College choices for the Class of 2011

Posted by callen - 10 June, 2011

Rusty Allen has been involved in college counseling at three independent schools over the course of almost 30 years. He has been helping Randolph students explore colleges since 1997. Here is the first in a series of posts where Mr. Allen will look at issues and trends that impact our students' choices as they undergo this important stage in concluding the K-12 journey.

It has been an exciting and successful year in the college admissions for the Class of 2011. Our 64 seniors submitted 361 completed applications to 109 colleges and universities across the United States and in Canada.  Although, according to national media reports, this was the most competitive college admissions season on record, our seniors received a total of 235 acceptances from 68 different colleges.  They will attend 25 different institutions spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific and as far north as Canada.

Our own state universities continue to be a great draw with their outstanding academic programs, honors programs, and significant merit aid scholarships.  Not only did Auburn University win the national championship in football, they also won the battle for Randolph seniors this year.  Auburn received 47 applications and 20 seniors will attend, 12 on merit scholarships.  Nine seniors will attend the University of Alabama and two will attend UAB.  On the private side, Vanderbilt University tops the list of most popular colleges, as it does every year.  Other very popular schools that draw significant numbers of applications include Emory University, Rhodes College, Sewanee, Duke University, Southern Methodist University, and Washington University in St Louis.

The advent of state universities' rolling decisions and the arrival of some Early Decision/Early Action results has taken some of the drama away from the months of late February and March. February is a calm month – and, in my office, the time to gear up with juniors. March is a anxious time for those seniors still waiting for decisions.  When the dust settles in April, we get to work with those who need help to make sense of their options (some of them have too many choices, which makes it hard!) But, all in all, I feel that good things always happen and that the choices students have at the end of the process are good ones and that the students will be pleased.  The final disappointments are always there but the realization that every student and their family have choices (and positive ones, social, academic, financial) wins the day.

As the national media has looked at and scrutinized the admissions patterns for the national Class of 2011 a few items of interest jump out.

The application numbers were astonishingly high. As more colleges make it easier to apply, i.e. join the Common Application, application numbers went sky high and admit rates fell.

Colleges and universities are also recruiting students overseas – from China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. China is a targeted source of international diversity as the top 25% of their Class of 2011 outnumbers all graduating seniors in the US.

An increase in Early Action/Early Decision choices. As application numbers continue to climb despite a leveling of US high school graduates, students will rely more on Early Action/Early Decision programs to lock in their choices.

Also, colleges are looking more closely at student’s demonstrated interest. For them, identifying real candidates is increasingly important in a numbers- and results-driven admissions world. This is a topic we address at our first college/testing meeting in the 9th grade.

To stay abreast of national college admission trends, here are several sites that offer insight: the New York Times college blog, The Choice,, and Brian Harke's blog.  Check them out and feel free to email or call, 256-799-6125, with questions or topics for future discussion.

Topics: 12th grade, After, college, Upper School

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