for the class of 2020 is Monday, November 18th- Friday, November 22nd!)

Is There More Competition In Applying?

Four-year colleges have received more applications than ever, most recently. Schools have received around 50% more applications in the last decade than in the mid-80s, when the amount of students enrolling in college was at a low. Because of this rise in applications, the acceptance rate at many colleges has dropped. While the amount of applications submitted every year has an impact on the competitive aspect of applying, it has also been shown that while a student’s educational statistics are very important, things like activities, sports, and achievements are big topics of interest for admissions officers. Because of this, seniors at the top of their class are sometimes denied to schools that their peers a bit lower-ranked in their class are accepted to. Editor-In-Cheif of The Lion’s Roar Laura Madler says her experience applying for college has been “Mildly stressful. I think that I will be pretty tired of filling out the same boxes by the time I’m done with all of my applications.” She says that the competition in applying is  “A lot stronger than it was for previous generations, when not everyone was expected to apply or go to a four-year college…You have schools like Vanderbilt that went from having a 62% acceptance rate to now having around 11% acceptance. Collegeboard is also able to sell student information to colleges, which increases applicants and lowers acceptance rates to look more prestigious.”