Are College Admissions Becoming More Competitive?

We get asked all of the time by our students and families, “Are college admissions becoming more competitive?” The answer is yes, and no, and possibly. We know, not very definitive – but read on to understand our thought process.

What We Know About the College Admissions 2022

• More than 6.5 million applications were submitted to 900+ Common App schools through mid-February 2022 (which is essentially at or past the deadline of most schools).
• This number was up by 9% from the previous year, after an increase of 10% the year prior.
• Applicants are applying to more schools this year than they did before the pandemic.
• Most schools went test-optional through the 2022 graduation cycle and many more are continuing through at least the 2023 cycle. Read our blog How Optional is Test Optional.
• Northeast colleges are seeing very limited growth in applications being submitted, in the single digits. Most states are seeing more significant growth in the 10 – 20% range. Texas is up 40% and South Carlins up 61%. Wow!
• Students submitting test scores is up from the previous year (the 1st year of the pandemic) to 48% but significantly lower than before the pandemic, which was at 76%. A note to add: a greater percentage of male students are submitting test scores (53%) vs. female (44%).

As we continue to get the college admissions results from the 2022 high school graduates, we gather and surmise what is occurring in the college admissions world. Certainly, there are some outcomes that are very predictable (yes, continue to read on) and others that are ever-changing as we head down this murky road.

Predictable College Admissions Trends

Highly selective colleges/universities (the Ivy League or the like) continue to be, and are even more so, as selective and crazy difficult to gain acceptance to as ever. Yes, they were insane before the pandemic. But now, double or triple that assessment as we continue to navigate the admissions probabilities in this world. Pre-pandemic, the chances of a very qualified student getting into one of these highly selective schools was what we refer to as a “Wildcard”. What does this mean? Well, you can categorize a school as a Safety (I’m sure you will get in), a Target (which means you have anywhere between a 30% – 70% chance of getting in) a Reach (which is highly unlikely but there might be a slight chance, as in 10-20% chance of acceptance) and a Wildcard (which is God knows). And we mean this for all of those students who have the goods: straight A’s, the most challenging course rigor that their school offers, near-perfect/perfect, test scores, and deep and meaningful activities.

Remember, this is the generation where everyone gets a trophy, so if Jessica has met all of the above criteria she, in turn, should deserve to get accepted to one of these highly selective schools. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This is one of the biggest fallacies that exist and one that can cause incredible devastation, as well as set up a student (and parent) for failure. Crushing. Some families, who have a child that just doesn’t meet the level of student that is within the realm of gaining acceptance to one of these schools will come to us and say, well, you never know, Joey should take the chance since there’s always that possibility. Well, we say to them, no, we know. Trust us. This world of highly selective admissions has not changed and, in fact, has gotten more selective, if that is even possible.

If you like getting into the nitty-gritty numbers, which we do, read Jon Boeckenstedt’s blog on Highly Rejective Colleges. You will walk away with a greater understanding of the college admissions landscape, how yield is the number you are looking for to discern what is going on, and what the scene is as we speak. It is fascinating and eye-opening.

Surprises Turns in College Admissions

What has turned over the past couple of years are the next tier of schools, those that are the tier below that crazy selective category or even the tier below that. More students are applying to these schools, making these schools’ acceptance rates decrease. As a result, these schools are becoming increasingly difficult to get into. Five years ago, gaining acceptance to the University of Miami or Tulane was still in the selective category but their acceptance rates have decreased excessively over these past few years making it that much harder for highly qualified students to gain acceptance.

This year, we have seen more surprises in increased selectivity from schools that are still excellent universities but their current admissions decisions from this 2022 cycle were astounding. The one that comes to mind is the University of Maryland, which is an excellent institution and has been accessible to higher-level students without question. In 2022, students of that qualified level where it would have been a no-brainer for them to get accepted in previous years were denied or waitlisted. Astonishing! Same with Ohio State! There have also been shifts at Northeastern, which is a very selective university. In previous years, all of our very highly qualified students would gain acceptance in Northeastern’s early action pool. This year, a few of our students were accepted but many were deferred, meaning that they will need to wait until the regular decision admissions come out to see if they will gain acceptance. And, at this point, many are waitlisted or flat-out rejected.

On the flip side, for many schools, the results were the same as in previous years. Where we thought a student would gain acceptance, they did, and our colleagues have confirmed this as well.

What Does All This Mean?

What you should understand is that there are still many schools out there that are vying for applicants who will accept their acceptances so they make their yield, the number of students that a school budgets for to attend the following fall (A VERY important number for most every college!). Trust us when we say that where you go is not who you will be. You make your life what it is and what road you travel, which definitely will be windy and come with plenty of surprises. And always be 100% sure that you have 1-2 schools on your list that you KNOW you will get into and you KNOW you will be happy to attend. This is the golden rule you have to live by during your college admissions journey.

College Admissions Competitiveness in 2022 Takeaway

So when you ask if college admissions are becoming more competitive, the answer is, yes, no, and possibly. As with many answers to questions, it just depends.

Please feel free to read some of our blogs on college search to find the right set of matches for you (Yes “matches” – There is no one ideal school for you, there are many). See below and click away!

How to Find the Best College for Me
How to Narrow My College Search
A Listing of All of Our Blogs

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students through Zoom, over the phone and by email.