Detailed Findings and Methodology
The nationwide increase in applications is not solely a product of rising interest in higher education. Young Americans also appear to be applying to more schools.
The process of applying to multiple schools has become easier with the wider use of the Common Application — a standard form accepted by hundreds of higher education institutions. As more colleges and universities adopt the Common Application, it is not unusual for a single person to apply to more than a dozen schools.
The number of schools applied to per aspiring student has also likely increased as students have become more strategic in the application process. Today’s high school graduates are more likely to apply to both top-tier institutions and also hedge their bets by applying to schools with higher acceptance rates.
For many college applicants, getting into the best possible school is the most important consideration. Though there are no Ivy League schools on this list, there are a number of highly selective, top tier institutions — including Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago, which only accept 11% and 8% of applicants, respectively.
Other schools on this list, on the other hand, may be surging in popularity exactly because they are far less selective, accepting most applicants. Half a dozen of the schools on this list have acceptance rates of 90% or higher.
College can be very expensive, and for some prospective students, spending the least on tuition — or incurring the least amount of debt — is the most important consideration when deciding which schools to apply to. Over half of the schools on this list are public schools, many of which have steep tuition discounts for in-state students.
For other schools on this list, the application spike may be attributable to extra benefits and amenities not offered at competing institutions. For example, Seton Hall University in New Jersey recently started providing students with new, fully loaded laptops upon enrollment. The number of applications to Seton Hall was 188% higher in 2016 than it was in 2006.
In other cases, schools have added popular programs in recent years that largely account for the spike in applicants. One such school, National Louis University in Chicago, has reported one of the largest jumps in applicants since enacting Pathways, a program aimed at helping historically underserved populations obtain a college education.
Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 100 colleges with the largest 10-year percentage increase in applicants from the 2006-2007 school year to the 2016-2017 year. Only schools with at least 3,000 undergraduates in 2006 were included.
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