Many parents expect their children to attend the same university they graduated from. It can come as a shock when parents learn that admissions standards are different than a generation ago, and many bright, capable students won’t make the cut. At many schools, “legacy” students—those whose parents are graduates—are no more likely to receive an acceptance letter than those who have no family connection to the institution.
College news website Campus Grotto issued a report in April 2015 that stated, “Admission rates have hit an all-time low for many schools.” At most of the top-tier schools like Duke, MIT, and Yale, the acceptance rate is less than 10 percent. At Stanford and Harvard, only about 5 percent of applicants are admitted. This is not due to unqualified applicants. Low acceptance rates occur because there are ten or twenty times as many applicants as there are seats.
It is therefore prudent to have a fallback position in case your child is unable to attend their first-choice school. Make sure your child starts submitting college applications early in their senior year of high school. When applying, include some second-tier schools, where acceptance rates are closer to 20 percent. That way, if a top-tier school proves out of reach, acceptance may come from a second-tier school.
If your student does not get into their second-choice schools either, try looking elsewhere. Each year in May, once most colleges have closed admissions for the fall, the National Association for College Admission Counseling posts its “College Openings Update,” a list of schools that still have fall openings. In May 2015, that list included more than 220 colleges and universities, many in the United States and some abroad. You can search this list at www.nacacnet.org/collegeopenings. Florida schools on the 2015 list included Ave Maria University, Eckerd College, and Stetson University.
Local state colleges—like Valencia College, Seminole State College, or Lake-Sumter State College—are another great option. Students can attend a state college for two years, then transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree. This helps keep living expenses and student debt lower than if they spent four full years at a university.
Rejection by one’s first choice school can be discouraging, but resilience in the face of rejection is a life skill worth learning.