Undergrad College Applications Are Up 22%, Mostly From the Wealthy

Posted by Viviana Vazquez in CollegeDecember 13, 2021(Last Updated July 26, 2022)3 min read
Key Takeaways
  • According to data released by the Common App, undergraduate college applications are up 22%, compared to pre-pandemic rates.
  • 60% of college applicants come from affluent communities, while only 5% of applicants are from low-income backgrounds.
  • While university enrollment has decreased in recent years, the cost of higher education has increased each year.
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Colleges and universities are seeing millions of applications come in this 2021 Fall and Winter season. Each year, many prospective students apply to college using the Common Application, otherwise known as the Common App.


The Common Application is an online application that allows students to apply to their 900+ participating institutions. In addition, it simplifies the application process for students as they are able to apply to multiple schools using a single website.


A 22% Increase in College Applications


According to Common App data from November 2021, admission applications have increased by 22% this academic year compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, the increase that colleges and universities are witnessing in applications is disproportionate. While 60% of applicants come from the most affluent communities, only 5% are from low-income communities.


Image Credit: Shutterstock.com


The Common App also shows a significant increase in international students applying for college in the United States. At the same time, there has been a decrease in some domestic areas in the United States. While international students don’t qualify for government aid, many of the international students come from affluent families that are able to pay for much of the associated costs out of pocket.


University Enrollment Has Declined in Recent Years


Despite many more students participating in the college application process this year, the number of enrolled students has recently declined. This is because University enrollment has gone down almost 8% during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to reports from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.


According to the report, schools that especially serve low to mid-income level students are seeing declines in enrollment the most. In addition, given the change of situation for many families caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, many of those from low and middle-income backgrounds may not be able to afford the expensive costs of higher education.


The Expensive Costs of Higher Education


According to data from the Common App, roughly 18% of applicants have received a fee waiver. Fee waivers allow students to apply to universities and colleges for free instead of paying the $75 cost, or more, to apply to each prospective school.


Some lower-income students may not even realize they are eligible for fee waivers, and therefore, don’t apply due to the expensive costs. On the other hand, many wealthier students may be encouraged by family members to apply to many schools, despite the costs.


To offset the cost of college expenses, many students tend to join extracurricular activities while in high school so that they can gain a scholarship or a stipend. Additionally, high school students who have done well on standardized tests have a greater chance of receiving a grant or scholarship to assist with college costs. 


Recommended Read: The Rise of Tuition Causes College Enrollment to Fall 


Can I Afford to Attend College?


With rising tuition costs, many students may be discouraged from attending college, and some may hesitate to apply due to misconceptions around affordability. However, many financial aid options are available to those who have a low family income. 


Attending a public 2-year or 4-year college may also be an option for those who want to see lower tuition costs, as they tend to be more affordable than private universities. By attending a local community college, commuting to classes would allow you to save on housing costs if staying at home. Living at home is an affordable housing option for families who cannot afford room and board costs.


Image Credit: Shutterstock.com


Another way to increase your chances of receiving a scholarship or school aid is to get a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher or counselor. A compelling letter of recommendation may help with admission decisions, as well as any financial aid decision.


If you cannot afford college tuition at the moment, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of resources available to help prospective students to obtain scholarships specifically for housing costs, tuition, books, and other important items needed to succeed in college. 


Having a college plan in place is necessary in order to successfully navigate the finances that come with accepting undergraduate admission at an institution. Ask to speak to an admissions officer or financial aid officer to understand your situation better and come up with a plan of action. 


Are you surprised that undergraduate applications are up? What are your thoughts on the rising costs associated with college admission? Let us know in the comments below.


Main Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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