Applications for the upcoming fall semester are soaring at elite institutions.
While some institutions are struggling to find interested students, Harvard, Brown, Tufts and other elite universities are reporting that their admissions applications have soared to record numbers, topping 100,000 for the first time.
Why? In the process of reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools instituted a number of changes in its admissions process, including making standardized test scores optional, increasing financial aid and pushing back its application deadline. The decision has presented an opportunity for students who may have considered it a barrier to being accepted.
As a result, per University Business, the Harvard Crimson reported late last week that Harvard University has seen a 42% rise in applications – to a record 57,000 overall. For many hopeful students, that doesn’t mean they have any better chance of getting in, even with scores being test optional. More than 10,000 of those applied for early action during the fall and less than 8% were accepted, the lowest in Harvard’s history. Another Ivy League School, Brown University in Rhode Island, also has enjoyed this cycle and the pool of students to choose from. The Brown Daily Herald reported that more than 46,000 applied for entry to the university, topping last year’s mark by 10,000. For Tufts University outside Boston, the change was so significant that Tufts Now reported that this cycle is the first in which American students of color outpaced white students, as applications from Latinx students increased by 42%, and Black students rose by nearly 40%. American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders soared by 35%. Applications from Black students, according to the campus publication, have soared by almost 90% since 2018.
Applications rise, but what about enrollment?
Getting into college has always been a numbers game, but with the pandemic, the math got trickier.
CNBC reported that while the number of total applicants hit a record high for Harvard, early action acceptance rate sank to 7.4% from 13.9%.
Early acceptances at other highly selective schools, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College, played out in a similar way, CNBC adds.
At Yale, applications jumped 38% — also a record high — and the acceptance rate fell to 11% from 14% a year earlier. Like Harvard, there were more than 340 students accepted into the class of 2024 who elected to take gap years. At Penn, the acceptance rate among early applicants fell to 15% from 20% in 2019, while first-year students who opted to defer filled up 200 of the available spots for next year. (About 50 students typically take a gap year at Penn. In 2020, the number jumped roughly 300%, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda.)
Dartmouth experienced a 29% increase in applications from last year — another all-time high — and accepted 21%, down from last year’s 26%. At Dartmouth, 172 students admitted to the Class of 2024 chose to defer enrollment for a year.
“Due to the impact of Covid-19 on college admissions, we are seeing a squeeze on selectivity at the most elite U.S. universities,” said Hafeez Lakhani, president of New York-based Lakhani Coaching.