Category Archives: Admissions trends

Should You Take the SAT or ACT with Essay?

Few colleges now require the essay when you take the SAT or ACT. In fact, in 2016, the College Board made the essay optional, stating: “While the College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students . . . one single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”

Yet, for the Class of 2017, 1.2 million students wrote the SAT essay (70% of total test-takers), and 1.1 million students wrote the ACT essay (53% of total test-takers).

Currently, there is a strong movement among colleges to no longer require the SAT or ACT essay. According to the Princeton Review, only 19 colleges still require the essay, of which 9 belong to the University of California system. In fact, no colleges state that they use the essay for admission, though some state that they use the essay for course placement.

Harvard explained that its decision was part of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), to broaden its outreach. Registration for the ACT costs $46 without the essay, and $62.50 with the essay; the SAT costs $47.50 without the essay, and $64.50 with the essay. The university emphasized that students still have a variety of ways to demonstrate their writing skills – through the Personal Essay required by college application platforms, Harvard’s own Writing Supplement, and an optional writing portfolio.

 

COLLEGES THAT REQUIRE THE SAT OR ACT ESSAY
Claremont McKenna College
Martin Luther College
Schreiner University
Soka University of America
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
United States Military Academy
UC, Berkeley
UC, Davis
UC, Irvine
UCLA
UC, Merced
UC, Riverside
UC, San Diego
UC, Santa Barbara
UC, Santa Cruz
University of Miami
University of Montana Western
University of North Texas *
Wellesley College *

*only requires essay with ACT
Source: The Princeton Review

OUR RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that for upcoming SAT or ACT tests, you do not register for the essay unless you plan to apply to a college that requires the essay. In other words, even if a college recommends the essay (without requiring it), we feel that you do not need to take the essay because typically it does not play a role in the college admissions review process. Alternatively, if you excel at writing and do not mind the additional expense or time, you certainly can opt to include the essay in your standardized testing plans.

There is increasing complexity surrounding the requirements for taking and reporting standardized testing, including the ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, AP exams, and IB exams.  If you would like guidance, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2022

It was another exciting year in regular decision college admissions! As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2022, here’s an in-depth review of this year’s regular decision trends. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Rising Applicant Numbers, Lower Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance rates continued to drop slightly for many schools. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more and more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications. Bowdoin broke school records and received 25% more applications than last year, which may be attributed to an increase in international applications and the elimination of the application fee for students who are applying for financial aid (a policy which only began last year). Bates also broke records with a 45% increase in applications, and Carnegie Mellon saw a 19% rise. Boston University continues to offer below-average tuition increases compared to other national four-year independent schools, which could be a driving factor in BU’s rising applications. Georgetown’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon attributes the higher number of applications to their location of Washington, DC and increased political engagement among America’s youth since the 2016 elections.

Several factors contribute to rising applicant numbers, and thus lower acceptance rates. The highly-selective process of applying to elite schools can cause stressed-out high school students to apply to even more schools year over year. The Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted, make it easier than ever to apply to even more schools. The Common App broke its own records when students submitted more than 1 million applications by November 1, 2017. This is a 20% increase from the early application cycle in 2016. Additionally, schools have made it a priority to increase their marketing and use innovative ways to reach prospective applicants, especially through social media.

The nationwide rise in SAT scores, due to inflated scores from the re-designed SAT, may have convinced students to consider more elite schools as within reach. For example, a 1500 on the new SAT is equivalent to a 1460 on the old SAT, a new SAT 1400 is equal to an old SAT 1340, and a new SAT 1300 corresponds to an old SAT 1230. As a result, students might not be looking closely enough at College Board concordance tables to reasonably assess their chances of admission based on previous year’s test scores. There also remains uncertainty about how colleges view the new SAT scores, since the new test has only impacted students in the classes of 2017 and 2018 so far.

Early vs. Regular Acceptance Rates for a Sampling of Selective Colleges
College Regular
Class of 2022*
Early
Class of 2022
Regular
Class of 2021*
Early
Class of 2021
Regular
Class of 2020*
Early
Class of 2020
Regular
Class of 2019*
Early
Class of 2019
Amherst College (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6%
Bowdoin College
(ED I)
n/a n/a n/a 25% 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31%
Brown University (ED) 5.5% 21.1% 6.8% 21.9% 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a n/a 8% 31% 7% n/a 9% 27%
Columbia University (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data; see chart below.
Cornell University (ED) 8.3% 24.3% 10.8% 25.6% 12.5% 27.4% 13.7% 26.2%
Dartmouth College (ED) 6.9% 24.9% 8.5% 27.8% 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26%
Duke University (ED) 6.4% 21.4% 7.3% 24.5% 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26%
Georgetown University (REA) n/a n/a 17.4% 11.9% n/a 13% n/a 13%
Harvard University (SCEA) 2.43% 14.5% 3.4% 14.7% 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 8.4% 29.9% 10.3% 30.5% 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9%
MIT (EA) 6.6% 6.9% 6.6% 7.8% 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6%
Middlebury College  (ED I) 15.1% 50.1% 16.7% 51% 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 6.4% 26% 7.2% 28% 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2%
Pomona College (ED) n/a n/a 6.8% 21% n/a 19.4% n/a 19%
Princeton University (SCEA) 3.8% 14.7% 4.3% 15.4% 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9%
Rice University (ED) n/a n/a 15% 21% 15% 23% 15.6% 20.4%
Stanford University (SCEA) n/a** n/a** n/a** n/a** 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 14.2% 24.8% 15.7% 24.4% 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8%
University of Chicago (EA) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data; see chart below.
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 6.5% 18.5% 6.8% 22% 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24%
University of Virginia (EA) 24.6% 27.8% 24.6% 29% 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 7.3% 20.5% 8.6% 23.6% 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rate, not early and regular admissions rate data; see chart below.
Williams College (ED) n/a*** n/a*** 12.7% 35% 15% 42% 14.5% 41%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.7% 14.7% 5% 17.1% 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.
** In a break from tradition, for the past 2 years Stanford has not released early admissions statistics.
***This year, Williams did not release their early admissions and regular admissions statistics.

Overall Acceptance Rates for the Classes of 2018 through 2021
College Class of 2022 Class of 2021 Class of 2020 Class of 2019 Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) 12.8% 12.9% 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 10.3% 13.6% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.2% 8.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a 8% 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a 10.4% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) 5.5% 5.8% 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) 10.3% 12.5% 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.7% 10.4% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 8.3% 9% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) 14.5% 15.4% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 4.59% 5.2% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 9.9% 11.8% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) 22% 24.7% 26.3% 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 6.7% 7.1% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 18.4% 19.7% 16% 17% 17.3%
New York University (ED) 19% 27% 30% 30% 35%
Northwestern University (ED) 8.4% 9% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) 6.9% 8.2% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5.5% 6.1% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University (ED) n/a 16% 15% 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 4.29% 4.6% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) 9% 10.2% 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%
UC – Berkeley (EA) n/a n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) 7.2% 8.7% 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 17.6% 18.4% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 8.4% 9.2% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 26.5% 27% 29.9% 28.5% 28.9%
USC (No early program) 13% 16% 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) n/a 10.3% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) 15% 16% 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 12.2% 14.6% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 6.3% 6.9% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

Larger Percentages of Freshman Classes Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making the regular admissions cycle even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding; universities are guaranteed applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and gives students until May 1st  to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps increase admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools including BowdoinDartmouth, DukeMiddlebury,  Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania admitted 40% to 50% or more of their incoming class through their early decision program.

Smaller Accepted Classes and the Wait List

As schools attempt to determine yield (the number of accepted students who will attend), many institutions admitted smaller classes this year compared to last year. For some, this is a reaction to a larger than expected yield in years prior, or part of a plan to admit more students from the wait list, once the initial admitted group has responded.

Dartmouth only admitted 1,925 students this year, compared to 2,092 students admitted last year. This is the smallest class admitted since the 1990s. Last year’s yield was 61%, Dartmouth’s highest in 25 years.

This year, Harvard admitted 4.6% fewer students than last year. The Class of 2021 had a record-high matriculation rate of 84%, and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons plans to potentially accept 40 to 50 or even 100 students off the wait list to avoid over-enrollment again. Cynics say that this is also a way to compete with Stanford’s exceptionally low admit rates, and increase the stats of the incoming class, which draw from the students initially admitted, not the wait list.

Demonstrated Interest Matters More

As schools receive more and more applications, the difficulty in predicting yield (number of admitted student who will attend) has increased. According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon at Georgetown, receiving more qualified applications requires admissions officers to place greater importance on the student’s interest in Georgetown when determining admissions decisions.

Demonstrated interest refers to the ways that a student shows how engaged they are in the school and committed to attending if admitted. Most often interest is assessed through college visits and contact with the college. Inside Higher Ed points out that this is particularly important for students with high SAT scores. Colleges do not want to be considered a “safety school,” and may avoid high-scoring applicants who demonstrate little interest beyond applying.

For tips on how to demonstrate interest to your top school choices, see our blog.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are planning to accommodate increased applications by expanding enrollment. LehighPrincetonStanfordUVAWashington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years.

For the second year in a row, Yale has admitted its largest incoming freshman class in school history (15% larger than previous recent classes), after the new residential colleges of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin opened in the fall of 2017.

Lehigh implemented The Path to Prominence plan to expand and upgrade the campus, in order to accommodate an increase of the freshman class by 1,000 students over seven years. The new College of Health and construction of new dorms are part of this plan.

