April Fool’s Day is coming. A celebration that originated when the Gregorian calendar moved the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1, invoking the ire and ridicule of the population at the time.
For better or for worse, April 1 is also the date when the majority of high school seniors hear “yeas” or “nays” from their applicant colleges. Since most students will receive a mixed bag of responses—as well as some wait-listings—it’s also a good time to put the whole process of applying to college in perspective.
Among the 1,200+ schools reporting numbers to U.S. News, the average number of applications received by admission departments in 2016 was 7,172. Topping the list was the University of California with a total of 206,000 received applications. That number is indeed huge, but perhaps the more interesting fact is that it’s also a big increase—almost 6.5% more than just a few years ago when the university netted a little over 86,000 applications in the 2014-15 application cycle.
For comparison, Harvard received approximately 37,000 applications, about the same number as the University of Washington; Boston University logged in 55,000; Pomona College about 10,000. These schools all obviously have varying freshman class sizes which affects the impact of the application numbers. In 2015, Harvard admitted 2,080 students, 1,660 of which accepted and entered as the Class of 2019, compared to the UWash which admitted over 17,000 students, 6,000 of which ultimately enrolled as freshman.
My point in sharing these numbers is to remind the students and parents that I work with that admission decisions need to be viewed with a certain degree of perspective. The numbers are just too huge to do otherwise. So take the inevitable denials—as well as the welcome acceptances—with grace and a grain of salt. Ultimately what matters is how you spend the next four years, growing, learning and taking advantage of every opportunity offered.