May first is an important date in the college admissions process in the United States. This is the last day for high school seniors to accept or reject offers of admission in the fall. Offers are sent by April fifteenth.
Acceptance rates at the top colleges were lower than ever this year. No surprise, just more stress from stories of top students getting rejection letters even from less competitive schools.
Numbers tell the story. The Education Department predicts that the number of high school graduates in the United States will reach the highest level ever this year. Three million three hundred thirty thousand students are expected to graduate.
But not only are there more college applicants these days, they are also applying to more colleges. Online and common applications make the process easier. It can mean several acceptances to choose from.
It also means more work for colleges to get the students they accept to accept them.
Many colleges and universities hold visiting days that offer a chance to attend classes and stay overnight; sort of a test drive. Some schools send gifts. At least one college has its international students write letters in the native languages of accepted applicants.
For many families, though, the most important thing colleges can do is show them the money. Lately, top schools with lots of money have increased their financial aid, putting pressure on other colleges to do the same.
Deciding how many students to accept can be difficult. It involves trying to predict the number of applicants who will decide to attend. Students may not like being put on waiting lists, but mistakes can be costly. Some colleges have had to house new students in hotels because a larger than expected number accepted admission offers.
This year, the weak economy has admissions officers nervous that some families may not be able to pay for college as planned. The recent problems that spread from the housing market to credit markets have even affected student loans.
Colleges are also facing changes in the population. The Education Department expects the number of high school graduates to start going down after this year. This will happen as the last of the children of the baby boom generation finish high school.
The number is not expected to start rising again until two thousand fifteen.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Transcripts and MP3s of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.