Are colleges today too selective?


Katelyn Kirby

       ” Even though it seems like colleges have become too selective, it is truly due to the overwhelming number of applications sent out each             year.”

   College acceptance rates have been dwindling more and more each year. High schoolers seem to be losing hope about getting into their desired schools and have begun taking extreme measures to meet the requirements that certain schools demand. Jacquelyn Martin, a writer for The Atlantic, said in an article that “At a recent alumni dinner for my alma mater in Manhattan, a representative of the school welcomed us with these uncomfortable words: “Chances are most of us here would not even be admitted to this college today.” It appears colleges have simply gotten too selective, but that is only partially true. Yes, colleges have gotten more selective, but it is because of contributing factors such as the expanding application pool. 

    If you compare college acceptance rates from the ‘90s to current acceptance rates, it is shocking. According to IvyWise, Stanford had a 22.1% acceptance rate in 1992. This might come off as surprising considering Stanford’s acceptance rate in 2022 was a mere 4.8%, however, if we look at this from another angle, Stanford had 13,530 total applications in 1992 according to Stanford University’s website. In 2022, Stanford had 47,451 total undergraduate applications as reported by IvyLeaguePrep. More applicants mean a smaller percentage of accepted students.  

   To put this into perspective, let’s pretend that a college is going to accept 10 students this year. If only 20 students apply, they have a 50% acceptance rate. If 100 students apply, they now have a 10% acceptance rate. The acceptance rates vary according to how many students are applying. Stanford exemplifies this through their acceptance rates declining over the years as the number of applications rises. 

    One may say that there are only so many high school seniors that are applying to colleges each year, therefore the application pool can only be so big. This can be refuted by taking into consideration how many schools each student is applying to. It is common for a high school student today to apply to at least 5 schools, some even applying to 10 or more. If you multiply this by how many high school seniors are applying to college, you are left with an immense number of applications being sent to colleges.  

   One of the reasons for colleges receiving more applications in recent years could be due to the use of Common App. Almost every senior in America is familiar with Common App — the online platform that allows students to create applications to easily send to multiple colleges. Since the release of Common App, the number of applications sent to colleges has risen significantly. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Common App began offering online applications in 1998 in addition to the paper applications that had been in use since 1975. Since the release of online applications, the amount of high school students immediately enrolling in colleges has risen from 49.3% in 1980 to 66.7% in 2017 as stated by ThinkImpact. Common App is not the sole reason for the rising number of ambitious students, but it could definitely be a contributor.  

   Colleges today are flooded with thousands of applications each year from students worldwide. The admissions process is lengthy and can be stressful for both the college and the student. Even though it seems like colleges have become too selective, it is truly due to the overwhelming number of applications sent out each year. There are still going to be colleges that are extremely difficult to get into, but that does not mean it is impossible.