Acceptance rates at many colleges are lower this year than in the past, and the prediction is for those percentages to drop further still next year.

College-bound students, and their parents, are scratching their heads. Why is a college that was a "safety" school, just a few short years ago, now a "reach," or even beyond?

Are college applicants becoming smarter? Are colleges recruiting too many international students? [Colleges spend millions each year recruiting foreign students, and while International students make up but 4% of the student body across American college campuses, at some schools this number is closer to 10% (the other 90% consisting of professors and Teaching Assistants who don't speak a word of English :-).] Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons? [Sorry, Mr. Dickens. Couldn't resist. :-)]

Click HERE to read, Why Has College Admissions Become So Competitive?

Public universities, once the domain of the masses and open to virtually all, are now among the most highly selective. Here in New York, for instance, students who routinely apply to very selective University Centers, such as Binghamton, Buffalo and Albany, also apply to state colleges like Oneonta and New Paltz as their "safety" schools. And yet, this year, the rejection letters have been outnumbering the acceptances, and the "sure thing" is no longer a shoe in. [Indeed, at SUNY Oneonta, the 2011-12 (most recent available) acceptance rate was 41%. OMG!

So, what's happening out there? Where have all those freshman seats on campus gone?

While the reasons for the declining acceptance rates are legion (and, having been rejected, have you considered the French Foreign Legion? LOL), one fact provides a compelling argument in favor of selectivity: The sheer number of applicants.

More students than ever (nearly 20 million enrolled in colleges in 2011) are graduating from high school and applying to college. Add to this that there are a heck of a lot more students applying to far fewer colleges these days, with public universities, particularly in-state colleges, seeing the greatest rise in applicants over the course of the past decade. [If 911 didn't keep the kids closer to home, then the economic downturn and the ever-shrinking wallet surely has!]

Yes, there are more than 3000 accredited colleges in the United States, many of them with seats begging to be filled, even as classes start in September. High School students, however, are only applying to maybe 10% of these colleges in any measurable number. [Just ask any high school senior. Doesn't it seem that every student is applying to the same colleges across the board? Guess what? They are!]

With math so simple that even an English major could figure it out, while you may be able to squeeze 20 college students into a VW Beetle (do not try this at home), you cannot squeeze ten pounds of baloney into a five pound bag (tripling up on the baloney slices notwithstanding).

The college that, a decade ago, had 4000 freshman seats up for grabs, and 4800 applicants, had an 83% acceptance rate. Back in the day, many, if not most colleges, had more spaces to fill than applicants. Selective, schmelective. They needed to fill those seats!

This year, that same college with the very same 4000 seats, had some 15,000 applicants (imagine reading all those essays). That, my friends, brings the acceptance rate down to (let me check the logarithm tables) 27%. Now, that college can well afford to be highly selective, picking and choosing from the best of the best.

Think about it. In the late 1960s, if you could gain entrance to the City University of New York (CUNY), you could get into New York University (NYU). And while CUNY was tuition-free in those days, NYU didn't cost that much more. Today, it's about as tough to get into NYU as it is to gain admission to the Ivies (I blame Lady Gaga :-), and the school is among the most expensive colleges in the nation (hey, someone has to pay to buy up all the real estate in lower Manhattan and to maintain a campus in Abu Dhabi, right?)

Yes, it is a simple and sometimes frightening fact: As More Students Apply to College, Schools Become More Selective. Supply and demand, with the scarcity in the chosen market dictating the cost.

Which means there's only one sure thing on the college application and admissions scene: Colleges have become -- and will continue to be -- more competitive than ever. If you want to get in to the college of your choice, you need to be as well!

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