Most Colleges Admit Most Applicants

Pew Research: “The great majority of schools, where most Americans get their postsecondary education, admit most of the people who apply to them, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Education Department data. Of the 1,364 four-year colleges and universities we looked at, 17 admitted fewer than 10% of applicants in 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available. That group includes such prestigious names as Stanford (4.7%), Harvard (5.2%), Yale (6.9%) and Northwestern (9.2%). Another 29 schools admitted between 10% and 20% of applicants, including Georgetown (15.7%), the University of Southern California (16%), UCLA (16.1%) and the University of California, Berkeley (17.1%). The extremely competitive schools amounted to 3.4% of all the colleges and universities in this analysis, and they accounted for just 4.1% of total student enrollment.”

“By contrast, more than half of the schools in our sample (53.3%) admitted two-thirds or more of their applicants in 2017, including such well-known names as St. John’s University in New York (67.7%), Virginia Tech (70.1%), Quinnipiac University (73.9%), the University of Missouri at Columbia (78.1%) and George Mason University (81.3%) … It’s true that admission rates have fallen broadly in recent years. At about 45% of the schools we examined, admission rates were at least 10% lower in 2017 than they were in 2002; there were more modest declines (between 5% and 10%) at another 8% of institutions. But rates at 16% of schools were more or less unchanged (that is, the rate in 2017 was within 5% either way of the 2002 rate), and at nearly 31% of schools, admission rates were actually higher in 2017 than 15 years earlier.”

“Falling admission rates aren’t necessarily a sign that colleges are simply being pickier about whom they admit. In large measure, rates have fallen because prospective students are applying to more schools than they used to, while the number of available spots for them has grown more slowly. In absolute numbers, schools are making more admission offers than before, but not enough to keep pace with the soaring number of applications … The expansion of the Common Application, which makes it easier for students to apply to multiple schools, doesn’t appear to be behind the increase in application volume … Although one might suspect that the ease of applying to multiple schools via the Common App would result in stronger growth in application volume among those schools, there was almost no difference in 2002-2017 growth rates between the schools that used the Common App and those that didn’t.”