This year, Stanford University accepted only 5% of applicants. While enrollment is down in general, competition for spots at elite U.S. universities is on the rise. As a New York Times article reported last week, the competition is “more cutthroat and anxiety-inducing than ever.”
These top colleges are receiving more applications than they’ve ever received, and are forced to reject the vast majority of them, many of them being impressive candidates that would have been accepted if not for the deluge of applications. In fact, according to the NYT piece: “Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in.”
People are starting to look at admissions decisions as a crapshoot – one can get rejected from Stanford and accepted to Yale, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for which schools will accept and which will reject these crème de la crème students.
Some numbers (from the NYT article):
• In 2007, 315 colleges accepted the Common Application. This year, that number jumped to 517 schools.
• In 1990, only 9% of applicants applied to seven or more colleges, compared to 29% of applicants in 2011.
• This year, Stanford received 42,167 applications (for the class of 2018). 2,138 applicants were accepted. Around 1,700 will enroll as first-year students in the fall.
• UCLA received the most applications this year (more than 86,000), doubling its numbers in 2005. (This doesn’t include the 19,000 applications from transfer students.) The acceptance rate for UCLA and UC Berkeley are expected to drop below the 20% mark for the first time.
• In terms of other top school acceptance rates: Harvard and Yale accepted about 6% of applicants; Columbia and Princeton – 7%; MIT and University of Chicago – 8%. (A decade ago, Chicago’s acceptance rate was 40%!)
One critical point to remember: There are a lot of excellent colleges and universities outside the elite where the numbers are saner. Focus on fit, not ranking.