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  • Writer's pictureDina

How Many Students Get in Top 50 Schools Every Year?

American Ivy League Schools enjoy worldwide reputation. The applicant pool grows larger and larger every year, and so the acceptance rate also gets lower and lower. In this past application cycle, the 8 Ivy League schools are expected to have received more than 400k applications. The University of Pennsylvania alone reported received nearly 55,000 applications, 15,000 more than two years ago. With so many applications, acceptance rates have dropped significantly, and Harvard's acceptance rate has dropped all the way to 3.14%.

Ivy League College Acceptance Rates in the Past 3 Years

As a matter of fact, it’s not just the Ivy League schools. Other Top 30 and Top 50 universities on the US News list have also seen new lows in their acceptance rates.

Among applicants, the popularity of the US News top 50 private universities, especially the top 20 private universities, has not diminished. At the same time, the diminishing admission rates of these well-known universities have also attracted more public attention, which in turn attracts even more applicants in the following year. This vicious cycle is why we always feel that college application is getting more competitive and difficult every year.

It is worth noting that as a statistic, acceptance rate can sometimes be misleading. A simple example, let’s say:

Student A has a 4.0 GPA4.0, got 1580 on SAT, and has a diverse list of extracurricular activities.

Student B has a 3.7 GPA, got 1450 on SAT, and has done some decent, above-average quality extracurricular activities.

If these two students apply to the same school, their individual acceptance rates are not the same. According to an earlier report, at Harvard, a student from low-income family with very good grades have a 24% chance of admission, 9 percent higher than other applicants (back in the days, Harvard's acceptance rate was still quite high).

So, how many students get in Ivy League schools, Top 30, or Top 50 universities in the US every year?

We surveyed the enrollment numbers of Ivy League schools, top 30 schools, top 50 schools and top 100 schools, along with the number of new undergraduate students from National Center for Education Statistics that year. Below is the final chart:

The number of Ivy League students is simply pitiful. Let's take another look at freshman admission of freshmen.

According to reports from NCES, there were a total of 3,415,830 U.S. high school graduates this year, up from 3,392,510 last year. Of those who graduated last year, 62.4% (2,116,631) chose to attend university.

Meanwhile, the total number of freshmen at the Ivy League schools last year was 15,864:

Divide the number of Ivy League freshmen (15,864) by the total number of college freshmen of the year (2,116,631), we get: 0.75%.

One more calculation: the actual number of freshmen at Top 20 universities last year was 37,882;

Divide the number of freshmen in the top 20 (37,882) by the total number of freshmen in that year (2,116,631), we get:


The chances are really slim. Although parents always expect their children to apply and get in top universities, in reality, the vast majority of applicants won’t make it into these schools during the freshman application.

The number of students at Top 50 universities accounts for only 12% of the total number of incoming college students. Overall, even if a school is ranked Top 100 in the US and regarded as a "safety school" by many applicants, only 1/4 of all students can be admitted.

College admissions are becoming more brutally competitive by the year, and it is not just the Top 20 schools. There has been a lot of surprises with Top 50 schools as well. The University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Irvine are putting an insane amount of applicants into the waitlists, and Northeastern University’s Boston campus acceptance rate has also dropped to 7% this year...

The increasing competitiveness of college applications is caused by several factors, one of them being the surge in the number of applications received. There are also factors on the universities’ side, such as when the yield rate (the ratio of students who choose to enroll after admitted) is too high, and more students choose to enroll than expected.

According to data published by Northeastern University, historically the number of enrollments has remained steadily around 2,800-3,000 freshmen. Last year, more than 4,500 accepted students chose to enroll, and the campus is struggling to accommodate them all. This certainly won’t be an isolated incident. In recent years, there have been multiple factors affecting admission policies and processes, making the situation ever more complicated and unpredictable.

Surely, we never define a child's future by the reputation of the university he or she attends. Through our experience working with students and their families, we have seen many students making progress and accomplishing milestones towards their long term goals through persistent hard work and consistent planning. At Enlighteens, our team is dedicated to helping students at every stage of planning and applications, and we work with students and families to make progress with the bigger picture in mind.

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