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

Isandres2
Williams ‘19


Accepted to Utah, Colorado, Colby, Williams, SMCVT

Hi! I go by Izi and I am a current student at Williams College Class of 2019. I hope to be a biology or sociology major with a neuroscience concentration. I am on the NCAA Division 1 alpine ski team here.
hannah626
Duke ‘18


Accepted to UGA

I am a current junior at Duke studying biology, marine science, and markets and management studies
tifstar1997
Cornell ‘19


Accepted to Cornell, CMU, Northwestern, JHU, UCSD, UCSB, UC Irvine

Cornell Engineering '19
Ves_Nanov
Dartmouth ‘20


Accepted to Dartmouth, Vassar, Kenyon, UVA

I am an incoming freshman from Bulgaria. I have spent one year as an exchange student in Chicago and look forward to returning to the States this fall.

New Posts

Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
December 05, 2018

The Common Application asks students to choose from 7 essay prompts, each asking for a different type of essay. Prompt #5, which was the most popular prompt amongst applicants from last season, focuses on personal growth. Read...

Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
September 17, 2018

Drafted your personal statement and ready to get started on your supplemental essays? Here are the supplemental essay prompts for Dartmouth College.Dartmouth College requires two additional pieces of writing on top of the Common...

What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
September 14, 2018

For many families, the only way to afford a college education is for their student to receive some financial aid. An athletic scholarship is one way that can help lower the price. Here’s what...

Load More Posts