Stanford University plans to expand student enrollment “in recognition of the fact that applications to Stanford have increased while spaces available have not.” Accordingly, Stanford has filed for a permit to expand the physical campus to accommodate a growth of 100 more students per year, until the year 2035. In the fall of 2015, 6,994 undergraduates were enrolled at Stanford, and by 2035, this number is projected to increase to 8,785 undergraduates, which is a 25% growth over 20 years.

In April, Dartmouth released an enrollment expansion report, detailing the resources required to increase enrollment 10-25%. This was an exploratory report, and Dartmouth has no current plans to increase class size. The report cited schools that have expanded enrollment or plan to expand in the near future including Princeton University, Rice University and Yale University, while noting that Brandeis University, Brown University and Harvard University have decided not to expand their enrollments.

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students. Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs, including QuestBridge, the KIPP Foundation, and A Better Chance.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. Schools with high percentages of students of color in the admitted class include Amherst (56%), Brown (49%), Cornell (54%), Dartmouth (50%), Pomona (56.5%), and Princeton (53.4%).


Delaying Admission

More and more schools are offering delayed admission to incoming freshmen, providing spring acceptances or asking the students to begin the following fall.

Middlebury anticipates that about 100 students will matriculate in February 2019 as members of the Class of 2022. For the third year, Cornell admitted 60 students to the First-Year Spring Admission (FYSA) program, which was established in 2015 to increase access to a Cornell education. Hamilton aims to enroll about 40 first-year students in their spring admission program each year. This allows Hamilton to offer admission to additional strong applicants, while also filling spots created by current students who are studying abroad during the spring semester.

Princeton offers a different kind of option for students accepted for fall entry. The Bridge Year Program “allows incoming first-year students to spend a tuition-free year engaging in international service work abroad in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia or Senegal.” This year, up to 35 incoming freshmen are expected to participate.

Tips for Future Applicants

Think carefully about your college list. When crafting your college list, reflect about your goals, interests, and values. Make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools. Apply to 10-12 colleges so that you have enough time to prepare high-quality applications, and still manage the process alongside your academic responsibilities senior year.

Demonstrate interest. In a competitive admissions climate increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Many schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.  If you are applying for early admission, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying for regular admission, visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Know your colleges. Many colleges go a step further, and emphasize “informed” interest.  It’s not enough to visit the college; you need to observe the features of each college that differentiate it from other schools, and that align with your own interests and goals.  Be prepared to inform colleges in your essays and interviews of specific reasons why you wish to attend.

Be strategic with early admissions. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, early admissions have become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

Highlight your heritage. Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Engage in school. In order to maximize your options in the college admissions process, try to reach your potential throughout high school. Engage in your academics: do your homework, participate in classes, choose interesting projects, speak with your teachers if you have questions, and manage your time well. Identify your interests, and choose extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you; participate with commitment and continuity; and seek leadership roles in the activities you enjoy the most.  Engaging in your coursework and activities in high school will also position you well for making the most of your college years.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are eager to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Who Benefits From Early Decision?

Early Decision is a relatively new phenomenon in the college admissions landscape. But in the few decades since its inception, it’s become such a prominent feature of college admissions that many colleges fill up to half their freshman class through Early Decision applications. There is much controversy surrounding its impact on students and families because it tends to advantage affluent students who attend top secondary schools. This blog explores who stands to benefit from Early Decision, and how it affects the constituent groups of students, families, high schools, and colleges.

Historical Background

In the early centuries of college admissions, say from 1636 through the 1950s, all students applied through a Regular Admissions process, in which the deadline typically was January 1, and students received notification decisions by mid-April. But that all changed in the 1950s when a group of five smaller colleges that dubbed themselves the “Pentagonals” – Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Williams – decided to offer a binding Early Decision option in order to grab top students before they applied to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

As Early Decision became an increasingly popular option—and admissions became increasingly competitive—students felt increasing pressure to apply early, in order to maximize their chances of admission. In 2004, Yale and Stanford switched from ED to SCEA in order to decrease the stress on students. The non-binding option, they argued, would alleviate the additional pressure students face in having to commit before they’re fully ready.

Objections to Early Admissions, however, soon took on an additional dimension. In 2006, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA made the bold move to no longer offer any kind of early admissions program because of research suggesting that such programs disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic groups for a variety of reasons. These families needed to compare financial aid offers from more than one college, and often students in under-resourced high schools were not made aware of early admissions options, often missing out altogether.

Harvard, Princeton, and UVA hoped to serve as role models, and expected that other colleges would follow suit. While other colleges, such as Stanford, publicly supported their new policy, no colleges followed. This strategically disadvantaged Harvard, Princeton, and UVA, since other colleges could now grab top students through binding early programs, and within several years, all three resumed an early admissions program, with Harvard and Princeton offering SCEA, and UVA offering EA.

In fact, more and more colleges are now offering binding ED plans. In 2016, University of Chicago, Haverford, Wake Forest, and Wellesley added ED plans; and Tulane replaced its SCEA with ED. Very few of the most selective private colleges in the country now offer a non-restrictive early admissions option; these include Georgetown and MIT.

Impact of Early Decisions on Regular Decisions

37 colleges are now filling at least 40% of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision, as we discuss in our blog on trends in the Early Admissions process. This leaves significantly fewer spots for the vastly greater numbers of students who apply through Regular Decision. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, 7,074 ED applications were submitted for the Class of 2022, and 18.5% were accepted, filling about 55% of Penn’s incoming freshman class. That means that the significantly larger regular pool must compete for the remaining spots. For the Class of 2021, 34,266 students applied in Regular Decision, and only 7% were admitted.

These numbers can affect the quality of review of an applicant’s file. On the one hand, admissions officers have about twice as much time to review applications in the Regular Round, as they typically have three months for RD applications, from January 1 through April 1, and 1 ½ months for ED applications, from November 1 – December 15. But if the admissions staff receive a whopping 5x as many RD applications, as in Penn’s case, the review process will be much more compressed, and students who have a unique story to tell may not receive the same quality of consideration.

Who Benefits from Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who do not need to compare financial aid packages
  • Strong academic students who have sufficiently compelling GPAs by the end of junior year and test scores by October of senior year, and who do not need further testing or 1stsemester grades to bolster their candidacy
  • Students from top high schools with sufficient resources to provide individualized guidance in educating students about the benefits of early decision
  • Students from educated parents who are familiar with early decision options
  • Students who have private test prep tutors who advise them to take standardized tests in junior year so that they will have scores in time to submit for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Top high schools whose students take advantage of early decision to selective college; and who consequently are admitted at higher rates. High schools publicize their college acceptance and matriculation outcomes, and successful outcomes makes the school district more desirable for families who value education, increases property values, and draws new residents.

Colleges

  • Colleges who value students’ demonstrated interest. ED is often used by small to medium sized colleges who want to build a tight-knit community of students who are especially loyal to the school.

How Do Students Benefit?

  • Great acceptance rate. Simply put, students are more likely to be accepted. Typically the acceptance rate is higher for students who apply through a restrictive early program, such as ED or SCEA, because the applicants are demonstrating a strong degree of interest in attending the college. A landmark studyconducted in 2001 by Christopher Avery, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, along with colleagues, found that applying ED provided the advantage of an additional 100 points on the SAT.
  • A more relaxed senior year. Students know where they will be attending by December 15. This eliminates the stress of waiting to find out where they have been accepted, enables the seniors to have a relaxed second semester, and provides them with a longer time in which to plan for the start of college.
  • Access to scholarships. Many merit scholarships are open only to students who apply by fall deadlines.
  • Access to interviews. Some colleges, such as MIT, only offer interviews to students who apply by fall deadlines.

How Do Colleges Benefit?

Early Decision plans benefit the college in numerous ways:

  • The accepted students are more devoted and loyal to the college; they will be stronger spokespeople for the college, and their positive feelings will affect other students
  • As alums, the graduates will likely donate more money because the college was a top choice, and that college accepted them in the early round
  • The colleges’ “yield” (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend) will increase, which increases predictability in calculating the freshman year
  • With increased yield, US News & World Report’s rankings increase

Who is Disadvantaged by Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who need to compare financial aid packages
  • Students from large public high schools with over-burdened guidance counselors who do not have the resources to educate students about the benefits of early decision
  • First-generation students whose parents may not speak English, may not be as actively involved in the high school, and may not be as aware of all the options of admissions plans
  • Students who do not have the financial resources for private test preparation, and are not knowledgeable about the timeline required to obtain scores in time for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Under-resourced high schools whose students do not take advantage of ED options, and have a lower chance of acceptance through RD

Colleges

  • Colleges who philosophically oppose ED, such as Catholic colleges, and may lose out on top students who would rather have the certainty of an ED acceptance.

Solutions

White House Report in 2014 cited that “While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do,” concluding that “college access and attainment remains unequal.” It is widely acknowledged that early admissions policies reward the affluent and penalize the poor. Yet it is strategically challenging to address this issue at the level of college institutions, due to the zero- sum-game element in which a small number of colleges with a steady number of slots compete for an ever-growing number of talented applicants.

The issue may be most effectively addressed by individuals and organizations that provide outreach to lower-income students. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy is now Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation, whose mission is to award scholarships to high-potential students with financial need. He is an ardent advocate for the end of early admissions, and argues that not only do such policies disadvantage low-income students, but that “our nation is being deprived of the talents of young people who could go on to become doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers and government leaders — and who could fill many other vital jobs if only they had the chance to get a college education.”

For guidance on the college admissions process, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2022

As the pool of early applicants increases and schools continue to expand early admissions options, applying early has become a game of strategic calculations and daunting choices for students. This year alone, early applications rose by over 10% at many highly-selective schools. In turn, more applications have led to greater selectivity.

