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College Resources

College Recruiting and the College Admissions Funnel

Imagine an Ivy League school, your local community college and a large state university. These three institutions are looking for very different types of students during the college admissions process and have vastly different criteria for whom they admit to their programs.

 

The Basis of College Recruiting

Every college and university has a governing body of lead administrators who possess a long-term vision of what type of college this is, the disciplines and programs to emphasize, how the college should function financially and how the institution will be thought of in the academic community. And this guides the school’s college recruiting efforts. When you submit your college application, these people are looking for certain skills, strengths and experiences that meet their college profile based upon your high school resume.


What Is the College Admissions Funnel?

Many people apply to a school, but not everyone gets admitted. Going from the large applicant pool to the students who gain admission to the school works like a funnel. But different colleges and universities have different sized funnels.


For example, community colleges admit nearly everyone who applies, giving them a large admissions funnel that accepts most students, many of whom later go on to four-year colleges and universities. Your favorite state university probably has a medium-sized funnel with some level of selectivity. This means they are looking to admit certain types of students to enrich their student body, help certain programs grow, and improve alumni relations. Many people have a chance of getting in, but they won’t accept just anyone. Ivy League universities have much more selective admissions standards, giving them a tiny admissions funnel, which carefully strains a small, hand-picked group from the multitudes who apply for admission.


Don't be discouraged by the admissions funnel. Remember during your college search, as you find colleges that match your interests, build your favorites list, and start applying for admission, you are funneling the colleges and universities, too!


College Admissions: What Counts?


These are some of the common decision factors for college admission:

  • The number of new students that can be admitted in the next admission season, which can be based on the amount of available student housing or classes.

  • The types of students with special talents in athletics or the arts who will enhance specific programs or bring acclaim to the school.

  • How many children of alumni will be admitted.

  • Achieving geographic, gender, and ethnic diversity that is representative of society and/or the community surrounding the college. 

Remember, colleges and universities have a target number, roles they need to fill, and an idea of the types of student/faculty characteristics that will create the kind of environment to meet their institutional goals. The college admissions process begins with many students who are interested and qualified, and your chances of getting into a specific school are highly influenced by how many students, like you, actually submit applications.

 

College Application Know-How

Be sure not to put all your eggs in one basket by applying to only one or two schools that interest you. Research carefully to determine what the average GPA and SAT/ACT scores are for different schools, and find out what percent of applicants are admitted. Then, create a list of schools to apply to that includes a range of college options.


You should apply to one or two fall-back or “safety” schools -- schools you are nearly certain you can get into and you could attend if you don’t get into your other choices.


You should apply to several schools that seem right on par with your achievement levels -- perhaps a state school or two, or one or two private universities of interest.


Lastly, apply to a “stretch school” if you have one. If you’ve always dreamed of going to Stanford but aren’t sure you can get in, apply to Stanford as your stretch school, but also apply to several other schools you are more certain you can get into, such as Berkeley or University of Southern California. Then, if you are funneled out of your dream school, you still have several wonderful options.


There’s no harm in applying to many different schools; just know that you will have to pay more in application fees and may have a harder time deciding where to enroll if you are accepted at most of them.
 


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