Category Archives: Admissions trends

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2023: A Look Back to Help You Plan Ahead!

If you are in the midst of planning for your early and regular applications, a look back on last year’s college admissions cycle could provide helpful insights to keep in mind as you delve into the college admissions process.

As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2023, here’s an in-depth review of last 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 received a record-breaking number of applications this year, including Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Middlebury, Notre Dame, UVA, Wesleyan, and Yale. Schools that saw a large increase in applications from the previous year, include Franklin & Marshall (33%), Hamilton (34%), and Rice University (30%). Some colleges had their acceptance rate drop into the single digits for the first time in school history, including Bowdoin (8.9%), Colby (9.5%), and Rice (8.7%). Conversely, Northwestern’s acceptance rate rose for the first time in 10 years. But don’t get too excited—it was still in the single digits (8.9%)!

Several factors contribute to rising applicant numbers and, as a result, lower acceptance rates. The highly-selective process of applying to elite schools can cause stressed-out high school students to apply to even more colleges 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. Additionally, schools have made it a priority to increase their marketing and use innovative ways to reach prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Early vs. Regular Acceptance Rates for a Sampling of Selective Colleges

College
(Note Early Admissions Plan: ED vs EA)
Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2023* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2023 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2022* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2022 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 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 n/a n/a 25% 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31%
Brown University (ED) 5.2% 18.2% 5.5% 21.1% 6.8% 21.9% 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a n/a 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) 8.8% 22.6% 8.3% 24.3% 10.8% 25.6% 12.5% 27.4% 13.7% 26.2%
Dartmouth College (ED) 6.1% 23.2% 6.9% 24.9% 8.5% 27.8% 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26%
Duke University (ED) 5.7% 18% 6.4% 21.4% 7.3% 24.5% 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26%
Georgetown University (REA) 15% 11.8% 16% 12% 17.4% 11.9% n/a 13% n/a 13%
Harvard University (SCEA) 2.8% 13.4% 2.43% 14.5% 3.4% 14.7% 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 7.7% 31% 8.4% 29.9% 10.3% 30.5% 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9%
MIT (EA) 6.1% 7.4% 6.6% 6.9% 6.6% 7.8% 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6%
Middlebury College  (ED I) 13% 45.4% 15.1% 50.1% 16.7% 51% 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 6.9% 25% 6.4% 26% 7.2% 28% 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2%
Pomona College (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 6.8% 21% n/a 19.4% n/a 19%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.2% 13.9% 3.8% 14.7% 4.3% 15.4% 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9%
Rice University (ED) 8% 15.5% 10.3% 18% 15% 21% 15% 23% 15.6% 20.4%
Stanford University (SCEA) n/a** n/a** n/a** n/a** n/a** n/a** 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2%
University of Chicago (EA) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data; see chart below.
University of Notre Dame (REA) 12.5% 21% 14.2% 24.8% 15.7% 24.4% 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 5.7% 18% 6.5% 18.5% 6.8% 22% 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24%
University of Virginia (EA) 20.6% 26% 24.6% 27.8% 24.6% 29% 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 6.3% 19.8% 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*** n/a*** n/a*** 12.7% 35% 15% 42% 14.5% 41%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.5% 13.2% 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. 

** For the past 3 years Stanford has not released early admissions statistics.

***For the past 2 years, Williams did not release their early admissions and regular admissions statistics.

 

Overall Acceptance Rates

College
(Note Early Admissions Plan: ED vs EA)
Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2023 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2022 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) 10.8% 12.8% 12.9% 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 8.9% 10.3% 13.6% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 6.6% 7.2% 8.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a 6.6% 8% 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a 8.9% 10.4% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) 5.3% 5.5% 5.8% 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) 10.6% 10.3% 12.5% 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 7.9% 8.7% 10.4% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 7.2% 8.3% 9% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) 14% 14.5% 15.4% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 4.5% 4.59% 5.2% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 9.2% 9.9% 11.8% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) 23.7% 22% 24.7% 26.3% 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 6.7% 6.7% 7.1% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 16% 18.4% 19.7% 16% 17% 17.3%
New York University (ED) 16% 19% 27% 30% 30% 35%
Northwestern University (ED) 8.9% 8.4% 9% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) n/a 6.9% 8.2% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5.8% 5.5% 6.1% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University
(ED)
8.7% 11% 16% 15% 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) n/a 4.29% 4.6% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) 9% 9% 10.2% 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%
UC – Berkeley
(EA)
16.8% 15.1% n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) 5.9% 7.2% 8.7% 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 15.4% 17.6% 18.4% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7.4% 8.4% 9.2% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 23.8% 26.5% 27% 29.9% 28.5% 28.9%
USC (No early program) 11% 13% 16% 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) n/a 9.6% 10.3% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) 14% 15% 16% 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 12.4% 12.2% 14.6% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 5.9% 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 Boston University, Dartmouth, DukeMiddlebury, Northwestern, Skidmore, and the University of Pennsylvania admitted 40% to 50% or more of their incoming class through their early decision program.

