Why Are Acceptance Rates So Low This Year?

This spring, colleges across the nation have reported shockingly low rates of acceptances from the 2020-2021 application cycle. Ivy League schools, which have long been renowned for their selectivity, plummeted to rates between 3 to 6%. Check out the Crimson's article about Harvard's record low admissions at 3.4% and what decreasing acceptance trends mean for prestigious institutions in the long run.

The most obvious explanation is that there was simply a drastic increase in the number of applications schools received this year. With the elimination of mandatory test scores, many schools received "why not" applications from students shooting for top schools. Harvard, for example, received almost 43% more applications this year than last year. Thus, even though there were no drastic changes in the actual number of students admitted to the school, the accepted number was buffeted by a massive denominator--and resulted in the puny admissions rate we see as a result.

There was also a sense of greater accessibility to colleges in a pandemic world where costly in-person visits were replaced by virtual tours and info sessions. Online, schools were able to continue outreach efforts and encourage a broader swath students to apply. Harvard's strategy proved necessary to uphold increasing commitment to socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, which is manifest in the class of 2025. Of course, the increased exposure attains its goal of drawing in more applicants--contributing to low admissions numbers themselves.

As Harvard and many other schools seek more diversity and/or extend the optional testing strategy for another year, hikes in applicants will be inevitable. More than ever, high schoolers striving to get into the schools of their dreams will need to make themselves stand out in a larger pool of students. But good news--after conquering the admissions process ourselves, we at HSA Tutoring are here to make sure that your application only benefits from the best academic signals (grades, AP Exams, and test scores) as well as extracurricular experiences (debate, math competitions, music, or other hobbies). As always, feel free to contact us so we can help you prepare your application against these decreasing acceptance rates!

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