Update on Admit Rates

Posted on 15th June 2022

Update on Admit Rates

At this time of year, students in Lower Sixth are considering their US college options ahead of applying in the autumn. It’s a good time to have a look at the acceptance rates at US colleges in the last cycle, with a view to managing risk. Here are the admit rates for a selection of highly selective colleges in the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 admission cycles:

CollegeAdmit Rate 2019-20Admit Rate 2020-21Admit Rate 2021-22

This table is representative of the story of US admissions the last two years, when applications to highly selective colleges grew by 25% and put downward pressure on acceptance rates. At several highly selective Ivy League institutions, such as Brown and Harvard, the already low admit rate has dropped by a third in two years. And even colleges such as Northeastern and Tufts, which two years ago had admit rates of 20.5% and 15.0%, respectively, were both in single digits for the last cycle.

So why has this happened?

In some ways this trend has happened by accident and was a by-product of the widespread relaxation of testing requirements because of the pandemic. Test optional policies have served universities’ agendas in different ways: they have made it more straightforward to apply, enabled the recruitment of more diverse classes and a higher percentage of first generation students, but also kept their admit rate low (a crucial metric for US News rankings). Some colleges, including MIT, have reintroduced the requirement of an SAT or ACT score for the 2022-23 admissions cycle, so we might expect to see a slight increase in the admit rate for MIT next year. However, for the other highly selective colleges who do not require testing, the “new normal” is going to be that we see a continuation of the extremely low acceptance rates in 2020-21 and 2021-22. It’s therefore unlikely that most highly selective colleges will move away from test optional policies any time soon, and therefore we have to assume that admit rates will stay low.

What are the implications for students?

In this highly competitive environment, it’s really important that students do a few things to tilt the odds in their favour. Here are our top recommendations for how to navigate the process:

  • Have a balanced list. If you only apply to hyper-selective colleges, don’t be surprised if you don’t get any offers! By including not just “aspirational” colleges but also “match” and “likely” colleges with a more forgiving admit rate, you can hugely increase your chances of getting multiple offers. There are many fantastic US options and it just doesn’t make sense to focus only on the most rejective colleges. Look at groupings such as the AAU, Hidden Ivies, and College That Change Lives for inspiration.
  • Be strategic with your early applications. Applying via an early application, particularly via a binding Early Decision application, often gives you a significant bump in your chances of admission. Focusing in one of your colleges where you’re willing to commit if admitted, are a great fit for the programme and community, and where your application will be competitive, will boost your chances of acceptance at one of your top choices.
  • Don’t fixate on one college. There are many places where you can have a great experience as an undergraduate. Try not to define success and failure in terms of your acceptance to one college in particular. The goal of the process should be to give yourself college options where you would thrive in different areas of your life: academic, social, and career opportunity. Come next April, you should be in the happy position of choosing between several excellent colleges (unless you’re admitted via Early Decision).

To explore ways UES could support you with your application, please see our website pages on college counselling here and contact our office at info@ueseducation.com

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