College Acceptance Rates Are Even Lower Than You Think

College Acceptance Rates Are Even Lower Than You Think

If you or your child are applying to college, you know that competition is fierce. Students are applying to more schools than ever before, and in just the last few years alone, acceptance rates have fallen off a cliff. 

Take Boston University, for example. For the high school graduating class of 2015, the acceptance rate was 32%. Fast forward to the graduating class of 2021, and the acceptance rate is 18%. This steep drop is partially due to factors relating to COVID and test-optional policies, but the rates were steadily dropping even before the pandemic, by as much as a few percentage points each year.

But here’s the trickiest thing: anytime you look up a school’s acceptance rate, it probably won’t be accurate for the year that you apply. Since rates are going down every single year, you need to assume that the rate will be even lower for the next year. 

So for example, if you were a student applying for Boston University this past year, you might have assumed the acceptance rate was 18%, but the acceptance rate for the incoming freshman class of 2022 was an all-time low of 14%. (To put that number in perspective, Cornell University had a regular decision acceptance rate of 14.5% in 2016.) And yet, if you Googled “Boston University acceptance rate” right now, it comes up as 20.1%, because search engines often pull from news articles that are a year old or more.

In a little more than half a decade, BU has reached Ivy League levels of selectivity, and they’re not alone. This trend applies across the board, and will continue next year and the year after that. So if you’re applying to schools this year, you’ll need to research the most up-to-date acceptance rates and factor this trend into your decision-making process.

When applying to college, you can’t tell the future. But you can do your research, observe trends, and make the most informed decisions possible. If you'd like to learn more about the college application process, click here.

-Janey Tracey
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