What makes a college "prestigious"? According to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, one of the current criteria is based on the number of applicants they reject – the more the better.
According to a 2000 national survey of admissions officers, more than half of private universities reported that their admissions had grown more competitive in the previous five years. With applicant pools swollen by the largest cohort of college-bound students in American history, even public universities once considered "safe schools" are turning away students in record numbers.
But it’s not just demographics that underlie the trend. In the competition for top students, being choosy is often a good thing, bringing greater prestige and posture in increasingly powerful national rankings like the one published annually by US News & World Report. Universities have gotten the message that to impress students, it helps to reject a lot of them.
Of course, level headed counselors will calmly tell students and their parents that there are many factors that go into matching a student with the right college and that there are many good schools at which the student can thrive. The student and their parents will then ignore all the advice and continue to develop ulcers waiting for an acceptance letter from the college they have decided is the "right" one. It’s an annual ritual I was privileged to observe up close for the years that I taught high school.
Fortunately, the majority of our seniors survived the process and went on to be successful people even if they "settled" for something less than the "right" school (although I’m not sure about one neurotic young lady who just had to attend Harvard and "settled" for Princeton).