How Low Can College Acceptance Rates Go?

October 05, 2014

Right now, millions of high school seniors are tossing and turning, wondering where to apply to college and how to improve their chances of getting in. Last year saw a record number of applicants. As Richard Pena of the New York Times pointed out: “Colleges are, inevitably, rejecting a vast majority, including legions of students they once would have accepted.” No matter what people do, they are having problems getting into college.

The big question is, why is this happening?  It’s a vicious cycle, says Bruce Poch, former Admissions Dean at Pomona College. Already low acceptance rates make applicants believe it is a “crapshoot” to get into their dream college. This causes kids to apply to more colleges, and it increases the amount of applications. This mass of applications further decreases the acceptance rate into college.

How many colleges are affected by the cycle? 95% of college applicants to Stanford will be rejected this year. This year’s rate of acceptances for the University of California Los Angeles and University of California Berkeley could drop below 20%. A dozen colleges already have admission rates below 10%. Even Stanford’s Dean of Admissions admitted he never could have predicted such low rates.

What can you do as an applicant? The increasing competition means more important than ever to differentiate yourself. The essay section is increasingly important - especially the “why us” essay, where colleges ask why you want to attend their school. This is how they screen applicants to make sure the student actually wants to go there and doesn’t see the school as a safety.

Don’t get lost in the numbers. Remember that people are still getting in. To see how you compare, read the application files of accepted students and contact them to learn about their process.



Browse Successful Application Files

hulya559
Harvard ‘21


Accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, Emory, USC

Hi! I'm a Harvard PreFrosh interested in service, economics, math, and philosophy excited to help you.
bwill
Williams ‘21


Accepted to Williams, Claremont (CMC), Amherst, Swarthmore, Pitzer, Northwestern, Tufts, WashU, Grinnell, Rice, Emory, LMU, Wesleyan

I’m an Econ & Bio major who’s passionate about STEM, social issues, and design. As a transfer, I learned a lot from navigating this hectic process twice, and I’m excited to help!
littlegreentre…
Stanford ‘19


Accepted to Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, Yale, Brown, UPenn, Columbia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Swarthmore, Barnard, Wellesley, Duke, NYU, BU

overly ambitious, passionately curious, helplessly perfectionistic
katiesawildcat
Northwestern ‘23


Accepted to Northwestern

Optimist, dancer, artist, & biologist. EDed NU.

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