As the current group of high school seniors is securely admitted to university as the class of 2018, next year seniors look forward to be admitted as the class 2019, more worried than ever about their chances to be admitted to a selective Ivy League university. The 2018 admission rates for the "Elite Eight" coveted Ivy League universities; Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University are the lowest ever at a rounded out average of 8.93 percent, with 22,624 admitted out of at total of 253,472 applications. Most saw some of the largest numbers of applicants in their university's history. The New York Times determined that the numbers mean "competition for spots at top universities is more cutthroat and anxiety-inducing than ever."
However, it was an elite university out of the Ivy League and in the west coast that topped as the most selective with the lowest admission rate. Stanford University beat out Harvard to claim the title with an admission rate of 5.07 percent. Stanford boasted of having the "lowest admit rate in University history." Their Director of Undergraduate Admission Colleen Lim stated that it was due to a rise in applications; "Stanford's reputation of excellence around the globe has most certainly impacted our application numbers. As an example, on Wednesday, March 26, we posted a blog on our admission page to announce our decision release date - in less than two days, the admissions blog has been visited by 9,166 people from 116 countries and all 50 states."
Meanwhile according the New York Times Harvard and Yale have a 6 percent rate, Columbia and Princeton at 7 percent, and other elite universities not in the Ivy League such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago are admitting 8 percent of their applicants. The numbers are a sharp contrast from nearly 10 years ago in 2005 when Stanford accepted 13 percent and Harvard 11 percent of the applicants, and those were the lowest admission rates at the time.
The admission rates at other selective universities and colleges also lowered this year. The cause for the lower rates, progressively rising number of applicants; more students are applying. The actual number of students being accepted is not changing as much as the number of applicants. Students are applying to more universities because they see the admissions rates are lower, they are taking risks by applying to the Ivies and then applying to more safety schools. Each the year the "vicious cycle" continues.
Even with the decreasing acceptance rates there are exceptions like the story of Kwasi Enin, 17, a Long Island, New York student aspiring to be both a musician and doctor attending William Floyd, a public high school that applied and was accepted to all eight Ivy League universities. Enin, whose parents are nurses from Ghana, possessed all the elements that are now appealing to Ivy League admissions. As for his academic profile he ranked in top 2 percent of his class, number 11 of 647 students in his grade, he scored 2,250 out of 2,400 points in the SAT putting him in the 98th percentile country wide and the 99th percentile of African American students. Enin's extra-curricular activities were just as stellar; an accomplished musician playing three instruments who participates in chamber orchestra, an a cappella group, track and field, student government, schools plays and volunteers in a hospital.
Enin wants to major in biomedical engineering, but also wants to academically pursue his music. Enin spoke to CNN about being surprised of his rare feat; "I applied knowing that going to any of the Ivy League schools would be wonderful. I thought if I applied to all eight, I figured I'd get into one ... but from the first one onwards I said, 'This can't be happening!' I was shocked seeing all these acceptances under my name." In the end, Enin chose next fall to go to Yale after visiting the campus making the announcement on May 1, at a press conference in his school's gym. The mere fact that he applied to all eight universities is unusual, with the New York Times pointing out that "admissions professionals say it is remarkable that anyone would apply to all eight."
The increase in applicants comes from middle and upper class private students, plus there are more lower income students that are applying with application fee waivers and hoping for an increased number of scholarships and financial aid packages that are available. Harvard's Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons explained why there is a larger application pool; "Harvard's revolutionary financial aid program led a large number of our admitted students to apply. Many were surprised to learn that for 90 percent of American families it costs the same or less to come to Harvard compared to public universities." Yale's Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan also commented that "This year's group of admitted students includes more students from 'virtually every underrepresented group in higher education.'" As a result of the different socio-economic applicant pool, most of the Ivies accepted the most diverse class year in their admissions history with a rise of African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American students accepted for the class of 2018.
