The earth has shifted for most American colleges

The admissions results for the Class of 2024 may be the final snapshot of a passing era. The deadline for applications was the end of January. Decisions were announced in late March. By April 1, most colleges had ceased operation due to the pandemic. Therefore, admissions to the Class of 2024 were not affected by the pandemic, but next year’s certainly will be.

Since decisions were released, the pandemic has frustrated those admittees who must choose from multiple acceptance offers. For those who have made their choice, the pandemic is interfering with all that normally precedes the fall semester.

Exactly what the fall semester will entail is unclear. Most college administrations are undecided, Columbia Universibut some have announced that students will be on campus in the fall with social distancing rules in place. Others have determined that they’ll only offer online classes in the fall. Many students will need to weigh the health risk of the full campus experience against the safety of virtual classrooms. Understandably, a higher than usual percentage of students are considering taking a gap year.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

They will be severely tested by the decline in revenue that the pandemic is causing. Many will be forced to reduce their budgets, which may mean cuts to faculty, curricula, majors, residential and campus amenities, sports, recreational and cultural programs, and other features of a college’s value to students. This portends significant changes to the historical patterns of college admissions.

One positive result of this unpredictability is that waitlisted students are much more likely to be admitted. Concern over potentially low yield rates has motivated even the most elite colleges to go deeper into their waitlists than in the past. If you’re waitlisted, don’t hesitate to call an admissions office for an update on your status.

Although there were a few anomalies in the 2020 results, most colleges, especially the most highly selective ones, continued their pre-pandemic trend towards more applications and lower admissions rates. Table A shows the rates for a sampling of highly selective and popular regional institutions compared to their rates in 2019. Following Table A are comments about a few of the colleges.

 Table A: Admission Rates for the Class of 2024 (Fall 2020)

 

Institution

Class of 2024

Admission Rate (%)

    Class of 2023

Admission Rate (%)

American University 38              35
Amherst College 12              11
Barnard College 11              11
Boston College 24              27
Boston University 19              18
Bowdoin College 8                9
Brown University 7                7
CalTech 6                6
Carleton College 20             19
Clemson University 47             47
Colby College 9             10
Columbia Int’l University 34             33
Columbia University 6               5
Cornell University 11             11
Dartmouth College 9               8
Duke University 8               7
Emory University 20            27
Emory (Oxford) 23            20
Fordham 46            44
Furman College 61            61
Georgia Tech 20            19
Georgetown University 15            14
George Washington 39            41
Harvard University 5              5
Johns Hopkins University 9              9
Lander University 43           43
Limestone College 14           14
Macalester College 37           31
Middlebury College 24           16
MIT 7             7
New York University 15          16
Northeastern 19          18
Northwestern University 9            9
Princeton University 6            6
Rice University 10            9
Swarthmore College 9            9
Tufts University 15         15
University of Chicago 6           6
University of Georgia 46         45
University of Florida 29         34
University of Notre Dame 17         16
University of Pennsylvania 8           7
Univ. Southern California 16         11
Univ. of South Carolina 63         63
University of Virginia 21         24
Vanderbilt University 9           8
Washington University 13          14
Wellesley College 19          20
Wesleyan University 20          16
Wofford College 64          66
Yale University 6.5            5

Middlebury College: The admissions rate at Middlebury retreated sharply from 16% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. No explanation has been provided by the school’s press office.

Emory University: Emory’s admissions rate tightened from 27% in 2019 to 21% this year.

Brown University: Brown’s results for the Early Decision cycle saw applications up to an all-time high of 4,562. Its ED admissions rate was the lowest in the school’s history at 18%. However, the Regular Decision rate rose from 2019, bringing the overall admissions rate more in line with past results at 7%.

University of Southern California: USC’s acceptance rate increased to 16% for the Class of 2024, up from 11% in 2019. The University received 6,000 fewer applications in 2020 than in 2019. This is the first year that prospective students applied to the University after the Varsity Blues scandal, and the results are considered a reflection of that fact.

Wesleyan University: Wesleyan accepted 2,351 students to the Class of 2024 out of 12,752 applicants. While the University has experienced an upward trend in applications in the past, the applicant pool was smaller than usual this year. As a result, the admissions rate eased from 16% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Williams College: Williams admitted more students than usual this year in anticipation of a less predictable yield. Over the last five years, the College has accepted an average of 1,197 students for a target class size of 550. This year, Williams admitted 1,250, making it one of the few colleges that anticipated the potential ramifications of the pandemic in its early stages.

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