2020 College Acceptance Rates: The Latest Admissions Trends (2023)

2020 College Acceptance Rates: The Latest Admissions Trends (1)

2020 College Acceptance Rates: The Latest Admissions Trends

Padya Paramita

April 6, 2020

2020 College Acceptance Rates: The Latest Admissions Trends

It’s that time of the year again. Students who applied to college this admissions cycle have spent the last couple of weeks anxiously checking their email and clicking links in various portals to hopefully find good news awaiting them. Most colleges are done sending out their letters and acceptance rates have started to be released! Unsurprisingly, the top schools have continued to be incredibly competitive, while other colleges that have previously been considered target options are more selective than ever.

You may have just applied and gotten your decisions, or you’re preparing to take on the process and want to know how tough the admissions landscape currently looks. In this blog, we have outlined the 2020 college acceptance rates, analyzed this year’s trends in admission compared to the past, and gone over how you can prepare your application for top schools, especially if you are applying in the time of COVID-19.

2020 College Acceptance Rates

The table below outlines the 2020 college acceptance rates for the top national universities and liberal arts colleges that have been publicized so far, arranged in order of most selective to least selective this year. We will continue updating the table as more schools announce how competitive the pool has been for the class of 2024.

School2020 Acceptance Rate
Harvard University4.9%
Princeton University5.6%
Columbia University6.1%
University of Chicago 6.2%
Yale University6.5%
Brown University6.9%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology7.3%
Duke University7.7%
University of Pennsylvania8.1%
Bowdoin College8.3%
Dartmouth College8.8%
Johns Hopkins University8.8%
Swarthmore College8.8%
Northwestern University9%
Vanderbilt University9%
Colby College9.4%
Rice University10%
Barnard College10.9%
Amherst College12%
Washington University in St. Louis13%
New York University15%
Georgetown University15%
Tufts University15%
University of Southern California16%
University of Notre Dame16.5%
Boston University18.5%
Northeastern University19%
Wellesley College19%
Wesleyan University19.8%
Georgia Institute of Technology20%
University of Virginia20.6% (in-state: 33%, out-of-state: 15%)
Emory University20.7%
Boston College24%
University of Florida29%
Villanova University29%
Macalester College37%
University of Georgia46%

Analysis of the 2020 College Acceptance Rates

Continuing the pattern of their shocking results from last year, Colby College, Duke University, and Boston University are all institutions that have kept up their competitive streaks. Barnard College — which is ranked number 25 on the US News list of liberal arts colleges —is a big surprise this year with its admit rate of 10.9%. This number has even surpassed the rate at Amherst College, which is ranked the second-best liberal arts school!

The top schools are celebrating diversity in their new classes. Princeton announced that 17% of the admitted students are first-generation, while 61% of admits are students of color. At Harvard, 30% of accepted applicants identify as black or Latino, while 25% are Asian American. Women make up 52% of Harvard’s Class of 2024 and 20% of the admits qualified for federal Pell grants for low-income students. At Tufts, 50.1% of admitted US students are people of color, while the number of first-generation students admitted increased by 30%.

Cornell University has joined Stanford University in the list of colleges which will no longer publicize their acceptance rates. But, both of these universities are consistently selective (last year Cornell admitted 10.6% of students, while Stanford accepted 4.7% of applicants in 2018) and you can bet that this year is no different.

Pomona College currently states that it admitted 745 students without revealing the number of applications received. Considering last year 726 applicants were accepted and the acceptance rate was 7%, we can presume that this year’s data is similar.

The Latest Admissions Trends

Now that you’ve gone over the list of the 2020 college acceptance rates, you might be wondering how these numbers compare to last years. The following table highlights how some of the most competitive schools fared this year alongside how selective they were in 2019.

