I have taken a very close look at one of the biggest anxiety producers for parents these days: Getting our kids into college. In my research I have found some truths, some myths, and some different ways of looking at this issue that might decrease our own worries and increase the likelihood of success for our kids. In this article I am going to focus on the myth that it is harder than ever to get into college.
So let's first look at the statement: It is harder than ever to get into college. Where did that statement originate? This statement comes from the fact that colleges (and universities - I will use college as the generic term) have had a huge increase in the number of applicants in the past ten years and the number of students accepted has not increased dramatically. At first view, it means that they are turning away more and more students. But in fact they are not. One of the reasons for the increase has been because the students are sending more applications than they used to. Most school are getting many more applications than ten years ago. So the applicant/student ratio has changed dramatically, but that doesn't mean it is harder to get in.
So let's look at some more accurate ways to see how hard it is to get in to school compared to ten years ago. Nationally, when you compare GPA and SAT scores ten years ago of students being accepted into a competitive college with recent students, the numbers have not moved much at all. In general, a well qualified student has just as much an opportunity of getting into a good school now as ten years ago.
But Neil, in Virginia the state schools have gotten much more difficult to get into in the past ten years. That means my kids have to work harder than I did to get in.
That's true, especially in some states...at least to a point. When you take a look at the top four or five state schools in any state, they have probably become more difficult to be accepted due to the fact that their reputation has probably increased recently. William and Mary, The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and now recently James Madison University among others, are much more difficult to get into than before.
What do we do about this information? Do we let it increase our anxiety and do every thing we can to get our kids into those schools? Possibly, but there might be major consequences to that. I have worked with a number of students whose parents did everything they could to assure good grades in high school. Then, when their child went off to college and didn't have that level of support, they realized they were in over their heads and couldn't compete.