By now, most students have received their early admissions decisions and are either overjoyed by acceptance, disappointed with rejection, or stuck waiting with a deferral. Whatever your early admissions outcomes, it is important to have an open mind and to maintain faith in the process of finding your “best-fit” school. In this blog, we have put together an in-depth analysis of this year’s trends and statistics.

Overall Early Application Trends

It was another record-breaking year, as many schools, including Dartmouth, Georgetown, MIT, Penn, UVA, and Yale, received their highest number of early applications yet. This trend points to the pressure placed on students to demonstrate interest by applying early and hopefully benefit from slightly higher early admit rates (compared to regular admit rates).

Schools that saw a double-digit bump in early apps this year include Brown (10%), Cornell (17.4%), Dartmouth (13.5%), Duke (16.3%), MIT (13.9%), Penn (15%), and Yale (13%). Rising applications have also led to dipping acceptance rates. Schools that accepted record-low rates of early applicants include Duke (21%), MIT (6.9%), and Penn (18.5%).

Many schools with Early Decision programs also continue to fill almost half or more of their incoming class from the early applicant pool, including Dartmouth (47%), Duke (51%), Middlebury (45%), Northwestern (50%), and Penn (55%). The binding Early Decisions admissions plan benefits accepted students, who know where they will attend by December; and benefits the colleges in terms of controlling their yield (number of admitted students who choose to enroll).

Public universities do not typically release their early application data, but US News notes that in general applications at top public universities are on the rise and, therefore, their acceptance rates are dropping. Affordability and quality may be attracting more and more students, and public institutions are marketing to high-performing applicants.

Overall Early Application Numbers

The following chart compares early admissions application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1st to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early decision is typically associated with higher acceptance rates because the school is guaranteed enrollment, which increases the yield factor, and brings to campus students who have demonstrated a high degree of interest.

Early Admissions Statistics for a Sampling of Selective Colleges
School Class of 2022 Class of 2021 Class of 2020 Class of 2019 Class of 2018 % Increase in EA/ED Apps 2018-2022
Brown University (ED) 3,502 3,186 3,030 3,043 3,088 13.4%
Cornell University (ED) 6,319 5,384 4,882 4,560 4,775 32.3%
Dartmouth College (ED) 2,270 1,999 1,927 1,859 1,678 35.2%
Duke University (ED) 4,090 3,516 3,455 3,180 3,180 28.6%
Georgetown University (REA) 8,383 7,822 7,027 6,840 6,749 24.2%
Harvard University (SCEA) 6,630 6,473 6,173 5,919 4,692 41.3%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 2,037 1,934 1,929 1,865 1,595 27.7%
Middlebury College (ED) 650 673 636 667 686 -5.2%
MIT (EA) 9,557 8,394 7,767 6,519 6,820 40.1%
Northwestern University (ED) 4,058 3,736 3,022 2,793 2,863 41.7%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5,402 5,003 4,229 3,850 3,854 40.2%
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a 7,822 7,297 6,948 12.5% since 2016
University of Notre Dame (REA) 6,598 6,020 5,321 4,700* 6,551 40.4% since REA began in 2015
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7,074 6,147 5,762 5,489 5,149 37.4%
Williams College (ED) n/a 728 585 593 554 31.4% since 2017
Yale University (SCEA) 5,733 5,086 4,662 4,693 4,750 20.7%

*Notre Dame changed its early admissions program from Early Action to Restrictive Early Action in 2015.

*Stanford last released early admissions stats in 2016. As of 2017, all admissions results are published at the end of the admissions cycle.

*This year, Williams did not release their early decision stats yet.

 

School

Acceptance Rate

Class of 2022

Acceptance Rate

Class of 2021

Acceptance Rate

Class of 2020

Acceptance Rate

Class of 2019

Acceptance Rate

Class of 2018

Percent Point (pp) Difference  

2018-2022

Brown University (ED) 21.1% 21.9% 22% 20.3% 18.8% 2.3pp
Cornell University (ED) 24.3% 25.8% 27.4% 26.1% 27.7% -3.4pp
Dartmouth College (ED) 24.9% 27.8% 26% 26% 27.9% -3pp
Duke University (ED) 21.4% 24.5% 23.5% 26% 25% -3.6pp
Georgetown University (REA) 11.9% 11.9% 13% 13% 14% -2pp
Harvard University (SCEA) 14.5% 14.5% 14.8% 16.5% 21.1% -6.6pp
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 29.9% 30.5% 30.3% 28.9% 33% -3.1pp
Middlebury College (ED) 50.1% 51% 53.1% 42% 41.8% 8.3pp
MIT (EA) 6.9% 7.8% 8.4% 9.6% 9% -2.1pp
Northwestern University (ED) n/a 26% 35% 36.2% 32.3% -6.3pp since 2017
Princeton University (SCEA) 14.7% 15.4% 18.5% 19.9% 18.5% -3.7pp
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a 9.5% 10.2% 10.8%

-1.3pp

since 2016

University of Notre Dame (REA) 24.8% 24.4% 30.2% 29.8% 29.9% -5pp since REA began in 2015
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 18.5% 22% 23.2% 24% 25.2% -6.7pp
Williams College (ED) n/a 35% 42% 41% 42.8% -7.8pp since 2017
Yale University (SCEA) 14.7% 17.1% 17% 16% 15.5% -0.8pp

*Notre Dame changed its early admissions program from Early Action to Restrictive Early Action in 2015.

*Northwestern Univ. has not yet released their acceptance rate for the ED class of 2022.

*Stanford last published early admissions stats in 2016. As of 2017, all admissions results are published at the end of the admissions cycle.

*Williams has not yet released this year’s early decision stats.

Deferral Stats

Deferral rates are not as widely published as acceptance rates. However,  available information shows that many schools defer more than half of their early applicant pool to the regular admissions round.

Notable exceptions include Duke, Middlebury, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Stanford, who deny most applicants who are not accepted in the early round. For these schools, deferral is used to indicate that your application is competitive and will be given serious consideration in the regular admissions process.

Some schools, like the University of Michigan, use large numbers of deferrals to control class size as they have continued to receive increasingly large early applicant pools. Some colleges defer especially strong candidates who may view the college as a “safe” school, wait to see if the student withdraws the application based on acceptance by more selective colleges, and then may accept the student late-January through March.

For deferred students, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of admission in Regular Decision, including re-visiting, arranging for an additional letter of recommendation from a 12th grade teacher, and sending a follow-up letter with updates. Above all, stay positive, and continue to do your best academically.

Percent of Early Apps Deferred for Recent Classes
School Class of 2022 Class of 2021 Class of 2020 Class of 2019 Class of 2018
Brown University (ED) n/a 60% 63% 65% n/a
Cornell University (ED) n/a 20.9% 23.6% 20% n/a
Duke University (ED) 21.5% 20% 19% 19% 22%
Georgetown University (REA) 88.1%* 88.1%* 87% 87% 86%
Harvard University (SCEA) 72.7% n/a 75.7% 72.5% 68%
Middlebury College (ED) 6% 9% 11.6% 12% 14%
MIT (EA) 65% 69.7% 61.5% 68.4% 66.5%
Princeton University (SCEA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 78.9%
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a 9% 7.7% 8.5%
University of Notre Dame (REA) n/a 14.8% 15.4% 17% 13.7%
Yale University (SCEA) 55% 53% 53% 57% 58%

*Georgetown defers all students who are not accepted early action.

Testing

There is a trend towards more standardized testing flexibility in college admissions. More small liberal arts colleges have become test-optional, and more schools, such as Penn, now super-score the ACT/SAT. Also, increasingly, colleges are not requiring Subject Tests. Over 925 colleges and universities have decided that standardized test scores are not as predictive of academic success in college as the day-to-day academic performance reflected by a high school GPA. Current test-optional colleges include Wake ForestSmith, and Bowdoin.

Several others, including NYUMiddlebury, and Hamilton fall under the category of “test-flexible,” meaning that applicants have the option to submit alternative college entrance examinations, such as SAT Subject, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate examinations in place of SAT and ACT scores.

It is interesting to note that of the 50 highest-ranked national universities, only four have test-optional or test-flexible policies, including Wake Forest, University of Rochester, Brandeis, and NYU, whereas 21 of the top-ranked liberal arts universities offer such testing options. One possible reason is that to attract applicants, the national universities rely more on US News & World Report’s rankings, which factor in test scores. In addition, small liberal arts universities are typically more holistic in their evaluations of candidates.

Finally, more colleges are allowing students to self-report testing, and then only requiring them to send their testing to the school they commit to. For more information about current trends in test-optional and test-flexible policies, read our blog.

Increased Diversity Continues to be a Priority

Many of the most selective colleges continue to use early admissions for the big “hooks”:  underrepresented minorities, lower socioeconomic, first-generation, and international students, as well as recruited athletes, and legacies. Schools with a high percentage of students who self-identify as students of color include Brown (38%), Cornell (37%), Dartmouth (33%), Duke (40%), Harvard (49.7%), Princeton (44%), Penn (43%),

Legacy is another major factor, and schools accepting large numbers of early applicants with a family history of attending the school include Cornell (22%), Dartmouth (16%), Princeton (17%), and Penn (25%). In the Ivy League, Penn has the highest rate of legacy acceptances, and recently the Daily Pennsylvanian wrote an article exploring the benefits and drawbacks of this policy.

