Q&A: Why do college acceptance rates keep dropping each year?


Q: Why do college acceptance rates keep dropping each year?

A: The experts say that admissions rates (i.e. the percentage of applicants who get offers of admission) are falling at colleges across the U.S. because prospective students are applying to more schools than they used to, while the number of available spots hasn’t really picked up.

With tools like the Common App and the Coalition App, applicants can apply for many more colleges than students used to be able to when you had to write each application by hand. Today, an applicant can virtually apply to 20 schools by just clicking a few buttons. More applications sent, means more applications received. So, it’s not that colleges are admitting fewer students, but rather more prospective students are applying, and the number of students colleges have accepted has either remained the same or grown over recent decades. As an example of this phenomenon, I’ll point out that for the Class of 2016 Stanford received 30,751 Regular Decision (RD) applications. This past admissions cycle, for the Class of 2023, the school received over 40,000 RD applications for the freshman class.

Plus, there has been increased financial uncertainty among families as tuition costs rise exponentially as well as a growing emphasis on name recognition, which both push applicants to apply to a higher number of schools in order to lessen the risk of being stuck with the pricey or less prestigious option for undergrad.