Interestingly, some schools have added early decision as an application option for the Class of 2024. UVA, for example, now has an ED application which is due October 15, in addition to Early Action, which is due November 1. This year, Boston College is switching from an Early Action program to Early Decision I & II. Last year, BC made a change in not restricting its early action program, which resulted in a 54% increase in early applications.

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.

Bowdoin accepted fewer students this year, due to an increased number of applications and the rising yield from last year (525 accepted for a planned class of 500). Georgetown admitted 130 fewer students this year, due to last year’s over-enrollment. Also, according to the 2017 University Campus Plan, Georgetown has a 20-year agreement with the local community that limits the total number of undergrad students to 6,675. Notre Dame admitted 200 fewer students this year due to last year’s higher enrollment rates.

Fordham received a record-breaking 47,800 applications, and experienced a yield of 10% of the 22,000+ accepted students committing to attending. Conversely, Harvard had a yield of 83% of accepted students attending. Princeton also saw an increase in yield this year to 73.2% and enrolled 90 more students than the target class size. This could have ramifications for the next class in terms of acceptance numbers.

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 the extent to which they are 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 third 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. This year, Lehigh expects to net 150 more students in the class the admit rate increased by about 2% compared to last year.

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 its physical campus in order 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 2018, 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 American Talent Initiative, 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 (55%), Dartmouth (51%), Pomona (57.8%), Princeton (56%), UPenn (51%), and Williams (58%). NYU has admitted its most diverse class in school history.

Harvard increased Asian-American admits to 25.4% compared to last year’s 22.7%, marking the first time that this number has exceeded one-quarter of accepted students. This follows a lawsuit in which Harvard has been accused of discrimination against Asian-American applicants in its admissions process.

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.

Tulane offers a Spring Scholars program, whereby students participate in study abroad, internships, or other academic activities in the fall and matriculate in the spring semester. For the fourth year, Cornell admitted 50 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 45 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. USC aims to enroll about 600 freshman spring admits each year. The Brandeis Midyear Program offers 100 freshmen students enrollment each year.

Tips for Future Applicants

Think carefully about your college list. When crafting your college list, reflect on 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!

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2023

As the pool of applicants increases and schools continue to expand admissions options, applying early has become a game of strategic calculations and daunting choices for students. This year alone, many schools saw sharp increases in early applications and most schools experienced a drop in admit rates.

By now, 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 Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, MITPennUVA, 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 Barnard (24%), Washington University in St. Louis (70%) Boston College (54%), Brown (21%), Connecticut College (25%-EDI), Duke (19%), Notre Dame (17%), NYU (41%-EDI) and UVA (17%). Rising applications have also led to dipping acceptance rates. Many schools accepted record-low rates of early applicants, including Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.

WashingtonU’s dramatic 70% increase in early apps this year includes applications from both both ED1 and ED2 and the school filled 60% of the incoming class through early admissions. This was likely due to the fact that this was the first year that they offered an ED2 option.

Boston College’s exceptional increase of 54% early applications was likely due to a change in admissions policy whereby students could apply early action to BC, as well as early decision elsewhere. In the past, applicants applying early decision, could not apply early action to BC. Interestingly, Boston College recently announced that it is switching its early admissions program for the Class of 2024 from early action to early decision.

John Mahoney, BC’s vice provost for enrollment management, explained that the ease of applying to many colleges through the Common Application creates issues for admissions offices at highly-selective colleges where it becomes more difficult to evaluate the growing number of applications. According to Grant Gosselin, director of undergraduate admissions, “While the change will likely suppress overall application volume, it will help to improve selectivity and yield by enabling students to commit to BC through the two rounds of binding Early Decision.” Early Decision 1 will have an application deadline of November 1, with decision notification by December 15. Early Decision 2 will have a January 1 application deadline and February 15 notification date. These dates are consistent with most Early Decision and Early Action rounds.

On the other hand, Georgetown experienced a 7% decrease in early applications. The Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon says, “Fewer students applied to Georgetown this cycle due in part to pressures from peer schools to apply through binding early admission programs. These binding early admission programs, which stipulate that students must attend if admitted, benefit universities more than students.”