International early admits continues to grow, despite the political climate in the United States. Universities with high international early acceptances include Cornell (14.3%), Dartmouth (10%), Princeton (11%), and Penn (12%).

Yale has made increasing diversity an institutional priority and according to Director of Outreach and Communications, Mark Dunn, their efforts have included mailing campaigns to high-achieving low-income students, the Yale Ambassadors Program, and the Multicultural Open House.

If you applied early to a highly selective college and do not fall into one of these categories, consider the even higher odds that you are up against in seeking early admission.

Colleges Marketing and Recruiting Students after Early Acceptance

Many colleges are reaching out to students in new ways to increase early applications and foster a connection to the schools that will result in higher enrollment and yield. Dartmouth points to a connection between higher applications and its new initiative of recruitment, programming activities, and communications narrative. Also, almost every Dartmouth early applicant was paired with an alumni interviewer (of which there are 5,100) through the Admissions Ambassador Program.

Harvard uses comprehensive recruiting efforts which include 10,000 alumni who go to college nights, interview candidates, host admit parties, and contact admitted students. Harvard also asks its staff to write personal letters, make phone calls, connect through social media, and meet with accepted students.

Remarkably, Georgetown’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Charles Deacon, finds it difficult to explain the spikes in early applications over the past two years as the result of any planned initiative. Deacon says, “It’s really hard to pinpoint precisely why. We haven’t done anything unusual to make that happen.” He suggests that Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C., and its excellent programs in government, public policy and foreign service, may be increasing its draw in conjunction with the political climate following President Trump’s election.

Notable Moments in Early Admissions for the Class of 2022

  • Many schools, including Penn, extended early application deadlines for students affected by natural disasters this year.
  • Brown’s accepted early decision cohort includes 430 females and 308 males.
  • Stanford will not release early admissions statistics for the Class of 2022 until the end of the admissions cycle. Last year, Stanford filled 35% of the class of 2021 from the early applicant pool.
  • There is more variety in application materials, including videos. For example, Goucher still accepts the Common Application, but also provides the option to submit the Goucher Video App.
  • Following Trump’s presidential election, there has been a movement among college admissions directors to recruit white students from low-income, rural areas (Inside Higher Ed).

Deciding whether and where to apply early can be daunting. But here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us!

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021

It was another exciting year in regular decision college admissions! As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021, here’s an in-depth review of this year’s regular decision trends. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Rising Applicant Numbers, Lower Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance rates tended to either hold steady or drop slightly. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more and more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications, including Brown, Georgetown, Northwestern, Princeton, UVA, and Washington University in St. Louis. WashU has seen a 4% increase in applicants since last year and a 28% rise since 2008.

Many of the country’s most selective institutions (with overall admit rates already under 15%) became even more competitive over the past three years. For example, Duke dropped from 11% to 9%, Northwestern fell from 12.9% to 9%, Swarthmore declined from 16.8% to 10.2%, and Williams decreased from 18.2% to 14.6%. Stanford has the lowest admit rate at just 4.6%.

This year, Brown, Cornell, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, and UPenn all reported record-low admit rates. Over the past ten years, Swarthmore has experienced a 59% increase in applications and only a 7% increase in acceptances, which has led to their declining acceptance rates. Michael Mills, Associate Provost for Northwestern University enrollment, said the highly-selective process of applying to elite colleges and universities can cause stressed-out high school students to send out more applications. Increased applications, in turn, make admissions even more selective, further feeding the cycle.

According to Richard Shaw, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University, these ultra-low admit rates are the product of several factors, including top students applying to many more schools, and higher demand across several demographics (including international applicants). Beyond the simple fact that high school graduation rates have been steadily increasing, U.S. News also attributes higher applicant numbers to the Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted. Universities also use innovative ways to market themselves to prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Early vs. Regular Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2019 through 2021

College Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019
Amherst College (ED) n/a n/a 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6%
Bowdoin College (ED I) n/a 25% 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31%
Brown University (ED) 6.8% 21.9% 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) 8% 31% 7% n/a 9% 27%
Columbia University (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data.
Cornell University (ED) 10.8% 25.6% 12.5% 27.4% 13.7% 26.2%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.5% 27.8% 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26%
Duke University (ED) 7.3% 24.5% 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26%
Georgetown University (REA) 17.4% 11.9% n/a 13% n/a 13%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.4% 14.7% 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 10.3% 30.5% 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9%
MIT (EA) 6.6% 7.8% 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6%
Middlebury College (ED I) 16.7% 51% 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 7.2% 26% 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2%
Pomona College (ED) 6.8% 21% n/a 19.4% n/a 19%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.3% 15.4% 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9%
Rice University (ED) n/a 21% 15% 23% 15.6% 20.4%
Stanford University (SCEA) n/a** n/a** 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 15.7% 24.4% 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8%
University of Chicago (EA) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data.
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 6.8% 22% 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24%
University of Virginia (EA) 24.6% 29% 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 8.6% 23.6% 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rate, not give early and regular admissions rate data.
Williams College (ED) 12.7% 35% 15% 42% 14.5% 41%
Yale University (SCEA) 5% 17.1% 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

** In a break from tradition, Stanford did not release early admissions statistics.

Overall Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2018 through 2021

College  Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) n/a 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 13.4% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 8.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) 10.4% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) 5.8% 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) 12.5% 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 10.4% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 9% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) 15.4% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 5.2% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 11.8% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) 24.7% 26.3% 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 7.1% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 19.7% 16% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 9% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) 8.2% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 6.1% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University (ED) n/a 15% 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 4.6% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) 10.2% 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%
UC – Berkeley (EA) n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a** 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 18.4% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 9.15% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 27% 29.9% 28.5% 28.9%
USC (No early program) 16% 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 10.3% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) 16% 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 14.6% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 6.9% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

**In a break from tradition, the University of Chicago did not release this year’s applicant numbers or acceptance rates.

Larger Percentages of Freshman Classes Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making the regular admissions cycle even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding; universities are guaranteed the applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and allows students until May 1 to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps increase admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools that admitted 40% to 50% of their incoming class through their early decision program include Dartmouth, WilliamsDukeUniversity of PennsylvaniaNorthwestern, and Middlebury College.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are planning to accommodate increased applications by expanding enrollment. Lehigh, PrincetonStanfordUVAWashington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years.

Yale has admitted its largest incoming freshman class in school history (15% larger than recent classes), as the new residential colleges of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. Dean of Yale College, Jonathan Holloway, said one of the administration’s top priorities is preparing for the larger student body. Over the next four years, Yale plans to increase undergraduate enrollment from 5,400 to 6,200 students. “This expansion touches on every aspect of learning, including teaching, facilities, and financial aid.”

Lehigh implemented The Path to Prominence plan to expand and upgrade the campus, in order to accommodate an increase of the freshman class by 1,000 students over the next seven years. The new College of Health and construction of new dorms are part of this plan.

Stanford University has applied for county permits to accommodate campus expansion for class size growth of 100 more students per year, until the year 2035. In the fall of 2015, 6,994 undergraduates were enrolled at Stanford, and by 2035, this number is projected to increase to 8,785 undergraduates, which is 25% growth over 20 years.

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students. Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs, including QuestBridge, the KIPP Foundation, and A Better Chance.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. Schools with high percentages of students of color in the admitted class include Brown (47%), Cornell (52.5%), Dartmouth (51%), Princeton (53.4%), and Williams (50%).

Some schools have also made international diversity a priority as well. This year, Dartmouth accepted 38% more students from foreign countries, the largest international cohort in the school’s history. About half of the accepted international students will be offered need-based financial aid.

Delaying Admission

More and more schools are offering delayed admission to incoming freshmen, offering spring acceptances or asking the students to begin the following fall.

Middlebury anticipates that about 100 students will matriculate in February 2018 as members of the Class of 2021. This year, Cornell admitted 60 students to the First-Year Spring Admission (FYSA) program, which was established in 2015 to increase access to a Cornell education. Hamilton aims to enroll about 40 first-year students in their spring admission program each year. This allows Hamilton to offer admission to additional strong applicants, while also filling spots created by current students who are studying abroad during the spring semester.

Princeton offers a different kind of option for students accepted for fall entry. The Bridge Year Program “allows incoming first-year students to spend a tuition-free year engaging in international service work abroad in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia or Senegal.” This year, up to 35 incoming freshman are expected to participate.

 Withdrawn Acceptances

This year, there have been several instances of highly selective schools rescinding acceptances due to lower grades or offensive behavior. One widely publicized incident involved 10 students whose Harvard acceptances were revoked after it was discovered that the individuals had participated in the posting of offensive memes to social media.

Withdrawn acceptances are still the exception and not the norm, but students should be aware of the conditions that have caused revoked admissions and how to avoid this situation. For more information, see our blog, Keeping Your College Acceptance.

Tips for Future Applicants

Demonstrate interest. In a competitive admissions climate increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Therefore, apply to 10-12 colleges (a manageable number) so that you can visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Many schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.  If you are applying early admissions, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying regular admissions visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Highlight your heritage. Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Think carefully about your college list. When crafting your college list, make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools.

Be strategic with early admissions. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, early admission has become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are eager to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021

The early admissions train was packed this year with more and more students applying early action and early decision to their top college choices. By now, most students have received their early admissions decisions and are either elated by acceptance, disappointed with rejection, or stalled in the waiting room of deferral.

Whatever your early admissions outcomes, it is important to have an open mind and faith in the process of finding your “best-fit” school. In this blog, we have put together an in-depth analysis of this year’s trends and statistics. Take a look to see how you fit into the early admissions landscape.

