College applications

Students gather in the college counseling office at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. A new study finds a decline in the number of students apply to seven or more schools. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times / December 13, 2013)

The panic in the college application process may be easing a bit.

That’s the way some experts are interpreting statistics in a new report that shows a slight decline in the number of high school seniors who apply to seven or more colleges.

That decline in 2012 was the first in 20 years, according to the study by the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).  It had swelled from 9% in 1992 to 29% in 2011. Then the share of students applying to seven or more schools declined to 28%.

"In good news, there are some indicators that there may be an end in sight to the application scramble among students and colleges,” said the report, entitled “2013 State of College Admissions.” 

It also said that anecdotal evidence suggests some colleges are “curbing efforts to bring in as many applications as possible, in favor of more focused targeting of ‘good-fit’ students who would be likely to attend.”

In related matters, the study found that colleges continue to consider students’ grades in high school college prep courses by far the most important factor in admissions decisions. Those grades were described as considerably important by 82% of colleges in 2012. Admissions test scores were considered very significant by 56% of colleges.

After all the anxiety surrounding application essays, it may come as a surprise or a relief to some students that essays were deemed very important by just 20% of colleges. Counselors’ recommendations was judged crucial by only 16%.

More than 440 colleges participated in the survey.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

Twitter: @larrygordonlat