Georgetown will continue to stand by its nonbinding early action program. “It is reasonable for students with outstanding records to be able to get an early answer, but we also believe that a lot happens during the course of their senior year of high school, so our motto has been we want you to be as sure in May as you were in November,” Deacon said.

Many schools with Early Decision programs also continue to fill almost half or more of their incoming class from the early applicant pool, including Boston University (40%), Bowdoin (nearly 50%) Dartmouth (47.8%), Duke (51%), Middlebury (41%), Northwestern (53%), and Penn (53%). 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 2023, 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 results in a class comprised of students who have demonstrated a high degree of interest.

 

Early Admissions Statistics for a Sampling of Selective Colleges

 

School

Early Apps

Class of 2023

Early Apps

Class of 2022

Early Apps

Class of 2021

Early Apps

Class of 2020

Early Apps

Class of 2019

Early Apps

Class of 2018

% Increase in EA/ED Apps 2018-2023
Brown University (ED) 4,230 3,502 3,186 3,030 3,043 3,088 37%
Cornell University (ED) 6,159 6,319 5,384 4,882 4,560 4,775 29%
Dartmouth College (ED) 2,474 2,270 1,999 1,927 1,859 1,678 47.4%
Duke University (ED) 4,852 4,090 3,516 3,455 3,180 3,180 52.6%
Georgetown University (REA) 7,802 8,387 7,822 7,027 6,840 6,749 15.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 6,958 6,630 6,473 6,173 5,919 4,692 48.3%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 2,068 2,037 1,934 1,929 1,865 1,595 29.6%
Middlebury College (ED) 654 650 673 636 667 686 -4.6%
MIT (EA) 9,600 9,557 8,394 7,767 6,519 6,820 40.8%
Northwestern University (ED) 4,399 4,058 3,736 3,022 2,793 2,863 53.6%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5,335 5,402 5,003 4,229 3,850 3,854 38.4%
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a n/a 7,822 7,297 6,948 12.5% since 2016
University of Notre Dame (REA) 7,334 6,598 6,020 5,321 4,700* 6,551 56% since REA began in 2015
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7,110 7,074 6,147 5,762 5,489 5,149 38.1%
Williams College (ED) n/a n/a 728 585 593 554 31.4% since 2017
Yale University (SCEA) 6,016 5,733 5,086 4,662 4,693 4,750 26.6%

*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 the fall 2018, Stanford will no longer publish any admissions data.

*As of 2017, Williams ceased releasing their early decision stats.

 

School Acceptance Rate, Class of 2023 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 in EA/ED Acceptance Rate

2018-2023

Brown University (ED) 18.2% 21.1% 21.9% 22% 20.3% 18.8% -0.6 pp
Cornell University (ED) 22.6% 24.4% 25.8% 27.4% 26.1% 27.7% -5.1 pp
Dartmouth College (ED) 23.2% 24.9% 27.8% 26% 26% 27.9% -4.7 pp
Duke University (ED) 18% 21.4% 24.5% 23.5% 26% 25% -7 pp
Georgetown University (REA) 11.8% 11.9% 11.9% 13% 13% 14% -2.2 pp
Harvard University (SCEA) 13.4% 14.5% 14.5% 14.8% 16.5% 21.1% -7.7 pp
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 31% 29.9% 30.5% 30.3% 28.9% 33% -2 pp
Middlebury College (ED) 45.4% 50.1% 51% 53.1% 42% 41.8% 3.6 pp
MIT (EA) 7.4% 6.9% 7.8% 8.4% 9.6% 9% -1.6 pp
Northwestern University (ED) 25% 26.5% 26% 35% 36.2% 32.3% -7.3 pp
Princeton University (SCEA) 13.9% 14.7% 15.4% 18.5% 19.9% 18.5% -4.6 pp
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a n/a 9.5% 10.2% 10.8%

-1.3 pp

since 2016

University of Notre Dame (REA) 20.1% 24.8% 24.4% 30.2% 29.8%* 29.9% -9.7 pp since REA began in 2015
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 18% 18.5% 22% 23.2% 24% 25.2% -7.2 pp
Williams College (ED) n/a n/a 35% 42% 41% 42.8% -7.8 pp since 2017
Yale University (SCEA) 13.2% 14.7% 17.1% 17% 16% 15.5% -2.3 pp

*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 the fall 2018, Stanford will no longer publish any admissions data.