Overall Early Application Trends

It was another record-breaking year: many schools saw record-high numbers of early applicants pools, which in turn often led lower acceptance rates.

Indeed, according to William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, “Early admission appears to be the ‘new normal’ now, as more students are applying early to Harvard and peer institutions than ever before.” This at least partially due to the fact that colleges too themselves continue to embrace the trend, with many filingl about half of their incoming classes from the early decision pool, including Dartmouth,Williams, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Middlebury College. Those who apply early tend to have better chances of admissions, but as a result, there are fewer spots available for Regular Decision applicants (further incentivizing students to apply early the next year).

Due to the advantages of applying early, many colleges have seen a sharp increase in the number of early applications. Over the past four years, Harvard has seen an increase of 38%. Northwestern, Princeton, and Williams have experienced increases of 30% or more.

This year, schools that received record-breaking numbers of early applications include Barnard (up 19% from last year), Columbia (up 16%), Cornell (up 10%), Georgetown (up 11%), Northwestern (up 23%), Wesleyan (up 17%), and Williams (up 25%).

Understandably, rising early applications resulted in historically low acceptance rates for many schools, including Cornell (25.6%), Georgetown (11.9%), Harvard (14.7%), MIT (7.8%), Princeton (15.4%), University of Pennsylvania (22%), and Williams (35%).

Overall Early Application Numbers

The following chart compares early admissions application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1st to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early decision is typically associated with higher acceptance rates because the school is guaranteed enrollment, which increases the yield factor, and brings to campus students who have demonstrated a high degree of interest.

Early Admissions Statistics for a Sampling of Selective Colleges

School  # Apps ‘21 Early Apps ‘20 Early Apps ‘19 Early Apps ‘18 Increase in EA/ED Apps ’18-’21 Acct. Rate ‘21 Acct. Rate ‘20 Acct. Rate ‘19 Acct. Rate ’18
Brown University (ED) 3,170 3,030 3,043 3,088 2.6% 21.9% 22% 20.3% 18.8%
Cornell University (ED) 5,384 4,882 4,560 4,775 12.7% 25.6% 27.4% 26.1% 27.7%
Dartmouth College (ED) 1,999 1,927 1,859 1,678 19.1% 27.8% 26% 26% 27.9%
Duke University (ED) 3,516 3,455 3,180 3,180 10.6% 24.5% 23.5% 26% 25%
Georgetown University (REA) 7,822 7,027 6,840 6,749 15.9% 11.9% 13% 13% 14%
Harvard University (SCEA) 6,473 6,173 5,919 4,692 38% 14.7% 14.8% 16.5% 21.1%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 1,934 1,929 1,865 1,595 21.2% 30.5% 30.3% 28.9% 33%
Middlebury College (ED) 673 636 667 686 -2% 51% 53.1% 42% 41.8%
MIT (EA) 8,394 7,767 6,519 6,820 23.1% 7.8% 8.4% 9.6% 9%
Northwestern University (ED) 3,736 3,022 2,793 2,863 30.5% n/a 35% 36.2% 32.3%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5,003 4,229 3,850 3,854 29.8% 15.4% 18.5% 19.9% 18.5%
Stanford University (REA) n/a 7,822 7,297 6,948 12.6% n/a 9.5% 10.2% 10.8%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 6,020 5,321 4,700* 6,551 28% since REA began in 2015 24.4% 30.2% 29.8% 29.9%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 6,147 5,762 5,489 5,149 19.4% 22% 23.2% 24% 25.2%
Williams College (ED) 728 585 593 554 31.4% 35% 42% 41% 42.8%
Yale University (SCEA) 5,086 4,662 4,693 4,750 7.1% 17.1% 17% 16% 15.5%

*Notre Dame changed its early admissions program from Early Action to Restrictive Early Action in 2015.

Deferral Stats

The statistics for deferral are not as widely published as acceptance rates. According to the available information, many schools defer more than half of their early applicant pool to the regular admissions round.

Notable exceptions include Duke, Middlebury, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Stanford who deny most applicants who are not accepted in the early round. For these schools, deferral is used to indicate that your application is competitive and will be given serious consideration in the regular admissions process.

Some schools, like the University of Michigan, use large numbers of deferrals to control class size as they have continued to receive increasingly large early applicant pools. Some colleges defer especially strong candidates who may view the college as a “safe” school, wait to see if the student withdraws the application based on acceptance by more selective colleges, and then may accept the student late-January through March.

For deferred students, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of admission in Regular Decision, including re-visiting, arranging for an additional letter of recommendation from a 12th grade teacher, and sending a follow-up letter with updates. Above all, stay positive, and continue to do your best academically. See our blog for more information.

Percent of Early Apps Deferred for Recent Classes

School Class of 2021 Class of 2020 Class of 2019 Class of 2018
Brown University (ED) 60% 63% 65% n/a
Cornell University (ED) 20.9% 23.6% 20% n/a
Duke University (ED) 20% 19% 19% 22%
Georgetown University (REA) 88.1%* 87% 87% 86%
Harvard University (SCEA) n/a 75.7% 72.5% 68%
Middlebury College (ED) 9% 11.6% 12% 14%
MIT (EA) 69.7% 61.5% 68.4% 66.5%
Princeton University (SCEA) n/a n/a n/a 78.9%
Stanford University (REA) n/a 9% 7.7% 8.5%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 14.8% 15.4% 17% 13.7%
Yale University (SCEA) 53% 53% 57% 58%

*Georgetown defers all students who are not accepted early action.

Changes in Early Admissions Plans

As early applications have increased, colleges are trying to get a better grasp on the predictability of their yield (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend). To this end, many schools have replaced non-binding Early Action plans with binding Early Decision plans. In addition, colleges have added a second round of Early Decision, called ED2.

Early Decision 2 deadlines tend to be January 1st or 15th (but may range from December 15th – February 1st). While Early Decision 2 helps schools to improve yield rates and rankings, there is also the benefit for students who need more time to improve test scores, show strong senior year grades, get a better sense of financial need, or re-visit schools. ED2 also allows students who have not been accepted to their first choice to declare a second school as their clear favorite, thus demonstrating strong interest.

Schools that added Early Decision options include Fairfield University (ED2), Haverford College (ED2), Loyola Marymount University (ED1), Providence College (ED2), University of Chicago (ED1/2), University of Miami (ED2), Wake Forest University (ED2), and Wellesley College (ED2).

Tulane University switched from offering a Single Choice Early Action program to allowing students to apply either Early Action, or Early Decision 1 and 2. Texas A&M added Early Action for engineering.

Increased Diversity Continues to be a Priority

Many of the most selective colleges continue to use early admissions for the big “hooks” – underrepresented minorities, lower socioeconomic, first-generation, and international students, as well as recruited athletes, and legacies.

Colleges have successfully broadened their outreach efforts to attract a more diverse applicant pool. For example, Penn partnered with over 40 community-based organizations that represent underserved students, including the national nonprofit program QuestBridge and Philadelphia’s Steppingstone Scholars program. This year, Dartmouth admitted its largest Early Decision cohort of QuestBridge students.

According to William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, “It does appear, say relative to the time when we gave up early admission, that there is greater ethnic and greater economic diversity in early pools these days, and therefore, in the admitted pool.” At Brown, over a third of early decision admits are students of color, the largest ratio in school history. Similarly, Duke broke a university record in that 41% of admitted early applicants are students of color.

Increases in the diversity of the student population are typically the result of institutional priorities. In 2011, Northwestern’s strategic plan established globalization goals that included more international students, achieved through outreach, more financial aid, and better orientation programs for international freshmen. The efforts were successful, and in 2015, Northwestern’s international population (both undergraduate and graduate) increased from 4,330 to over 6,000 students. For the undergraduate Class of 2021, Northwestern experienced an increase in international student early submissions, up by 39% from last year.

In 2014, Wesleyan actively sought increases in low- and middle-income students through a program of increased affordability, by replacing more loans with grants. As part of its overall goal of greater diversity, Wesleyan received its highest number of early applications from international students, up 75%. The school also saw a 44% increase in early applications from U.S. students of color, including a 56% increase from African American students.

Early Acceptance for Spring Semester

Some schools are offering early admissions acceptance for the spring semester of 2018, rather than the fall of 2017. This trend is driven by a need to fill seats caused by freshman attrition and junior year abroad programs. It is also a tactic that is sometimes part of a plan to shift students, whose GPA and test scores are not as strong, away from the September-starting freshmen cohort. The stats for the US News & World Reports rankings are compiled from freshmen who begin first semester.

Hamilton, Cornell, Elon, University of Miami, University of Maryland, and USC are all schools that have employed this January admission option. In January 2017, Cornell welcomed 60 incoming freshman through their First-Year Spring Admission Program.

While not traditional, this option allows the student to gain acceptance to the school, but also frees them from any Early Decision binding commitment. Students can often participate in service projects, take classes at another institution, work, or go abroad for the fall semester, followed by spring matriculation. A benefit of graduating in February versus May is that the job market is not as flooded with new graduates. But students who begin in spring semester can graduate with their class in June by meeting credit requirements through taking more courses during their 3 ½ years on campus, taking courses in the semester before they start, or applying AP credits.

The Common Application and Other Applications

 With nearly 700 member colleges, the Common Application is still the most popular platform for the college application process. However, there are some other options have tried to compete, including the new Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (Coalition) with its locker feature and the Universal College Application (UCA). The UCA was launched in 2013 in response to technical failures of the revamped Common Application, but it never gained sufficient critical mass of adoption by high school students. The Coalition was developed in 2015 in order to provide greater access to college applications for under-resourced students; and has steadily grown in members, with over 90 participating colleges at present. In addition, several schools continue to have their own application, including Clemson University, Elon University, Georgetown University, and Loyola University Maryland.