School2020 Acceptance Rate2019 Acceptance Rate
Harvard University4.9%4.5%
Princeton University5.6%5.8%
Columbia University6.1%5.1%
Yale University6.5%5.9%
Brown University6.9%6.6%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology7.3%6.6%
Duke University7.7%7.7%
University of Pennsylvania8.1%7.4%
Bowdoin College8.3%8.9%
Dartmouth College8.8%7.9%
Johns Hopkins University8.8%7.7%
Swarthmore College8.8%8.7%
Northwestern University9%9%
Vanderbilt University9%9.1%
Colby College9.4%9.5%
Rice University10%9%
Barnard College10.9%13.7%
Amherst College12%13%

It’s quite interesting to note that for many of the Ivies and highest tier schools, the 2020 college acceptance rates are higher than last year’s. Some of the changes are comparatively insignificant, such as Brown’s going up to 6.9% from 6.6%, or Harvard changing to 4.9% from 4.6%. But some of the changes are more noticeable —for example, Columbia going up to 6.1% from 5.1%, MIT moving to 7.3% from 6.6%, and Yale’s change from 6.5% to 5.9%. The increased rate for Yale is less surprising, as the university is on its fourth year of expanding its freshman class size since the opening of the Paul Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges.

One of the reasons behind this change might be schools’ anticipation of students’ reactions to the current Coronavirus pandemic. Many students, particularly international admits, may not be able to travel if the social distancing protocols continue through the fall. Colleges want to maintain a high yield rate and ensure that they are still able to fill as many spots as they had originally allotted for while planning for all outcomes. For instance, Harvard has openly discussed there being uncertainty in the admissions office when it came to planning yield and the role the virus played in the drop in selectivity. The school has particularly expressed concern about the possibility of admitted students not being able to travel or move across the country during this chaotic time.

Colleges that brought big surprises in acceptance rates last year, such as Duke University, Boston University, and Colby College maintained similar numbers, demonstrating that admission at these institutions will stay competitive as interest in these schools continues to grow.

How to Prepare Your Application for a Top School

If you’ve got your eyes on one of the highly selective colleges, you can see by looking at the 2020 college acceptance rates that you’ve got your work cut out for you. The number of applications at most colleges are at a record high —NYU received over 85,000 applications across its three campuses, while the University of Virginia received 40,971 — while their acceptance rates remain low. Of course, you need to perform as well as you can in your schoolwork — challenge yourself by taking the most rigorous courses offered, such as AP and IB classes. Plus, you should practice hard to achieve a high SAT score. The top schools have high median numbers, as displayed in the following table:

SchoolMedian GPAMedian SAT Range
Harvard University3.91460-1580
Princeton University3.91460-1570
Columbia University4.01450-1560
Yale University 4.01450-1560
Massachusetts Institute of Technology4.01520-1580
Duke University3.91500-1560
University of Pennsylvania3.881460-1550
Bowdoin College3.921420-1550
Dartmouth College3.81440-1560
Johns Hopkins University3.931480-1550
Swarthmore College3.91400-1540

As you can see, the GPAs and scores for these schools are very strong. If you’ve got your eye on one of these colleges, you’ve got to bring your A-game. But standout numbers aren’t enough, as most students bring impressive statistics. You have to shine outside the classroom as well. Make sure you build your application profile to suit your unique interests. You must pursue leadership positions and truly commit to activities that interest you.

The Admissions Process and COVID-19

That said, if you’re preparing to apply to college this upcoming fall, things aren’t the easiest with the COVID-19 outbreak. Your classes have moved online, standardized tests are experiencing changes in format, admissions policies are changing, and more. These transitions might play a role in how your grades shape up. Not to mention the fact that SAT and ACT administrations keep getting canceled or postponed, and your activities might not be able to operate as usual! You could be wondering about the impact of the Coronavirus on college admissions.

First, know that colleges are well aware of these changes — many schools, such as Boston University, Tufts University, and the University of California schools have already made the call to make SAT/ACT scores optional due to the pandemic. This definitely takes the pressure off a little bit. It will be interesting to see the statistics for these schools next year and how the changes in policy will impact their acceptance data. Even if schools do not change their testing requirements, they will still read your application in light of the Coronavirus.