*As of 2017, Williams ceased releasing their 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 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2023 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2022 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2021 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2020 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2019 Early Apps Deferred for Class of 2018
Brown University (ED) n/a n/a 60% 63% 65% n/a
Cornell University (ED) 24.3% n/a 20.9% 23.6% 20% n/a
Duke University (ED) 18.6% 21.5% 20% 19% 19% 22%
Georgetown University (REA) 88.2%* 88.1%* 88.1%* 87% 87% 86%
Harvard University (SCEA) n/a 72.7% n/a 75.7% 72.5% 68%
Middlebury College (ED) 12.4% 6% 9% 11.6% 12% 14%
MIT (EA) 64.4% 65% 69.7% 61.5% 68.4% 66.5%
Princeton University (SCEA) n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 78.9%
Stanford University (REA) n/a n/a n/a 9% 7.7% 8.5%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 19% n/a 14.8% 15.4% 17% 13.7%
Yale University (SCEA) 56% 55% 53% 53% 57% 58%

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

*Stanford last released early admissions stats in 2016. As of the fall 2018, Stanford will no longer publish any admissions data.

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. Additionally, fewer colleges are requiring Subject Tests. Over 1,000 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.

On June 14, 2018, the University of Chicago launched its UChicago Empower Initiative, which included a test-optional policy in the hopes of increasing accessibility for first-generation and low-income applicants. The University of Chicago joins a small group of highly-selective national universities, with test-optional or test-flexible policies, which includes Wake Forest, University of Rochester, Brandeis, and NYU.

Finally, more colleges are allowing students to self-report testing, 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 (44%), Cornell (39.8%), Dartmouth (33%), Duke (46%), Harvard (50%), Princeton (50%), and Penn (48%). 54% of Northwestern’s early admits are underrepresented minorities or international students.

Legacy is another major factor, and schools accepting large numbers of early applicants with a family history of attending the school include Cornell (21.1%), Dartmouth (20%), Princeton (15%), and Penn (23%). 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 (12.3%), Dartmouth (11%), Harvard (11%), Princeton (10%), and Penn (13%).

Harvard admitted more women this year through early admissions (51.3%) versus last year (47.2%). Of these female admits, high percentages indicated interest in majoring in computer science or physical sciences.

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.

Notable Moments in Early Admissions for the Class of 2023

  • Harvard has been in the news for a lawsuit which alleges that it unfairly discriminates against Asian-American applications and sets racial caps.
  • Alumnus Michael Bloomberg donated $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, which is the largest gift ever given to a U.S. college or university. This fall, Johns Hopkins announced that it will use the gift to provide more comprehensive financial aid packages for undergraduates, including eliminating loans for domestic students.
  • In the fall of 2018, Stanford announced that itwill no longer publish any admissions data, in an effort to de-emphasize admissions rates at U.S. colleges and universities. In the fall of 2016, Stanford filled 35% of the class of 2021 from the early applicant pool.

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, 7,110 ED applications were submitted for the Class of 2023, and 18% were accepted, filling about 53% of Penn’s incoming freshman class. That means that the significantly larger regular pool must compete for the remaining spots. For the Class of 2022, 44,482 students applied in Regular Decision, and only 8.4% 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 colleges; 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 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!

Who Benefits from Test-optional and Test-flexible Admissions Policies?

As the role of college entrance exams continues to shift, many students find it difficult to navigate evolving and variable testing requirements. The process is made even more complex by the growing number of “test-optional” schools that do not require students to submit the SAT or ACT.

Over 1000 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.

Many students question how to handle test-optional policies, and are unsure of whether or not they should submit their scores. In this blog, we will take a closer look at student choices in applying to test optional colleges and why more and more schools are offering test-optional admissions policies.

Which colleges offer test-optional policies? Are all policies the same?

FairTest.org offers a comprehensive list of the colleges that currently offer test-optional and test-flexible admissions policies. While colleges offering these policies include a variety of institutions, it is notable that many are small liberal arts colleges, public universities, and small Catholic colleges. With few exceptions, the most highly selective colleges continue to require standardized testing; besides being a standard indicator of college readiness, test scores can create a benchmark of acceptance for schools that are becoming inundated with ever-increasing applicant pools.

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.

Test-optional and test-flexible policies vary widely, and the best way to make sure that you are submitting the correct testing requirements is to research the details on the specific college’s website.

