College Applications Continue to Rise…

…which means competition for colleges is also on the rise. Ivy League schools in particular are receiving record numbers of applications, some with double-digit percentage increases for the second year in a row.

According to a article, “Competition for colleges increasing as applications rise,” 1.5 million students apply to four-year colleges every year. This year, about one in 50 of those students applied to Harvard. Last year, Harvard only accepted 6.9% of its applicants. With a limited number of seats per class, it makes sense that as more applicants believe they deserve a spot, the more rejections there will be. (This year Harvard received close to 35,000 applications, an almost 15% increase.)

One reason for the boom in applications is the recent increased generosity of financial aid packages at the Ivies and other elite schools. A Chronicle of Higher Education article indicates that in the 2008-2009 academic year, 79% of first-time, full-time undergrads received financial aid, up 3% from the year before. 40% of these students received Pell Grants.

Harvard is one such school that offers a generous financial aid package. 70% of Harvard undergraduates receive financial aid; families with annual income below $60,000 are not required to pay tuition at all, while those who earn up to $180,000 will pay no more than 10% of their income towards tuition.

At Penn, even high-income families qualify for financial aid—more than 100 students from families with an annual income of more than $190,000 received, on average, $16,000 in financial aid. Penn also has a no-loans policy in place.

Other contributing factors to the application boom include an improving economy, an increase of international applicants, an increase in applicants from California and the Southwest, the fact that students are applying to more schools, and increased competitiveness among high school students.

Although not cited in this article, the sheer ease of applying to multiple schools using the Common Application is frequently considered a contributing factor in the soaring application numbers. ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Linda Abraham is the founder and president of, which she founded in 1994.