Some kids apply to faraway colleges so they can break with their parents and party—er, study—in peace. But choosing a state school that’s not where you live isn’t just a good way to gain independence; it’s a smart admissions tactic, too.
College-admissions season is upon us, and it promises to be just as competitive as last year. And one of best-kept secrets in college admissions this year is that many top state universities will be admitting more out-of-state applicants than ever before.
This opens up a whole new group of schools that were formerly much more difficult to get into—great schools, some of them with significantly more openings, and for a few campuses, slightly easier academic standards.
The stats speak for themselves. At the University of Illinois last year, fully 27 percent of its freshmen came from out of state, up from 19 percent just five years ago (and that doesn’t include the 17 percent of the freshman class who were foreigners). Similarly, in 2010, the University of Washington had an entering class of 27 percent out-of-staters. This, too, was a significant jump from 19 percent just three years earlier.
The University of Virginia tries to maintain a student body composed of 30 percent out-of-state students. But last year it edged up to more than 33 percent. And the University of Michigan is up to 40 percent out-of-staters, compared with 37 percent five years ago.
Even colleges that shunned out-of-state students for years are showing a marked receptivity. The University of California’s top campuses—Berkeley and UCLA—have doubled and even tripled their rosters of out-of-state kids. At UCLA, the total percentage of out-of-state kids is still relatively low: only about 7 percent of last year’s entering class. But at Berkeley, it was a whopping 19 percent and will grow to 20 percent this year, according to Janet Gilmore, a university spokesperson. Five years ago, the percentage of out-of-state students at Berkeley was a mere 5 percent.
At most of these world-class universities, admission is still very selective. The acceptance rate for out-of-state students at UCLA was only 30 percent last year. But that was still better than what California residents experienced, which was a 21 percent acceptance rate. And it even got a tad easier for out-of-staters compared with previous years. Five years ago, out-of-staters applying to UCLA were admitted only 21 percent of the time, compared with their California counterparts, who saw a 23 percent admit rate.