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  • Writer's pictureJulie Simon

How State Residency Affects Selective College Admission 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 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 my rising seniors and their parents to finalize their college list. Some of these conversations can become heated–I work with some fantastic debaters!

To make a student’s final college list, we use a tool called Custom College Plan, 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 the college list is well-balanced in terms of likelihood of admission—a mix of likely, target, reach, and unlikely schools. And for public universities, we also need to keep their enrollment caps in mind.

Why is that important? For public selective universities, the likelihood of getting in depends 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 5 in 10 students hail from Michigan (bonus points to the reader who caught the pun!)

Here’s a list of some popular public selective universities and the percentage of students 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. Like you’ll be expected to do in college, you need to think critically and dig a little deeper in your research to ensure you're looking at all the factors and how they affect each other to ensure your list is well-balanced.

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