What Future College Students Should Know About The Current College Admission Environment

05/26/2015 04:10 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016

The current college admissions environment points to several important factors that future college students should know. As future college students prepare for the current college admission environment, it is vital to stay informed on recent admission trends.

Here's what future college students should know about the current college admissions environment.

There is significant application inflation. Why are more students applying to a higher number of colleges?

With the competitive nature of admissions and admission rates at elite colleges at their lowest level ever, students apply to more colleges to make sure they gain acceptance to several colleges. In addition, both the Common and Universal applications make it easier for students to submit many applications.

More international students attending U.S. universities: U.S. population indicates that the number of high school graduates in the U.S. will stabilize. As a result, many colleges are recruiting worldwide and accepting more international students. In addition, many students choose to transfer during college, which has also had an impact on admissions. It's possible that universities may accept more of these students in the coming years, which makes the college process that much more difficult for U.S. citizens. Admission requirements for international and transfer students may vary.

So based on the current college admissions landscape, how many colleges should students apply to? After careful research via online resource websites, social media, visits, college fairs, and conversations, students should prepare a balanced list of 10-12 colleges categorizing them into reach, 50/50 and likely admission. Once this is complete, an apply timeline should be prepared noting the admission policies of the various colleges. Students with financial need should be sure to consider the generosity of schools as one of the criteria for creating a balanced list. What this tells future applicants is that they should soon be engaged in the college process (research), so the necessary work will not later be condensed into a smaller period of time causing stress and nerves to accelerate. The Class of 2020 should be keeping careful notes on college admissions news and events occurring at their colleges of interest.

Pay attention to demonstrated interest: Colleges want to accept students they believe will attend as it raises their yield. Students can demonstrate interest by writing exceptional essays especially the supplemental essays that are specific to the college. Students need to show that they have knowledge about the college and how to be an asset to that college community. Communicating with schools to show your interest can be done quite early in the process.

Summer is a great time to get started on college essays. Take notes on the various schools and how one differs from the rest.

More colleges are offering spring admission programs. More and more students are being accepted for the spring term versus the fall. Learn about the colleges where you choose to apply and see if they have a spring program for admission. This may determine whether you choose to apply to that college or not. If admitted for the spring term and want to attend that college, be prepared to decide how to spend the fall semester whether work, college credits or travel.