While Most College’s Enrollment Is Plummeting, Some Receive Record Number Of Applicants

While college enrollment is plummeting in general, these select schools are seeing soaring rates of college applicants.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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college applicants

College enrollment, in general, is down and continuing to drop. There are many factors contributing to this trend, but while most universities are struggling to fill teaching positions and increase their student body, some elite schools are experiencing an influx of college applicants eager to enroll in their degree programs. What do they all have in common? These institutes of learning are all prestigious selective schools, which means acceptance rates are decreasing as well. 

Noncompetitive schools are proving less appealing to college applicants. With the rates of tuition increasing, student loan interest rates continuing to climb, and the added expenses of a failing economy, students are having to be more careful of which universities they seek out. Furthermore, college alternatives are proving to be a lucrative path to success for many young adults as the worker shortage affects most areas of the country. Many on-the-job training programs and trade schools are offering quicker returns at a lower cost and drawing more interest as colleges constantly make headlines for pushing one-sided politics and adding course requirements that have little or nothing to do with specific degree programs. 

Despite this, elite universities are still drawing interest. While the majority of college applicants have turned away from lesser schools, they have continued to apply to prestigious institutions, and are finding more competition than ever. In addition, they’re admitting more students, but rejecting higher numbers as well based on the influx of college applicants. Harvard admitted 3.19% of students who applied which is 7% higher than last year, while Yale has a slightly higher acceptance rate of 4.47% and also accepted 7% more students than previously. Dartmouth increased its acceptance rate by 6.2%, but Brown displayed the largest increase which went up by 9%, the highest in the school’s history. 

While this offers more opportunities for college applicants, it barely matches the increase in interest. In 2020 Brown experienced a 20% increase in applicants and Harvard witnessed a whopping 42% increase. With so many students viewing for admittance, rejections have been plentiful. 

So what changed to encourage college applicants to seek acceptance at these elite colleges? Due to the pandemic, many universities — even elite colleges — dropped standardized testing requirements. Without the need to produce top SAT and/or ACT scores students who otherwise would have been deterred found a new pathway to success opened. In addition, top universities have been working to further access to minority students in an effort to afford more diversity on campus. Students who wouldn’t generally have applied are being encouraged to seek out schools which are eager to expand their cultural relations. 

college applicants

Combined with a lagging interest in smaller colleges, the expanded admissions processes with less testing standards have led college applicants to attempt to enter degree programs at elite colleges. Although this has resulted in a higher rate of rejections, these universities have taken this opportunity to allow more students into the schools. Record numbers of applicants have flooded prestigious colleges proving that although enrollment is down in general, receiving a higher education is still a goal of many young adults.