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Why Geography Matters More Than Ever in College Admissions

Since the Supreme Court limited the use of race in college admissions in 2023, geography has played a greater role in helping colleges admit more diverse classes.

US News recently explored the role that an applicant’s geography plays in admissions and why applying to highly selective schools outside your region may help your odds.

HOW COLLEGES VIEW GEOGRAPHY

Geography has long played an important role in college admissions. Public schools typically try to fill their classes with in-state students in large part due to state funding, which incentivizes public schools to recruit in-state.

“We’re not getting state funding for educating out-of-state students,” Stefan Hyman, associate vice president for enrollment management at San Diego State University, says. “That’s why the tuition is a lot higher for out-of-state students, because they’re making up for not having parents who are paying into the tax system that ultimately drives our state appropriations.”

Since private schools aren’t as reliant on state funding, their first-year classes tend to be more nationally diverse.

“As a national and global institution we know that your hometown shapes you, and we think that’s a good thing,” Adam Sapp, assistant vice president and director of admissions at Pomona College, says. “We take a lot of pride in knowing that our students come from a range of big cities, small towns and places in between.”

THE EFFECT OF THE SUPREME COURT RULING

Traditionally, highly-selective private colleges have recruited from what they call “pipeline” areas—cities or regions that produce the ideal student they’re looking for. But since the Supreme Court ruling, many institutions are reconsidering that approach.

“You’re going to see a change in the distribution of offers away from classical feeder schools because there’s just no way you’re going to get the diversity numbers you want by taking the exact same students from the exact same schools,” says John Morganelli Jr., director of college admissions at admissions consulting firm Ivy Tutors Network and former director of admissions at Cornell University.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ODDS

The fact of the matter is, you can still be rejected even if you’re qualified as an applicant. That’s in large part due where you’re applying from. If your classmates are also applying to the same college and are just as qualified as you are, the odds of you getting into that school are more slim. If this is the case for you, consider applying to a prestigious private school that doesn’t typically attract many applicants from your region.

“If you live in, say, Arkansas or Kansas, there might be fewer students who have aspirations of wanting to go to certain top-tier colleges or Ivy League schools,” Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of admissions consulting company Command Education, says. “You have a much better chance of getting in if you’re in a state that might be in a more rural area. If you’re not in a major metropolitan city, your competition is much less.”

Sources: US News, National Conference of State Legislatures

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