Additionally, the fact that the majority of the universities use online The Common Application "makes it easier" for students to apply to even more universities and from all 50 states and countries worldwide. Stanford's dean of undergraduate admission Richard H. Shaw explained that with everything online the world and distance have shrunk; "For most kids, this really used to be a regional process, but they have access to so much information online now, so every school seems local." While admission rates are falling, so are enrollment rates, they "peaked" in 2011, and have been falling, which means at some point if they continue falling admission rates would rise again.
There is an obsession with the Ivy League and applicants are of the opinion that the better the school the better their chances for graduates school and career success. The correlation is not necessarily the same. However, it is because of these perceptions that high school seniors and their parents are in a frenzy over admissions rates, but the rates do not necessarily determine if an individual student will be admitted into the exclusive club. The Washington Post noted that; "Every student wants to know: What are my chances? Admission rates don't really convey what the chances are for an individual applicant, but they usually reflect something about a college's position in the hotly competitive market."
With the Ivy League becoming further out-of-reach university admission officers and counselors are trying to allay concerns future applicants will have by downplaying the importance of attending an Ivy. The dean of admission at Princeton University Janet Lavin Rapelye advised upcoming seniors to be more concerned with finding the best university for them, as opposed to applying to the desired eight. Rapelye expressed; "Absolutely, It takes the focus off of what everybody should be focusing on, which is finding the right fit and finding the right match. The admit rate is just one of many, many measures that can happen in a year. But it doesn't begin to explain or identify the best matches."
There was some exceptions to the lower rate trend, the admission rate at Dartmouth College, there the number actually rose. Dartmouth received fewer applications than last year accounting for the higher admission rate from 10 to 11.5 percent. The 14 percent less applicants was as the Washington Post described it "the largest application drop for Dartmouth in 21 years." The drop in applications was mostly due to the fact that the university has been accused of "fail[ing] to combat sexual violence on campus." Dartmouth's Dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris stated; "We are doing some work to understand why," part of which was instituting a "sexual assault disciplinary policy." Harvard and Columbia University also had slightly higher admission rates due to a slight drop in applications.
On the opposite rate of the spectrum the University of Pennsylvania's admission rate fell from 12 percent to 9.9 percent, the most among the Ivies due to a raise in applicants. Penn created a partnership with KIPP Public Charter Schools, which resulted in an increase of low income applicants with 7,000 application fee waiver requests. While the remaining four universities only saw a minor dips in their admission rates, with Yale seeing their largest number of applications and the first time topped more than 30,000 applications. The fact however, that the admission rates are lower and the lowest the universities ever experienced is what makes the news and causes the frenzy.
Here is a breakdown of the Ivy League's admission rates for the class of 2018, and last year for the class of 2017:
- Brown University: 2,619 admitted; 30,432 applications (4 percent increase than 2013); admission rate: 8.6 percent (9.2%, 2013)
- Columbia University: 2,291 admitted; 32,952 applications (1.5% decrease from 2013); rate: 6.9 percent (6.89%, 2013)
- Cornell University: 6,014 admitted; 43,041 applications; rate: 14.0 percent (15.2%, 2013)
- Dartmouth College: 2,220 admitted; 19,235 applications; rate: 11.5 percent (10%, 2013)
- Harvard University: 2,023 admitted; 34,295 applications (1.9% decrease from 2013); rate: 5.9 percent (5.8%, 2013)
- Princeton University: 1,939 admitted; 26,607 applications (0.4% increase than 2013); rate: 7.28 percent (7.29% 2013)
- University of Pennsylvania: 3,583 admitted; 35,788 applications (14.7% increase than 2013); rate: 9.9 percent (12.1%, 2013)
- Yale University: 1,935 admitted; 30,932 applications (4.4% increase than 2013); rate: 6.26 percent, (6.72%, 2013)
The breakdown of the admission rates at other elite universities for the class of 2018:
- Stanford University: 2,138 admitted; 42,167 applications (8.6% increase than 2013); 5.1 percent
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 1,419 admitted; 18,357 applications; 7.7 percent
- University of Chicago: 2,304 admitted; 27,503 applications (9.5% decrease from 2013); 8.38 percent
The number of wait listed is not included, while total number applications are not defined as complete or partial.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are academic & universities news, particularly history & library news.