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Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition

Publication Abstract

Bound, John, Brad Hershbein, and Bridget Terry Long. 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 23(4): 119-146.

Gaining entrance to a four-year college or university, particularly a selective institution, has become increasingly competitive over the last several decades. We document this phenomenon and show how it has varied across different parts of the student ability distribution and across regions, with the most pronounced increases in competition being found among higher-ability students and in the Northeast. Additionally, we explore how the college preparatory behavior of high school seniors has changed in response to the growth in competition. We also discuss the theoretical implications of increased competition on longer-term measures of learning and achievement and attempt to test them empirically; the evidence and related literature, while limited, suggests little long-term benefit.

DOI:10.1257/jep.23.4.119 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3046867. (Pub Med Central)


Country of focus: United States of America.

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