The Common App unveiled a new account rollover feature this year, and institutions of note that joined the organization included Baylor University, George Mason University, Indiana University-Bloomington, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For international students, UCAS has traditionally been the UK’s centralized application form for higher education institutions. UCAS limits students to applying to a maximum of five university programs. You are also limited to applying to one school in all of the Oxford and Cambridge’s colleges, known collectively as Oxbridge. More international students are now using the Common Application, which has a much greater limit of 20 total universities. Several international schools have joined the Common App, including St Andrews, King’s College London, and the University of Glasgow. See our blog on UK Universities to learn more!

Notable Moments in Early Admissions for the Class of 2021

  • For the first time in Penn’s history, female applicants made up half of the students admitted to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences through the Early Decision program.
  • Stanford will not release early admissions statistics for the Class of 2021 until the end of the admissions cycle.
  • Tulane University mistakenly sent early acceptance emails to 130 applicants due to a coding glitch in their new software. The Director of Admission, Jeff Schiffman, publicly apologized for any distress this caused the recipients of the erroneous acceptances.
  • Yale is set to open two residential colleges next fall and plans to admit 15% more students to the class of 2021.
  • Michigan’s Ross School of Business plans to admit 80% of its incoming class through the preferred admissions program. Current Michigan students who wish to apply to Ross will do so through internal transfer admissions. This year, BBA applicants were required to submit a Ross-specific portfolio, which included an essay component and an artifact that demonstrates “action-based learning.”
  • ACT scores for the October 16 test date were significantly delayed, which created a delay in applying early for many students and obscured their understanding of their admissions chances before applying. The hard lesson is that students should try to take their testing as early as possible.

Deciding whether and where to apply early can be daunting, but here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us!

Who Benefits From Early Decision?

Early Decision is a relatively new phenomenon in the college admissions landscape. But in the few decades since its inception, it’s become such a prominent feature of college admissions that many colleges fill up to half their freshman class through Early Decision applications. There is much controversy surrounding its impact on students and families because it tends to advantage affluent students who attend top secondary schools. This blog explores who stands to benefit from Early Decision, and how it affects the constituent groups of students, families, high schools, and colleges.

 

Historical Background

In the early centuries of college admissions, say from 1636 through the 1950s, all students applied through a Regular Admissions process, in which the deadline typically was January 1, and students received notification decisions by mid-April. But that all changed in the 1950s when a group of five smaller colleges that dubbed themselves the “Pentagonals” – Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Williams – decided to offer a binding Early Decision option in order to grab top students before they applied to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

As Early Decision became an increasingly popular option—and admissions became increasingly competitive—students felt increasing pressure to apply early, in order to maximize their chances of admission. In 2004, Yale and Stanford switched from ED to SCEA in order to decrease the stress on students. The non-binding option, they argued, would alleviate the additional pressure students face in having to commit before they’re fully ready.

Objections to Early Admissions, however, soon took on an additional dimension. In 2006, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA made the bold move to no longer offer any kind of early admissions program because of research suggesting that such programs disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic groups for a variety of reasons. These families needed to compare financial aid offers from more than one college, and often students in under-resourced high schools were not made aware of early admissions options, often missing out altogether.

Harvard, Princeton, and UVA hoped to serve as role models, and expected that other colleges would follow suit. While other colleges, such as Stanford, publicly supported their new policy, no colleges followed. This strategically disadvantaged Harvard, Princeton, and UVA, since other colleges could now grab top students through binding early programs, and within several years, all three resumed an early admissions program, with Harvard and Princeton offering SCEA, and UVA offering EA.

In fact, more and more colleges are now offering binding ED plans. In 2016, University of Chicago, Haverford, Wake Forest, and Wellesley added ED plans; and Tulane replaced its SCEA with ED. Very few of the most selective private colleges in the country now offer a non-restrictive early admissions option; these include Georgetown and MIT.

 

Impact of Early Decisions on Regular Decisions

37 colleges are now filling at least 40% of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision, as we discuss in our blog on trends in the Early Admissions process. This leaves significantly fewer spots for the vastly greater numbers of students who apply through Regular Decision. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, 6147 ED applications were submitted for the Class of 2021, and 1354 (22%) were accepted, filling about 55% of Penn’s freshman class size of approximately 2450. That means that the significantly larger regular pool must compete for only 1100 remaining spots. For the Class of 2020, 33,156 students applied in Regular Decision, and only 3,674 (9%) were admitted.

These numbers can affect the quality of review of an applicant’s file. On the one hand, admissions officers have about twice as much time to review applications in the Regular Round, as they typically have three months for RD applications, from January 1 through April 1, and 1 ½ months for ED applications, from November 1 – December 15. But if the admissions staff receive a whopping 5x as many RD applications, as in Penn’s case, the review process will be much more compressed, and students who have a unique story to tell may not receive the same quality of consideration.

 

Who Benefits from Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who do not need to compare financial aid packages
  • Strong academic students who have sufficiently compelling GPAs by the end of junior year and test scores by October of senior year, and who do not need further testing or 1st semester grades to bolster their candidacy
  • Students from top high schools with sufficient resources to provide individualized guidance in educating students about the benefits of early decision
  • Students from educated parents who are familiar with early decision options
  • Students who have private test prep tutors who advise them to take standardized tests in junior year so that they will have scores in time to submit for early deadlines

 

High Schools

  • Top high schools whose students take advantage of early decision to selective college; and who consequently are admitted at higher rates. High schools publicize their college acceptance and matriculation outcomes, and successful outcomes makes the school district more desirable for families who value education, increases property values, and draws new residents.

 

Colleges

  • Colleges who value students’ demonstrated interest. ED is often used by small to medium sized colleges who want to build a tight-knit community of students who are especially loyal to the school.

 

How Do Students Benefit?

  • Great acceptance rate. Simply put, students are more likely to be accepted. Typically the acceptance rate is higher for students who apply through a restrictive early program, such as ED or SCEA, because the applicants are demonstrating a strong degree of interest in attending the college. A landmark study conducted in 2001 by Christopher Avery, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, along with colleagues, found that applying ED provided the advantage of an additional 100 points on the SAT.
  • A more relaxed senior year. Students know where they will be attending by December 15. This eliminates the stress of waiting to find out where they have been accepted, enables the seniors to have a relaxed second semester, and provides them with a longer time in which to plan for the start of college.
  • Access to scholarships. Many merit scholarships are open only to students who apply by fall deadlines.
  • Access to interviews. Some colleges, such as MIT, only offer interviews to students who apply by fall deadlines.

 

How Do Colleges Benefit?

Early Decision plans benefit the college in numerous ways:

  • The accepted students are more devoted and loyal to the college; they will be stronger spokespeople for the college, and their positive feelings will affect other students
  • As alums, the graduates will likely donate more money because the college was a top choice, and that college accepted them in the early round
  • The colleges’ “yield” (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend) will increase, which increases predictability in calculating the freshman year
  • With increased yield, US News & World Reports rankings increase

 

Who is Disadvantaged by Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who need to compare financial aid packages
  • Students from large public high schools with over-burdened guidance counselors who do not have the resources to educate students about the benefits of early decision
  • First-generation students whose parents may not speak English, may not be as actively involved in the high school, and may not be as aware of all the options of admissions plans
  • Students who do not have the financial resources for private test preparation, and are not knowledgeable about the timeline required to obtain scores in time for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Under-resourced high schools whose students do not take advantage of ED options, and have a lower chance of acceptance through RD

Colleges

  • Colleges who philosophically oppose ED, such as Catholic colleges, and may lose out on top students who would rather have the certainty of an ED acceptance.

 

Solutions

A White House Report in 2014 cited that “While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do,” concluding that “college access and attainment remains unequal.” It is widely acknowledged that early admissions policies reward the affluent and penalize the poor. Yet it is strategically challenging to address this issue at the level of college institutions, due to the zero- sum-game element in which a small number of colleges with a steady number of slots compete for an ever-growing number of talented applicants.

The issue may be most effectively addressed by individuals and organizations that provide outreach to lower-income students. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy is now Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation, whose mission is to award scholarships to high-potential students with financial need. He is an ardent advocate for the end of early admissions, and argues that not only do such policies disadvantage low-income students, but that “our nation is being deprived of the talents of young people who could go on to become doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers and government leaders — and who could fill many other vital jobs if only they had the chance to get a college education.”

For guidance on the college admissions process, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020

Once again, it was a wild year in college admissions. Assessing the likelihood of acceptance to highly selective private and public universities was as unpredictable as ever, and while some applicants were lucky enough to receive early admission to their top choice, many students were dealt an uncertain hand of deferrals and spots on waitlists.

As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020, here’s an in-depth comparison of this year’s regular decision statistics to recent college admissions cycles. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance tended to either hold steady or drop slightly. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications, including Bowdoin, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Northwestern, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Princeton’s applicant pool has doubled over the past decade.

Many of the country’s most selective institutions, with overall admit rates under 15%, became even more competitive over the past two years. For example, Johns Hopkins dropped from 15% to 11.5%, Northwestern fell from 12.9% to 10.7%, and Swarthmore declined from 16.8% to 12.5%. Stanford has the lowest admit rate at just 4.7%. This year, Barnard, Bowdoin, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Tufts, UC-Berkeley, and USC all reported record-low admit rates.

