Are Colleges Accepting More Students in 2020?


In the wake of covid-19, colleges have closed campuses and students have moved back home to complete coursework. While it would be nice to say that everything will return to normal once classes start again in August, admissions officers recognize that there are lingering uncertainties that will undoubtedly affect how students weigh their acceptances. That said, acceptance rate trends this year have revealed some interesting changes, especially with regards to Ivy League admissions.

So, to answer the question, are colleges accepting more students in 2020? Yes and no!

Yes, Ivy League colleges overall have accepted more students in 2020 than in 2019.

Some Ivy League colleges have seen surprising jumps in acceptances. For example, Yale increased from 5.9% last year to 6.5% this year. Dartmouth rose from 7.9% to 8.8%. And Columbia jumped a whole percentage point: 5.1% to 6.1%. In fact, the only Ivy that maintained the trend of lower acceptance rates is Princeton, which decreased from 5.8% to 5.6%.

No, public colleges have accepted fewer students in 2020 than in 2019.

Unlike the Ivies, some public universities have maintained the downward trend of acceptance rates, and some have jumped noticeably from 2019 to 2020. For instance, University of Virginia decreased its acceptance rate from 24.3% to 20.5%, doubling the decrease in its rate from 2018 to 2019.

This trend for public colleges is striking because some top-tier private colleges, including MIT, Rice, UChicago, Vanderbilt, and Duke, have increased their acceptance rates.

What does this mean for the future?

Because the Ivies are concerned about their yield numbers (who actually enrolls from the acceptances), which affects their US News college ranking and overall popularity, they have accepted more students. Just think, they want a high yield, which means accepting more students to reach that number, knowing that not all of the students will actually enroll. This most likely will continue into the next admissions cycle.

Regarding the changes to public colleges, you should anticipate creating a more competitive application for universities that may have once been considered “safety schools.” Since there are uncertainties with opening dorms and campuses this fall (and in the future), students are opting for colleges that are closer to home, especially ones that allow for easier commutes.

One thing is clear--admissions in the future are going to focus more on your “demonstrated interest.” That means showing you will actually enroll at the college once you are accepted. You should consider taking virtual tours, reaching out to admissions officers and faculty, and making it absolutely clear in your applications and essays that you want to attend and will definitely enroll in the colleges that you are applying to.

Juniors! It’s time to start thinking about applying to college! And during a year when all the rules are in flux, it is best to get as much help as you can! Thankfully, we have a webinar series on changes happening to college admissions -- completely FREE to attend. The next one is TOMORROW! Also, we have college admissions services and packages for when you need to start selecting colleges and completing your applications.

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