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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!

 

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!

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!

Merit Scholarships: A Beginner’s Guide

There are many need-based financial aid opportunities out there for college students. But for those who don’t qualify–or who don’t qualify for enough–there are a large number of merit-based scholarship options as well.  With perseverance and dedication, some students have been able to finance nearly their entire college education through merit aid!  The question is: how do you find these opportunities?

As always, we’re here to help!

Scholarships from Colleges

Often, students receive merit aid directly from colleges themselves. These usually come in the form of “merit awards,” determined by a variety of factors including your academic performance: grade point average, standardized test scores, and the strength of your high school curriculum. Generally, the better you do in high school, the better your chances of being offered merit aid by colleges. For many students, this is can be the largest source of scholarship funding. In fact, some colleges, including Boston College and Duke award full-tuition merit scholarships to small groups of exceptionally qualified students.

But keep in mind that additional factors related to your character play a role as well, as demonstrated by your extracurricular activities, community service and leadership roles.  Furthermore, the unique institutional priorities of each college influence the nature of their merit scholarships; colleges often offer special scholarships for students of diverse backgrounds, or with particular academic, service or career interests.

Some colleges, such as Tulane, Oberlin, and NYU automatically consider all applicants for merit scholarships.  Other colleges require that prospective students take the initiative to apply for merit aid, and require the submission of additional essays.  For example, the University of Richmond encourages students who have demonstrated strong involvement in community service to apply for the Bonner Scholars Program.  Emory provides the opportunity for entering freshmen to become Emory Scholars. Likewise, Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University have numerous merit scholarships that students need to actively apply for.

The colleges with the highest percentage of students receiving non-need-based aid range from specialized colleges, such as Olin College of Engineering, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and New England Conservatory of Music, to small liberal arts colleges such as Rhodes College, to medium-sized national research university such as Tulane. Additionally, according to recent data from the New York Times, the colleges with the highest average merit award included Trinity College, with $41,980 average merit aid (95% of the tuition/fees of $44,070) and University of Richmond, with $36,860 average merit aid (85% of $43,170 tuition/fees).

When evaluating different options, however, keep in mind that merit scholarships can offer more than just monetary rewards. Many, such as UVA’s Jefferson Scholars offer significant enrichment opportunities – in this case, access to leadership programs, study abroad, and internships with program alumni. As with any of the college-granted scholarships, the best sources of information on these programs can be found on the college websites themselves.

State-based scholarships

State scholarships are awarded either directly by your college through state-based programs or via local scholarships, and are another very common way to earn merit aid. Resources such as Cappex and Fastweb can help you search for opportunities particular to your state.  For example, let’s focus on New York State.

New York Scholarships: You can get scholarships just by being a resident of the Empire State… and by being a good student. The Scholarship For Academic Excellence, for example, is intended for students who will attend a New York college, and is based on the results of the Regents exam.

Additionally, many scholarships in New York and elsewhere pay particular attention to applicants pursuing certain high demand fields. The NYS STEM Incentive Program, for example, provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school. Note though, that this scholarship (like many others of its kind) comes with conditions: awarded students must often either remain in the state or work in their particular field, for a certain period of time. In the above example, students must pursue a STEM major and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for five years after graduation.

Corporate Scholarships

Many of America’s largest and most profitable corporations sponsor high-paying scholarships for high-achieving students. Every year, for example, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards 250 achievement-based scholarships for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The top 50 are designated as National Scholars and receive $20,000 while the remaining 200 are designated as Regional Scholars and receive awards of $10,000.  Likewise, the Discover Scholarship Program offers an average award of $30,000 to 10 students who demonstrate leadership and community service in the face of adversity, and who have a GPA of at least 2.75. Others have more subjective standards, such as the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway, which is based on video submissions, and awards $100,000 dollars to students with creativity and unique personal stories.

In additional, there are a large number of merit scholarship opportunities from private non-profits. For example, you’re probably already familiar with the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards three types of scholarships based on PSAT/NMSQT scores: National Merit, corporate-sponsored, and college-sponsored. Additionally, the  Ayn Rand Institute is a very well-known foundation that sponsors annual essay contests based on a variety of Rand’s books, awarding generous scholarships to those with the strongest essays.

Online resources such as Cappex and Fastweb are a great way to find all these opportunities, whether they’re offered by states, colleges, corporations, or foundations. They boast impressive and up-to-date databases of well-established scholarships in every subject – from engineering to art – as well as listings of some of the more obscure (see, for example, the Victor Bailliet Scholarship in Sugar Technology).  No matter how esoteric or unique your interests, abilities and background may be, these sites are a terrific way to search for and find scholarship sources.

There are thousands of potential merit scholarships for you beyond what we’ve mentioned here. For more guidance and information, contact Collegiate Gateway.  We’re always happy to help.

Surprising News about Affordable Colleges

With the student debt crisis at the forefront of social and political debate – and tuition growing ever higher – students and families are increasingly concerned about the costs of attending college. More and more, pundits and families alike are evaluating colleges based on data regarding graduates’ earnings.  Payscale, for example, ranks institutions based on the  “potential financial return of attending each school given the cost of tuition and the payoff in median lifetime earnings associated with each school.” Similarly, more and more discussion has emerged regarding the profitability of certain majors, and the purpose of higher education generally has been called into question.  For example, the Thiel Fellowships pay students to pursue scientific and technological research and entrepreneurship in lieu of going to college.

Students still interested in going to college, however, should take note of newly released data indicating that the most affordable college options may be, surprising, the Ivy League. According to statistics from U.S. News & World Report, many of the best colleges in the country are relative steals for the lucky few who earn admission. For example, among Princeton University students who graduate with debt, the average is $5,096 total for all four years – the lowest sum for alumni leaving a national university with debt. In fact, on average, students receiving financial aid from the Ivy League paid about a quarter of the sticker price.

Moreover, most graduates leave with smaller (sometimes significantly smaller) debts than peers who attended less selective schools; some of the schools sending graduates out into the world shouldering the greatest debt burdens are campuses that don’t top the rankings and best-of lists, like Sacred Heart, and Delaware State. Among students who took on debt during college, those who graduated from Massachusetts’ Wheelock College, for example, ended up deepest in the red, by an average of about $50,000.

If that seems surprising, consider that the biggest-name universities are also those who receive the greatest amount of funding from successful graduates, with 66 universities possessing endowments topping $1 billion each. They often use these endowments to offset the cost of admissions, providing generous help to lower- and middle-income students.  For example, Harvard University uses its $30 billion endowment to provide 59% of its students with need-based aid, reducing the average cost to $15,486, a 73% discount.

So, the best financial deal for you may be to apply to schools you would not have expected – of course, you need to qualify academically in addition to qualifying for financial aid. Acceptance rates at Ivy League and other top-tier universities hover at around 10 percent or less.