College Admission Trends: Our Counselors Tell All

Posted by: District 1 year, 7 months ago

College Admission Trends: Our Counselors Tell All

CUSD College Admission Trends

As the school year winds down, we are celebrating our graduating students’ successes as they chart new paths. While we will miss the class of 2016, they have countless opportunities on the horizon. In short, we are incredibly proud of them.

Having wrapped up another season of college applications and school selections, we want to share the trends we saw for families and students looking toward college. Applying to schools and selecting one continues to be a daunting, emotional, and exciting process. We want you to be prepared for the journey ahead.


Schools Are Becoming More Competitive

Across the board, schools are becoming more competitive. This is even truer in the Ivy League system and with big name schools. They are seeing dramatic applicant increases, but without additional slots, they are turning down more students than ever.

California is seeing a similar trend. The UC system in particular is becoming more competitive. Cal State schools, traditionally a safety school for our in-state applicants, are no longer guaranteed admittance. 

Part of the reason California schools are becoming more competitive is due to the sheer volume of students applying to college. California is a large state with a lot of graduating students. Additionally, there has been some criticism recently stating that the UC schools are accepting too many out-of-state and international students. More out-of-state slots limit in-state slots. 

With school competition on the rise, it’s increasingly important for students to consider several schools and really explore their options.


What Colleges Are Looking For

We’ve seen more schools emphasize well-rounded students. In addition to quality academics, they want students to highlight social skills and indicate survival skills. Schools want students to thrive in their environment, and they know this comes down to more than just academic skills.

In the UC system, this is referred to as “grit.”

“Grit” tends to be evaluated in application essays. Students who are stressed or overloaded reflect that in their essays. Well-adjusted students comfortable in their workload tend to submit stronger essays. 

Résumé padding continues to be frowned upon. Rather than students who are in every single club imaginable, colleges want students with a longer commitment to organizations and related leadership positions.



We have a lot more students who were waitlisted at universities this year. In an unprecedented move, even the UC schools waitlisted students. This is a first. 

So far we haven’t seen students waitlisted at UC come off the list.

Ultimately, the waitlist puts students in a tough spot. While students see it as a glimmer of hope, most times they don’t come off of the waitlist. We advise students to commit to another school and explore aid options. Waiting too long reduces aid packages and adds an emotional toll to students.


Western Undergraduate Exchange Program

This year saw a rise in students leveraging the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program. The WUE program grants qualifying students from participating states up to a 150% decrease in tuition, saving students thousands of dollars.

California is one of fifteen participating states, including Arizona, Montana, and Colorado. Each school’s participation in the program varies. Some schools limit the number of WUE applicants, so applying early is recommended. Here is a list of participating schools by state.


Draw to the Southern States

This year we saw big public schools in the south become more popular with students. LSU, Auburn, and University of South Carolina were among some of the schools. Offering an excellent education, these bigger schools accept more students, which means less competition than more prestigious schools. Students who do their research and apply for scholarships are able to get a great deal on tuition.


Tips for Seniors Students and Families

Our students excel at identifying top-notch academic schools. One important aspect often overlooked when selecting a school is identifying fit. Choosing a school that will provide a strong education will always be important, but the student needs to thrive in the environment as well. 

Over the years we have seen a lot of students struggle in schools that weren’t a good fit:

  • Religious students living in a dorm with co-ed bathrooms;
  • Studious students combating the nonstop party culture;
  • Big city kids bored and feeling trapped in small rural communities;
  • Tight-knit families who can’t afford the plane ticket home for every holiday;
  • Southern California natives freezing in the long, cold northeast winters.


Not every school is a fit. When students identify schools that support them and provide the type of residential and academic community tailored to their needs, they thrive.

We encourage students and families to evaluate what type of residential life the ideal college would offer. Considering items such as more studious living arrangements, presence of the Greek system, intramural opportunities, and activities in the college town can help shape the picture of what living in that community will be like.

The second overlooked area when applying for schools is reviewing cost of tuition and how likely the school is to grant aid packages. Competition isn’t the only thing on the rise in the colleges. Tuition is also on the increasing. Understanding school costs and a family’s budget before applying makes the selection process much easier. 

We know that applying for college is a big endeavor. That is why we are here to help you throughout the process. No two students are alike, which means the school that works for one student may not be a good fit for another. With over 4,000 universities, there is a school that fits each student. We want to give you the tools and resources that help students and families find that school.