According to Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University, these ultra-low admit rates are the product of several factors: top students applying to many more schools, higher demand across many demographics (including international applicants), and college advising that encourages students to apply to their dream schools, as opposed to schools that are a good fit and offer a better chance of admission. According to U.S. News, higher applicant numbers are the result of the Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted. Universities also use innovative ways to market themselves to prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Notre Dame has seen a 34% increase in applications over the past six years, and their overall acceptance rate has dropped from 24.3% to 18.3% over the past five years. According to Don Bishop, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment at Notre Dame, as competitive as the Class of 2020 is, these numbers would be even more selective if the University practiced admissions strategies used by other schools seeking to improve their rankings.

“There are colleges being criticized for going out there and getting a large number of applicants that they’re going to reject. A group of schools that seemingly are recruiting students they’re going to turn down. Notre Dame has not engaged in that practice.”

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2018 through 2020

College

 

(Note Early Admissions Plan:

ED vs EA)

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6% 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a n/a 9% 27% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) n/a 13% n/a 13% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) n/a n/a n/a 44% n/a 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3% 16% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) n/a n/a n/a 19% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%

Rice University

(ED)

n/a n/a 15.6% 20.4% n/a 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%

UC – Berkeley

(EA)

n/a n/a n/a n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2% 28.8% 28.5% 28.9%

USC

(No early program)

16.5% n/a 17.5% n/a 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 15% 42% 14.5% 41% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Large Percentage of Freshman Class Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making regular admissions even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding so universities are guaranteed the applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and allows students until May 1 to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps in determining admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools that admitted 40% to 50% of their incoming class through their early decision program include Brown, Duke, Northwestern, Penn, Williams, and Vanderbilt.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are accommodating increased applications with plans to expand enrollment. Princeton, Stanford, UVA, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years. Princeton’s plan to expand the class size by 11% was motivated by the desire to “enhance the quality of the overall educational experience at Princeton and make more effective use of the University’s extraordinary resources.” At the same time, University President John L. Hennessy says that Stanford has plans to grow but wants to be careful that size does not diminish experience, and the school will make future growth decisions dependent upon feedback from students and professors.

Determining Yield

Many schools are struggling to predict yield, the number of admitted applicants who will decide to attend their institution, as universities increase in popularity and selectivity. This, in turn, can impact admissions rates. For example, Duke’s Dean of Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said that one factor in this year’s low admissions rate was last year’s exceptionally high regular decision yield rate.

“Because the number of students we admitted last year resulted in over enrollment, we admitted fewer students this year on the assumption that the yield will be similar,” Guttentag said. “We have admitted 150 students fewer than last year.”

At Lehigh, the Class of 2018 hit overcapacity, and caused the university to accept fewer students in 2015. However, the Class of 2019 was still over capacity, forcing Lehigh to further recalculate yield predictions for the Class of 2020.

Similarly, MIT has also experienced increasing yield over the years, from 65% in 2011 to 73% in 2015. Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions, only expects it to keep going up as students continue to recognize “the value and excitement of MIT.”

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.

Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs. Pomona College, for example, partners with A Better Chance, Chicago Scholars, the KIPP Foundation and the Sutton Trust, as well as numerous local and regional programs, to connect with applicants from under-resourced schools. The University of Pennsylvania and Williams have similar programs.

This year, Duke began the Washington Duke Scholars, which nationally seeks to find first-generation college students who demonstrate financial need. Georgetown has a comparable program, called the Georgetown Scholarship Program.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. At Cornell University, a record 27% of the admitted applicants self-identify as underrepresented minority students and 49% are students of color, which includes Asian-Americans and underrepresented minorities. UC-Berkeley has increased admission of Chicano/Latino students by 28.8% and African American admissions by 32% since last year.

Harvard also set records in admitting a freshman class comprised of 14% African Americans and 22.1% Asian-Americans. Nearly 37% of Johns Hopkins regular decision admits self-identify as members of underrepresented minorities, a school record. Northwestern admitted a record number of international and Chicago Public Schools students through early decision, and a record number of Pell-eligible students through regular decision.

Tips for Future Applicants

In a competitive admissions climate that’s increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Therefore, apply to 10-12 colleges (a manageable number) so that you can visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.

If you are applying early admissions, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying regular admissions visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Highly selective schools are experiencing higher applicant pools, acceptance rates are low and dropping, and many students are told to dream big. When crafting your college list, make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, applying early has become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are happy to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020

As always, the early admissions process is a time of excitement, waiting, and sometimes, disappointment. The roller coaster of college admissions is off and running, and we are here to analyze the ever-changing landscape of acceptance, denial, and deferral. Take an in-depth look at this year’s trends and statistics to see how you fit into the early admissions picture.

Overall Early Application Numbers

Many schools continue to see a steady rise in early application numbers each year, resulting in increased selectivity. Harvard experienced an unusually high jump in early applications over the last two years, with a 32% increase, and selectivity correspondingly dropped from 21.1 to 14.8%. Notable exceptions include Yale and Brown, which have seen a slight dip in early applications over the past two years.

Columbia University had their largest early applicant pool in school history (3,520), which was a 4.4% increase from last year. MIT, Penn, Duke, Tufts, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins University also saw record-breaking numbers of early applicants.

The Tech reports that MIT’s increase in early applicants may be due, in part, to their new policy that international students were allowed to apply for consideration during the early action round of admissions this year.

According to Jeff Schiffman, Tulane’s Interim Admissions Director, “Tulane saw a pretty substantial increase in applications this year. Could be linked to joining the Common App, could be a number of reasons.”

Duke’s early acceptance rate of 23.5% is the lowest in the school’s early decision program history.

The following chart compares early action application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2020, 2019, and 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1 to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early decision is typically associated with higher acceptance rates because the school is guaranteed enrollment, which increases the yield factor, and brings to campus students who have demonstrated a high degree of interest.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 8.55.33 PM

The statistics for deferral are not as widely published as acceptance rates. According to the available information, many schools defer more than half of their early applicant pool to the regular admissions round. Notable exceptions include Stanford (9%) and Duke (19%), who deny most applicants who are not accepted; for these schools, deferral is used to indicate that your application is competitive and will be given serious consideration in the regular admissions process.

Overall, deferral rates have remained steady since 2018 or slightly decreased. One exception was Harvard, whose deferral rate rose from 68% for the Class of 2018 to 75.7% for the Class of 2020, possibly in direct relation to the significant drop in acceptance rate. Denials remained fairly constant, from an unofficial estimation of 10.9% for the Class of 2018 to 9.5% for the Class of 2020.

Princeton posted an unusually high deferral rate of 78.9% for the Class of 2018, prompting The Daily Princetonian to write several editorials urging the Admissions Office to “reduce the number of deferrals and give out more definite decisions to its early admit pool…. a clear rejection motivates applicants to invest wholeheartedly into the application processes for other universities.”

Some schools like the University of Michigan are using large numbers of deferrals to control class size as they have continued to receive increasingly large early applicant pools. According to The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan only admitted 6,071 students to the Class of 2019, a drop of 434 students from the previous year. This paring back was sparked by administrator concern over a trend of over-enrollment. For the class of 2019, Michigan’s overall admissions rate dropped to 26.2 percent from 32.2 percent for the class of 2018.

And Michigan is continuing this approach for the Class of 2020. “Several measures — such as deferring more individuals who apply early action and waitlisting more applicants in the regular decision cycle— were instituted beginning with the class of 2019 to avoid exceeding target enrollment numbers.”

For deferred students, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of admission in Regular Decision, including re-visiting, arranging for an additional letter of recommendation from a 12th grade teacher, and sending a follow-up letter with updates. Above all, stay positive, and continue to do your best academically. See our blog for more information.

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Higher Numbers of Diverse and International Students

Top selective colleges continue to use early admissions for the big “hooks” – underrepresented minorities, lower socioeconomic, first-generation, and international students, as well as recruited athletes, and legacies.

Colleges have successfully broadened their outreach efforts to attract a more diverse applicant pool. Over the past two years, Yale has recorded a 15% increase in early applications by minority students, and international student early applications have risen 12%. Tufts reported that overseas early applications increased by 9% this year, and that notably China had the highest numbers and rose by 18%.

Schools are receiving more diverse and international early applicants and in turn are increasing their admission percentages of these groups.

This year, Princeton reported that 42% of their admitted early applicants were U.S. students from diverse backgrounds and 11% were international students, which is up from 8% international early admissions in 2018. Dartmouth’s accepted early admissions pool includes 30% of students from diverse backgrounds (26% last year), 9% international students (8% last year), and 19% alumni legacy (same as last year). Early decision admits at Penn include 44% minority students (up from 40% last year), and 11% international students.

Michael Mills, associate provost for Northwestern University enrollment states, “We have higher numbers and percentages of underrepresented minority students. We have higher numbers and percentage of low income students than last year, and Chicago Public Schools students have been an important focus of ours.” In addition, almost 10% of Northwestern’s early decision pool is comprised of international students, which marks a nearly 25% increase from the number of international early applicants admitted last year.

Large Percentage of Incoming Freshman Class Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to fill a significant portion of their incoming freshman class from the early applicant pool. This year, Brown admitted the largest early applicant cohort (669 students) since the school adopted the early decision program in 2001. Historically, Brown has filled 35-38% of its freshman class through ED, but could top 40% this year if the freshman class size remains the same.

Northwestern’s early admission cohort will make up more than 50% of the incoming class of 2020, which breaks last year’s record of 49%. Tufts’ early admissions expects to fill half of the class of 2020 through their two early decision rounds.

