June 12, 2024

The “Craziest Admissions Cycle,” Ever?

Author: Alex T., Prepory college admissions coach and Yale graduate

The number of yearly applicants reached a new high this year — surpassing the record set just last year by 6%1 — while yield rates (% of students who matriculate) have dropped for many but the top 20 universities. As incoming first-years and their parents reflect on a record-breakingly competitive cycle, rising seniors are wondering if they’re next.

What were the application rates this year?

While we didn’t see the same intense spikes this year as during the COVID-19 pandemic — when schools like MIT experienced a 60% increase in applicants2 — records were still broken across the board. Yale University received 57,456 applications3 , up from 52,250 applications from the Class of 2027. Duke read 47,951 applications and admitted 1,984 into their Class of 2028, bringing their regular decision acceptance rate to a record-low of 4.1% — down from last year’s 4.8%4. Overall, the CommonApp reported 1,313,763 applicants, increasing from 1,243,246 last year.

What made this cycle “crazy”?

The case studies above create the conditions for a growing trend among universities; as applicants increase year over year, the onus is placed on retaining those applicants you accept. Yield rates have become even more valuable as enrollment rates decline among smaller private schools, local state schools, and community colleges5.

Maintaining a university’s yield rate can influence admissions officers to make decisions that confuse and frustrate applicants. Highly competitive applicants may be waitlisted or outright rejected from “expected acceptance” schools, as those officers anticipate they won’t matriculate. And of course, the growth in overall applicants to the most competitive universities means those acceptance rates will only continue to drop.

Will this upcoming cycle be even crazier?

The 2024 – 2025 cycle has been long anticipated by admissions officers, but not for record-breaking application rates. In fact, for the opposite: high school graduating classes are shrinking. The Class of 2028 marks the first year of the national birth rate decline, where the US saw births decrease 7% from 2007 to 20106. While a smaller market may mean a restabilization of some acceptance rates to pre-pandemic levels, it’s unlikely that this decline will severely impact application or acceptance rates for top 20 schools. Though enrollment rates may continue to drop, more and more students are looking for the ROI a top-tier education can bring. This means the likelihood for competitive students may increase at “fit” and “net” schools, but dream schools will remain as competitive.

Our forecast: 🤞🤓

While acceptance rates will fluctuate with the market, it’s important for students to remain focused on schools they’re genuinely interested in — rather than playing the numbers. Applicants should build a balanced list that provides a range of possible outcomes, but with interesting opportunities across the board. A student who shows they’re genuinely excited about attending a school will always be more successful in their decisions.

1CommonApp, “Deadline Updates” 2023 – 2024
2Comparing MIT CDS 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 (“First-Time, First Year (Freshman) Student Applicants”)
3Yale Daily News, “Yale Admissions” update 2023 – 2024
4Duke Chronicle, “Duke Admissions” update 2023 – 2024
5Data last collected in 2021, showing a 2.7% enrollment decline from 2020. NCES 2010 – 2021
6CDC “Natality Information” 2007 – 2022
Prepory college admissions coach Alex T.

Learn more about Alex

Alex earned her Fine Arts degree from Yale University. Prior to joining Prepory, she was the Art Director of the Yale Record and an Application Reader, reviewing hundreds of applications for the Yale Young Global Scholars and Pathways to Arts and Humanities Programs. Driven by her creativity, she also completed her artistic residency at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York.

Learn more about Alex

Alex earned her Fine Arts degree from Yale University. Prior to joining Prepory, she was the Art Director of the Yale Record and an Application Reader, reviewing hundreds of applications for the Yale Young Global Scholars and Pathways to Arts and Humanities Programs. Driven by her creativity, she also completed her artistic residency at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York.

Prepory college admissions coach Alex T.

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