For example, NYU (test-flexible) requires testing but students have a variety of options:

  • ACT (writing test not required)
  • SAT(essay test not required)
  • 3 SAT Subject Test scores
  • 3 AP exam scores
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
  • 3 IB higher-level exam scores if not an IB Diploma candidate
  • Nationally accredited exam that shows you completed your secondary education

Many test-optional schools require students who are not submitting test scores to meet additional requirements, including interviews, writing samples, teacher recommendations, or completing a Test-Optional Form. For example, Franklin & Marshall College requires students who choose to opt out of testing to submit two graded writing samples (creative or analytical), preferably from a humanities or social science course. Loyola University Maryland asks applicants who take advantage of their test-optional policy to submit an additional teacher recommendation and/or personal essay. At Virginia Commonwealth University, high school applicants must have at least a 3.3 GPA to bypass testing requirements.

Interestingly, many test-optional schools, including Marist College, require students to submit standardized test scores once they have been accepted and enroll. The schools use these test scores for the purposes of academic advisement and course placement.

Why do schools offer test-optional policies?

Increasing ethnic diversity

Many schools, including Wake Forest, claim that test-optional policies have led to a more diverse student body with no notable difference in academic achievement between students who opted out of testing and those who submitted scores. Wake Forest also states that ethnic diversity increased by 90% since the Fall of 2008 when their test-optional policy went into effect. A 2014 report from two former Bates College admissions officials, William Hiss and Valerie Franks, also found an increase in racial and socio-economic diversity at test-optional schools.

Focusing on holistic admissions

In determining whether an applicant is a good fit, test-optional schools stress the importance of examining the student’s complete academic profile. The College of the Holy Cross states, “We are test optional because we have found that a student’s academic history in high school is a better indicator of their scholastic ability than an exam taken on a singular Saturday morning.”

Fairness

Many institutions are disillusioned with current standardized testing, and feel that the test preparation available to the wealthy creates an unfair advantage. For example, Marist College states, “Many studies indicate performance on standardized tests is closely linked to family income and education level, while others suggest a possible bias against certain minority students. Our experience shows that the rigor of a student’s program and overall academic performance can best illustrate commitment, motivation, work ethic, and a willingness to take on challenges.”

Improved US News Rankings

Intentional or not, the schools offering test-optional policies also tend to see improved U.S. News rankings. A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Georgia examined data from 32 selective liberal arts colleges, and found that, after going test-optional, these schools received an average increase of 220 applications and their mean SAT scores rose by an average of 26 points.

Selectivity and test scores are important factors in the U.S. News rankings. US News is transparent about the components that comprise its ranking methodology. 7.75% of rankings derive from the SAT critical reading and math portions; and the composite ACT score.

Test-optional policies tend to increase applicant numbers, creating higher selectivity for the schools, and since students who did better on standardized tests report their scores, while students with low scores often do not, the school can report artificially inflated test scores of accepted applicants.

Notably, the only “test-blind” school, Hampshire College, is unranked by US News. Hampshire College does not consider any ACT or SAT scores as part of its admissions policy, and therefore has no scores to report. Sarah Lawrence was once “test-blind” as well, from 2003 to 2012. In 2012, Sarah Lawrence switched to a “test-optional” policy, presumably to rejoin the ranks of US News, among other reasons.

Bottom-line: Should I send my scores?

At the end of the day, you might be deliberating over whether or not to send your scores. Here are some considerations to assist in your decision:

Research the range of standardized test scores for accepted students

According to U.S. News, “If you do some research and find that your results fall below those of the top third of accepted students at more selective schools or below the median at more inclusive institutions, you may want to hold them back.”

Decide if your test scores accurately represent your potential as a student

At the College of the Holy Cross, Director of Admissions Ann McDermott writes, “If you feel your testing says something about you and your abilities, feel free to send them along. We will look at them in conjunction with your transcript, your recommendations, essay, and interview (if you have had one) and make our assessment.  If, on the other hand, you feel that your test scores do not represent you well, then do not hesitate to withhold them. We will not make any assumptions about your testing, and will focus our attention on your transcript and the other accompanying credentials that are contained in your application.”

Take a hard look at your academic performance and activity list

Jane H. Dane, associate vice president for enrollment management at Old Dominion University in Virginia, notes that applicants who withhold scores are “particularly scrutinized for other evidence of potential for success, like challenging course work and leadership skills. The more well-rounded you are, the better your chances of impressing without scores.”

Remember that regardless of testing policies, all schools look at more than your scores

Try to remember that test scores are just one part of your college application, and not even the most significant one. As the College Board reminds us, “College admission officers give the most weight and importance to your high school grades and whether you’re challenging yourself.”

Determining the best testing options for each student requires consideration of a variety of factors and personal preferences. For more information on standardized testing, or any other aspect of the college admissions process, feel free to contact Collegiate Gateway. We’re always happy to help!

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!

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!