Penn plans for their early decision admits to comprise 54.6 percent of the target class of 2,445 students for the class of 2020, fairly steady from the 54.4% ED cohort for the class of 2019.

Unfortunately, when colleges fill such a significant portion of their freshman class through ED, the competitive pressure during Regular Decision is even more intense due to the larger numbers of applicants, and the fewer spots remaining.

 Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are increasing their freshman class sizes as part of a strategic plan to increase the size of the school and accommodate more applicants.

According to the Yale News, “Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, noted that the Class of 2020 will be the last class to matriculate at Yale with the current 12 residential colleges. When two new residential colleges open their doors as scheduled in 2017, the undergraduate student body will expand for the first time in a generation, and future classes will increase by roughly 15%.”

UVA has several plans to accommodate growing class sizes, including new construction of additional first year housing which will be completed in August 2016. According to UVA Deputy Spokesperson, Matthew Charles, “The Board of Visitors and President Sullivan have authorized 105 new strategic faculty hires over the next five years in response to the expected growth in students.”

Since 2005, Princeton has enacted a plan of continued gradual expansion to increase its total undergraduates from about 4,600 to about 5,100 students. Princeton enrolled 1,308 students for the Class of 2018; this class size was slightly larger than the previously reported estimate of 1,290 because the University determined it had more capacity for the next academic year.

Stanford University also has plans to increase its undergraduate enrollment slowly over the next few years. According to the Washington Post, “Stanford University, which turns down roughly 19 out of every 20 applicants, wants to grow its entering freshman class by an estimated 100 students in the fall of 2016. That would translate to a class of about 1,800.” Stanford President, John L. Hennessy, said they will gradually expand entering classes until they reach a comfort level with their overall student population.

Washington University in St. Louis’ administrators unveiled plans to admit freshman classes at the large freshman size of the Class of 2018 (1,765 students) for the next several years until the undergraduate population reaches a total enrollment of 7,000.

Navigating the decisions of where to apply early decision or early action can be daunting, but here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us!

 

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019

As a follow-up to our blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019, we bring you highlights from this year’s Regular Admissions outcomes! From increasing selectivity to expanding financial aid programs, here are some of the most noteworthy trends in college admissions.

Overall Acceptance Rates

Overall, application numbers and acceptance rates were fairly steady compared to last year. Duke’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said, “Nationwide we’ve stopped seeing that sharp increase [in applications] that we saw from about 2008 to 2013 across the board. I think for most schools that has settled down.” But many selective universities still showed modest increases in selectivity.  For example, Harvard’s overall acceptance rate over the past year declined from 5.9% for the Class of 2018 to 5.3% for the Class of 2019; Princeton’s, from 7.28% to 6.99% and Williams, from 18.2% to 16.9%.

In general, colleges continue to admit a much higher rate of students from the early, rather than the regular, applicant pool. The early versus regular acceptance rates, cited in the table below, illustrate the impact of students demonstrating interest to top-choice schools by applying early (and thereby improving their chances of acceptance). While this may make applying early that much more enticing, keep in mind a binding Early Decision admissions program (as opposed to a non-binding Early Action program) should only be pursued if the college is your absolute first choice, and you understand your binding commitment to attend.

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2019 versus 2018

 

 

School

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Bowdoin College n/a n/a 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.2% 20.3% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a 9%
California, University of, Berkeley n/a n/a n/a 17%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.8% 26% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 7.4% 26% 9.4% 9%
Georgetown University (EA) 18.1% 13% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.2% 16.5% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 11% 28.9% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University n/a n/a n/a 34%
MIT (EA) 7.1% 9.6% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED) 14.7% 45.3% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 10.8% 36.2% 13.1% 12.9%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.9% 19.9% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University n/a n/a 14.7% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.9% 10.2% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College n/a n/a 12.2% 16.8%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 16.2% 29.8% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7.5% 24% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Southern California n/a n/a 17.5% 17.8%
University of Virginia n/a n/a 28.5% 28.9%
Vanderbilt University 9.5% n/a n/a 12.3%
Washington University in St. Louis n/a n/a n/a 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 14.5% 41% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.7% 16% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Notable Moments from this year’s Regular Admissions Process

Some schools did see a jump in the number of applicants

Though many schools continued to see application numbers level off, a few did experience significant growth. Vanderbilt, an increasingly popular university, has had its acceptance rate plummet over the past eight years due to a significant rise in the number of applicants. This year, 27,822 students applied to attend Vanderbilt during the regular decision period, whereas in 2007, only 11,798 students applied regular decision. Vanderbilt’s regular decision acceptance rate was 31% in 2007. This year it was 9.5%, a continued drop from the 11% rate the previous year.

Douglas Christiansen, Vanderbilt’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions, explains that the rise in applications is caused by increased interest from international students, as well as those who live in other regions of the country.

“[Students are] responding to the educational brand, to the educational experience we’re offering. Vanderbilt has really moved into being a true national institution with national (and international) reach.”

Similarly, the University of Chicago received a 10% increase in applications from last year. According to The Chicago Maroon, “Much of the University of Chicago’s steep increase in applications is credited to recent changes in the application process. Applicant numbers rose after the University announced earlier in 2014 that it would be utilizing the Universal College Application (UCA), an alternate application system to the Common Application, for the Class of 2019. Technical glitches in the Common Application system around the time of application deadlines earlier last year resulted in a decline in applicants.”

The University of Chicago has also increased construction plans, from the new Institute of Molecular Engineering to the Logan Center for the Arts, which has attracted many new applicants.

Financial aid expands 

Stanford University made headlines this year when they raised the income thresholds at which parents are not expected to contribute toward tuition from $100,000 to $125,000. For parents with annual incomes below $65,000, there will be no parental contribution toward tuition and room and board.

Similarly, The University of Chicago announced that “No Barriers,” an expansion of the Odyssey Scholars program and other financial aid policy reforms, will take effect beginning with the Class of 2019. The university aims to eliminate loans, waive application fees, and provide additional funding and support for low- and middle-income students.

“With UChicago ‘No Barriers’ and our other commitments, we are ensuring that people from all backgrounds and all incomes can afford to attend the University, and that they can thrive and succeed in whatever path they choose,” said President Robert J. Zimmer.

According to The Washington Post, Franklin & Marshall College has also expanded its need-based financial aid program and decreased its merit-based aid program.

A continued shift in the popularity of intended majors

Due to the economic climate, the overall popularity of business, healthcare, and STEM-related majors continues to rise. Swarthmore College states that engineering is the most popular intended major among the admitted students for the Class of 2019.

According to USA Today, four of the five fastest growing majors are in STEM or pre-pre-professional fields: health and medical prep programs (31%), homeland security and emergency preparedness (26%), physical sciences (25%), and engineering-related fields (23%). The only exception is behavioral science (89% growth), which falls within the liberal arts.

As a result, many schools have filled up the admissions slots in these areas, and are looking to accept liberal arts or undecided majors. At Georgetown, for example, science classes and spots for incoming science majors have all been filled. Therefore, the College waitlist is expected to only see movement for students with undeclared majors. The McDonough School of Business and the School of Nursing and Health Studies have also been completely filled for the class of 2019.

Likewise, the University of Notre Dame has recently capped enrollment in its Mendoza Business School at 550 students per class, due to overcrowding from internal transfers, especially from the College of Arts and Letters. Bloomberg Business has ranked Notre Dame’s undergraduate business program number one in the country for the past five years.

“While the total number of Notre Dame undergraduates has essentially held constant over the past 10 years, the number of undergraduates enrolled in Arts & Letters has plummeted,” said the Observer. “Political science, once the most popular undergraduate major with 684 enrollees, has lost 38% of its students since the spring of 2004. Likewise, the history department has dropped from 324 to 196 undergraduate majors, and English has fallen from 424 to 239. Over the same period, the number of finance majors has climbed from 368 to 482 (25%). It is now the most popular major at Notre Dame.”

Application extensions

This year, several colleges, including Bates, Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Vanderbilt, offered extensions for their January admissions deadlines.

The University of Pennsylvania gave applicants an extra four days to submit application materials. “The Office of Admissions chose to extend the deadline in order to provide students with more time to enjoy their holidays. Previously, the deadline had only been extended in the case of extenuating circumstances, such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Common Application glitches last year.”

According to Bloomberg Business, “Colleges that extend deadlines say they are merely trying to give more students a chance to apply and receive scholarships. Yet students and even some colleges are asking whether the extra days are penalizing on-time applicants. The extensions are bewildering teenagers and high school guidance counselors.”

Another reason for these extensions may have to do with the fact that application numbers are beginning to level off. Perhaps colleges have extended deadlines in order to increase or keep applications numbers steady, so that selectivity figures are not negatively impacted.

The tuition cost of public universities continues to rise

As a recent New York Times article recently highlighted, most elite public universities are raising tuition for in-state students. At the same time, they are also restricting the number of in-state students admitted in order to make way for out-of-state and international students (who pay even higher tuition). Overall, the result is that college is becoming less and less affordable for many families.

The LA Times discusses the particularly heated battle between the University of California system and state government over university funding. “In recent years, UC sharply increased the numbers of students from outside the state because they pay about $23,000 more in tuition than Californians do. But the rising presence of non-Californians is a hot political item, and legislative proposals to increase state funding to the UC require a freeze on their ranks.”

UC President Janet Napolitano said the number of out-of-state students offered admission will be capped next year at UCLA and Berkeley, “where the demand is highest,” but she did not freeze non-resident admissions at the other seven undergraduate campuses.

Deciding where – and how – to apply to college can be daunting. For guidance deciphering your options and understanding the changing landscape of college admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help.