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Out-of-State Applicant: Advantage or Disadvantage?

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Out-of-State Applicant: Advantage or Disadvantage?

It is common knowledge that private colleges and universities are typically eager to recruit out-of-state applicants in order to help enhance the geographic diversity of their freshman classes. However, many elite public schools have traditionally set a higher bar for those applying from afar in order to maintain a student body that is heavily comprised of in-state residents. Yet in recent years, the landscape has changed significantly. The financial crunch at many institutions, brought on by a challenging economic climate, has led many top public schools to begin to draw more from the out-of-state pool for the simple, bottom-line reason that those students are not eligible for in-state tuition and must pay a higher, out-of-state rate.

Financial Incentive

This money grab has led to a seismic shift in admissions policies at schools such as UCLA and Berkeley, where admissions standards for out-of-state students have actually grown slightly less competitive than for in-staters. While five years ago, it was tougher to gain admission to UCLA as an out-of-state resident, the most recent admissions cycle saw out-of-staters holding a 30% to 21% admission rate edge over the traditionally favored in-state applicants.

UVA and Michigan, once highly favorable toward their own residents, have also increased the number of out-of-state students they accepted in recent years. Even the UNC system, which has long promoted an in-state dominated student body, is now considering a change in policy. For decades, all UNC campuses have capped their out-of-state student percentage at 18%. With some UNC campuses charging four times the in-state tuition to out-of-state students, their incentive to rethink the constitution of their student body is obvious.

Cash-Crunched Colleges

Other institutions must enroll a larger share of out-of-state residents. Many well-respected, yet cash-crunched colleges, such the University of Illinois, Arizona State, University of Massachusetts, and the University of Delaware are aggressively recruiting out-of-state applicants, and in some cases, relaxing admissions standards for these higher-paying populations.

Recipients of an institution’s merit aid are also now more likely to live in a different climate region than in a neighboring county. After all, if a school like UCLA wants a student from Maine with an SAT score 100 points higher than their average in-state resident, the school can offer a sizable scholarship (i.e. the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition) and come out with a net gain. If you are a student with top credentials who is willing to stray far from home, you may be a potential beneficiary of this admissions trend. Likewise, if you are a fairly strong student (relative to the school to which you are applying) and are in a position to pay full tuition, your chances of gaining admission at an elite, out-of-state public school are better than they would have been a decade ago.

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Andrew Belasco is CEO of College Transitions LLC, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. In addition to his role as CEO, Andrew is a published higher education researcher and consultant to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admission and financial aid policy. For more information about Andrew and his team, please visit www.collegetransitions.com