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Students Applying to More Colleges and More Online

Feel like the college-application process is ramping up? Now a report, released yesterday, confirms it.

Each year, the National Association of College Admissions Counselors surveys counseling and admission officers to learn more about what's happening in the field and track trends in admission and counseling over time. The 2010 State of College Admission Report shows that nearly 75 percent of students now apply to three or more colleges, an increase of 14 percent in the past two decades. The percentage of students who submitted seven or more applications reached 23 percent last year, up from 9 percent in 1990.

Although most colleges reported increases in the number of applications for fall 2009, the largest proportion since 1996 (29 percent) reported decreases.

The process is becoming electronic. About 80 percent of four-year colleges and universities received applications online for the fall 2009 admission cycle, up from 72 percent in 2008, 68 percent in 2007, and 58 percent in 2006.

The slight decline in overall acceptance rates at U.S. colleges and universities reported last year looks to have leveled off, and uncertainty in the economy seems to have increased some colleges' reliance on early-decision and wait lists, according to the report.

Although the recent decline in acceptance rates has leveled off in the past two admission cycles, college yield rates continue to decline. The average yield rate for the fall 2009 admission cycle was down to 42.9 percent from 49 percent in 2001. This means that institutions are enrolling smaller proportions of their accepted students.

The factors in the admissions decision remain consistent with past surveys. Most important: students' academic achievements, including overall high school grade point average; grades in college-prep courses; strength of curriculum; and admission test scores and grades. The next most important factors were the essay, teacher and counselor recommendations, extracurricular activities, class rank, and the student's demonstrated interest.

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