As already nervous high school seniors and their families wait to receive “fat” envelopes from colleges and universities comes news that will make them even more nervous.

As of April 1, the day that many schools send out their acceptance letters, many of the most selective institutions report that this year they have become more selective than ever. Applications have increased dramatically at the brand-name institutions, with Brown University reporting numbers 20 percent higher than last year’s. At the same time, admittance rates are lower than ever, with Harvard University leading the way, accepting less than 7 percent of its applicants.

More students are taking a shot at the Ivy League schools because in these tough economic times, those institutions have the resources to offer better financial aid. With the common application, students apply for the most selective schools the way they might buy a lottery ticket.

This is great news for these schools, which can use their selectivity to raise money from alumni, whose status gets inflated even if they attended in a time when the competition wasn’t so stiff.

All this rejection can be heartbreaking for the applicants, though, who see acceptance to a big-name school as a judgment on their worth. It’s too bad that the stress that surrounds this important transition has been turned into another arena for these schools to compete.


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