How State Residency Affects Admissions Rates


“What do you mean UNC is a reach school for me? They have a 23% admit rate and my grades and test scores are in the 50th percentile!” This is a typical reaction from students as we begin to finalize their college lists. And while their statements are correct, they're missing an important piece of information: the university's enrollment caps for in- and out-of-state students. Currently, I’m meeting with each of my rising seniors and their parents to finalize their college list. Some of these conversations can become heated—I work with some really fantastic debaters!

To make a student’s final college list, we use a tool called GuidedPath, which provides detailed information about the cost of attendance, class sizes, retention rates, and the overall admit rate for each college or university. I work with families to ensure that it's well-balanced in terms of likelihood of admission—a mix of likely, target, reach, and high reach schools. And for public universities, we also need to keep their enrollment caps in mind. Why is that important? For public universities, the likelihood of getting in is dependent on the makeup of the university’s enrollment -- how many students are in or out of state. The breakdown of in-state and out-of-state students on campuses can vary significantly. For example:

  • at U-T Austin, 9 out of 10 students you meet will be from Texas

  • at the University of Michigan, about every 5 in 10 students hail from Michigan (Bonus points to the reader who caught the pun!)

Here’s a list of some other popular public universities and what percentage of students are from out of state:

So with this new information, my UNC-hopeful student might now say "Ah, I see why UNC is a reach school for me. Even though they have a 23% admit rate and my grades and test scores are in the 50th percentile, they admit relatively low numbers of out-of-state students." The bottom line is that statistics are great, but it’s important to remember there is a lot of nuance that isn’t conveyed in university admit rates. Just like you’ll be expected to do in college, you need to think critically and dig a little deeper in your research to make sure you're looking at all the factors and how they affect each other to ensure that your list is well-balanced.




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