Every year the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) releases its State of College Admissions report, with information on what admissions officers are looking for in applicants, what has changed from one year to the next, and more. Here are top current trends that college bound students should be aware of from the 2019 report:

Growth in Application Volume Continues

  • College Application Volume Continued an Upward Trend. The number of applicants from first-time freshmen increased 6%; applications from prospective transfer students increased by 2 percent; and international student applications increased 7 percent, on average. Public colleges experienced an average 1.7 percent decline in transfer applications while private colleges had a 4.7 percent increase.

  • International Student Acceptance Rate is Low. Yield Slightly Higher than First-Time Freshmen. At institutions that enroll first-time international students, the Fall 2018 rate for this population (52 percent) was lower than the rate for both transfer and first-time freshmen students. The average yield rate for international students was 29 percent.

  • Average Yield Rate for First-Time Freshman Holds Steady After Long Decline. The Yield Rate was 33.7 percent. Over the past decade the average yield rate has steadily declined from 48% in Fall 2007.

  • Transfer Acceptance Rate Slightly Lower than Freshmen Rate. Yield Much Higher. More than half (52 percent) of transfer applicants who were admitted ultimately enrolled, compared to only 27 percent of freshman admits.

Recruitment and Yield Strategies

  • Top Recruitment Strategies. College tours remain the top institution strategy when recruiting first-time freshmen.

  • Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) Application Options Activity Increases. According to NACAC, the average yield rate for early decision (binding) admits is 87% – considerably higher than the overall average yield rate (35.1%.) An early decision or early action application option can be an extra motivator for students to apply because admit rates tend to be higher and they will receive their decisions earlier in the admissions cycle. The number of Early Decision applicants increased by 10 percent and the number of students accepted through EA increased by 9 percent.


SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Survey, 2018–19

Source: NACAC – Survey of Admissions Trends 2018-2019

  • Wait List Activity Increases; Likelihood of Wait List Acceptance Remains Low. Fall 2019 saw the number of students offered a place on an admissions wait list increased by 18 percent, on average. Institutions accepted an average of 20 percent of all students who chose to remain on wait lists.

Factors in Admission Decisions

Top Admission Office Factors for First-Time Freshmen. Overall high school GPA, grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores. The next most important factors are the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, class rank, and extracurricular activities.

SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Surveys, 2007-08 through 2018–19

SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Surveys, 2007-08 through 2018–19

  • Importance of Student Background. Nearly one-third of colleges rated first-generation status as at least moderately important in first-time freshmen admission decisions. About one-quarter of colleges considered high school attended, race/ethnicity, and state or country of residence as either moderately or considerably important.


SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Survey, 2018–19.

Georgia College Applicant Highlights

  • UGA – Early Action Applicants Holds Strong. Nearly 17,000 students applied through early action said UGA’s President Jere W. Morehead.”This is a 25% increase compared to five years ago.PrepScholar indicates admissions is extremely competitive with a GPA of 4.0, so UGA requires you to be at the top of your class, and to take AP or IB courses to show college academics is a breeze.The the average SAT score at 1325, and an average admissions rate of 48.6 percent.UGA continues to elevate its academic offerings and support, resulting in record achievements for its students.UGA set records for six-year completion at 69 percent and matched its all-time high first-year retention rate of 96%. US News & World Report lists UGA No. 16 of top public universities, marking its fourth consecutive year in the top 20, and only two institutions in the Southeastern Conference to be listed in the top 20.

  • Georgia Tech– Enrollment Reaches All-Time High. In 2019, 36,489 students applied to Georgia Tech, an increase of 11.5 percent over the previous year. The additional 3,766 students are primarily graduate students, and a large number are enrolled in online master’s degree programs. The acceptance rate of 18.8 percent is down from 26 percent overall in 2018. Georgia Tech provides a high-quality and affordable education that has resulted in unprecedented growth in the online programs, with the newest in cybersecurity. These programs have made a significant impact on high-tech fields. The average GPA of admitted applicants was 3.98 and the average ACT score was 32, and the average SAT score was 1450. Starting your college prep early in high school, will strengthen your success in the college admissions process.

FOLLOW-ON COMMENT: This article was posted before COVID-19. I expect the update next year will be very different as students are deciding if they will come back or if they will continue with online education. – Susan Thrower