Admission Rates Drop to 3%, What’s Next?



Last Thursday was “Ivy Day,” the day Ivy League schools announce their admission decisions. This year, among all 8 Ivy League schools, only 5 choose to make their admission rates public. The rest: Princeton, Cornell and University of Pennsylvania, kept theirs secret.


Penn, for example, only provided information on the number of applications received and the expected first-year class size. But not everyone admitted actually enrollments, so there is no way of calculating the exact acceptance rate solely based on these statistics.


Applications to prestigious schools have been steadily increasing for years, and changes to admission policies such as SAT and ACT test-optional during the pandemic further spiked that growth. Acceptance rates at some of these institutions slid to the low single digits last year.


According to data from a recent Wall Street Journal article, Harvard admitted 3.2% of the 61,220 people who applied to join the fall 2022 class, edging down from 3.4% last year. On Thursday, Yale and Brown also reported record-low acceptance rates for this year, at 4.5% and 5%, respectively. Columbia and Dartmouth roughly tied last year’s rates of 3.7% and 6.2%.



Some admission officials worry that “this information raises the anxiety level of prospective students and their families and, unfortunately, may discourage some prospective students from applying.”


Through mid-March the widely used Common App received 6.64 million applications, a dramatic 21% jump from the 2019-20 school year. There were 1.18 million applicants, an increase of 14%.

One factor explaining the increases is that many schools became test-optional during the pandemic. There is also a longer-term trend at play: High-school students with high aspirations see the statistics from prior years and, concerned about getting in, decide to apply to more schools. In 2008, Stanford University stopped reporting its admission data, saying it wanted to de-emphasize the perceived value of low acceptance rates, though other schools have been slow to follow suit.


We can certainly induce the admission rate from other information made public by colleges, but the disclosure of such information may take as long as a year, if not longer. Before that information is officially published, applicants may want to consult the expertise of their school counselors or consultants.


College admission officials are probably right in predicting that students will be more scared than ever to be rejected, seeing the record low admission rates from the the 2021 application season. Some have also observed, with some pessimism, that in a competition that is getting more and more brutal by the year, the only chance to secure a spot seem to lie in putting on certain “labels”.


Contrary to what some may expect, our Harvard acceptance this year comes from a student from an ordinary middle income family in the Bay area. The student did not have a shiny profile with national awards or activities traditionally favored by first top schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, neither is she a first generation college student, a child of a low-income family, or an athlete, and she attended a non-top tier public high school.

The aforementioned observations are precisely the reasons why this particular student’s example is more valuable than ever for us. As an applicant, what set her apart is her demonstrated humility, maturity, and resilience through the application season.


At a time when anxieties threaten to take over, we should remember that what distinguishes us as not just applicants, but also life-long learners are qualities like humility, persistence, and faith in our selves. At Enlighteens, we believe that every student and every family is unique in their own ways. The purpose and value of education lies in how much progress it brings, not admission results.

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