Record-Breaking Year Increases Collegiate Selectivity


Sophia Paranzino, Editor-in-chief

Unprecedented, record-breaking, extraordinary; these are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the recent years that have been everything but normal. The pandemic has had a far-reaching impact in all aspects of our lives, and the college application process has been no exception. In light of limited access to SAT and ACT testing due to nationwide shutdowns, many colleges have made optional the submission of test scores as part of their applications. With the introduction of test-optional policies, more students than ever applied to top universities, sending application numbers skyrocketing and acceptance rates plummeting. 

Dulaney school counselor who formerly worked in college admissions, Emanda Lenet, said, “colleges are receiving double the amount of applications but their first year class sizes are not increasing, so the top schools are becoming more competitive.”

Applications rates for the class of 2025 reached record lows last year, largely due to test-optional policies. This year, however, these records were greatly surpassed. According to The Harvard Crimson, in the most recent application cycle Harvard received 61,220 applications and only admitted 1,954, for an acceptance rate of 3.19%. These numbers pose a stark contrast to pre-pandemic numbers, as for the class of 2023 they received 43,330 applications, meaning the number of applications has risen by almost 50%. 

While this data poses an extreme example from one of the country’s most competitive institutions, this nonetheless represents a larger trend happening in competitive universities across America. With such an increase in applications, acceptance rates have fallen rapidly, creating a perpetuating cycle of students applying to more schools in order to increase their chances of getting accepted, thus increasing the number of applicants in the application pool, lowering acceptance rates.

With schools continuing to implement test optional policies – Harvard has announced that testing will not be required for the next four years – it can be expected that these rates will continue to decrease. The impact of these policies has yet to be determined, with data on the success of students who applied without test scores not yet available. 

While some schools are moving away from testing as part of the application, others schools have decided that test scores are a helpful indicator of future performance in college. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had reinstated testing requirements under the belief that scores are vital in assessing the academic preparedness of students. 

The demand for acceptance to the most competitive colleges has drastically increased in the past years, meanwhile less prestigious institutions have been struggling to keep up enrollment.

Lenet said, “There are over 5,000 colleges and universities and the majority of them admit over half of their applicants. So there are so many choices, it is just that the top schools are getting harder and harder to get into.”