Applications Up but Acceptances Down at Top Colleges

Grace Anne McKenna, Editor in Chief

May 1 has already flown by, but many seniors still feel the impact of the highly competitive college admissions process of 2019. This year saw the most applicants to the best colleges. Amid the competition, acceptance rates at top colleges are dropping. All this puts more pressure on high school students than ever before.  

Shifting societal expectations over the past few decades have forced college to become a priority, even a necessity, for many students today. While not everyone pursues a college education after high school, numerous teens each year find themselves participating in the application process throughout their four years of high school. The New York Times claims that as acceptance rates become smaller, students apply to more colleges to maximize their chances.

Decreasing acceptance rates occurred mainly at the universities involved in the college admissions bribery scandal earlier this year. The University of Southern California, former home to Youtube star Olivia Jade, dropped its acceptance rate to 11%. The Daily Trojan reported that this was 2% decrease from last year and the lowest rate in USC’s history. According to CNN, Yale University’s acceptance rate dropped to 5.9% despite receiving its largest applicant pool, a record high of 36,843, in the past four years.

According to Business Student, The University of Chicago’s acceptance rate has decreased by 81.1% from 2006 to 2018. UChicago is followed by Northwestern (73.8%), Duke (72.2%), Georgia Tech (68.1%), and Johns Hopkins (67.0%).

Niche reports that the top five most difficult schools to gain acceptance to this year included Harvard University, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Yale University, and Princeton University. While these rankings differ amongst reportings, these universities were some of the most competitive schools in 2019.

A more positive change is that the average SAT and ACT scores were extremely high in the applicant pool this year. Students have found better strategies to endure and perform well on these standardized tests. While GPA, college essays, and extracurricular activities do play a role in application reviews, great emphasis on test performance remains prevalent.

More and more students strive to outperform their competitors each year to gain admission to the nation’s most elite universities. Most students dream of reading the word “Congratulations” in an acceptance letter from their top pick, but greater competition has made this reality more distant. Increasing numbers of applicants amid decreasing acceptance rates puts more pressure on rising high school students. Meanwhile, we are left to predict if these trends will continue in years to come or if lower acceptance rates was a temporary consequence of this year’s scandal.