Building Your Profile During COVID-19

Use COVID-19 as an opportunity to make an impact and stand out as a memorable candidate. The situation may not be ideal, but the strongest students will use this time continue moving forward with their pursuits. Admissions officers will want to see who has stepped up despite the circumstances. Your summer plans and activities may be disrupted —but you must find ways to continue building your profile remotely. This blog contains ideas that can help you explore different options. Even though you’re at home, you’ve got the time to think about how to best utilize the resources in your arsenal and step out of the box.

Take advantage of the various technologies available to spearhead community initiatives with your classmates, start a creative project you’ve never had the time to before, or participate in activities or programs online. If the 2020 college acceptance rates are any indication, colleges will consider the current circumstances when evaluating your application, especially because you’re more directly being affected than students who applied in 2019. But, you should still try hard to strengthen your profile to the best of your abilities!

The 2020 college acceptance rates are undoubtedly competitive. Despite some schools accepting more students than last year, the top colleges are still oh so selective and hold students to the highest of standards. Admission into universities that you might have considered targets or even safeties is tougher than ever. As you work towards your application, continue working hard in your classes, explore remote extracurricular availabilities, and carefully consider these numbers to prepare your list of reach, target, and safety options. Good luck!

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2020 College Acceptance Rates: The Latest Admissions Trends? ›

An analysis of enrollment data at 18 elite public universities by The Hill found an average admission rate of 31 percent in 2022, down from 47 percent in 2012 and 52 percent in 2002.

Are college acceptance rates decreasing? ›

An analysis of enrollment data at 18 elite public universities by The Hill found an average admission rate of 31 percent in 2022, down from 47 percent in 2012 and 52 percent in 2002.

What is the average college acceptance rate in 2020? ›

The average college acceptance rate in the United States is 68%, with more than half of all U.S. colleges and universities reporting rates of 67% or higher. In preparing a list of college acceptance rates, one should evaluate if the prospective institutions have an acceptance rate of around the average.

Are college applications increasing or decreasing? ›

Applications to public institutions increased by 39%, and by 24% to private institutions.

What is the trend in college admissions 2023? ›

Another 2023 college admissions trend is the continued importance of selecting colleges with early action and early decision options. Roughly 50% of applicants apply early, and colleges often fill a significant portion (50-60%) of their incoming class through early decision.

Why are acceptance rates falling? ›

What is the Reason for the Decline? The primary reason for the decline in acceptance rates is because there has been a large increase in the number of applicants. The acceptance rate of a school is calculated by dividing the number of admitted students by the total number of applicants.

Why are college acceptance rates so low now? ›

Colleges are Receiving More Applications Than Ever

Given that many colleges are not increasing their class sizes, or are doing so in a very limited capacity, this explosion in applications inevitably means that acceptance rates will drop, sometimes precipitously.

Is it harder to get into college now? ›

The first thing to acknowledge is that the hype and anxiety are not unfounded: it is, in fact, much more difficult to get into college than it was a generation ago. The number of college applicants has risen sharply, especially over the past ten years, and this trend does not appear to be letting up any time soon.

What was the college dropout rate in 2020? ›

Between 2019 and 2020, about 24% of first-time, full-time undergraduate first-year students dropped out of college. In 2021, 31.6% of students who enrolled in 2015 were no longer enrolled six years later and had not received their degree.

Is there any college with a 100% acceptance rate? ›

Established in 1911 in southwestern Utah, Dixie State University features a 100% acceptance rate. The campus, which sits adjacent to the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, serves more than 11,000 students, about 60% of whom attend full time.

Is college enrollment declining? ›

From 2010 to 2021, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 15%, translating into about 2.6 million fewer students. About 58% of that decline occurred over the decade prior to the pandemic, with about 42% of the total enrollment decline occurring between fall 2019 and fall 2021.

Is college losing popularity? ›

America's college-going rate was generally on the upswing until the pandemic reversed decades of progress. Rates fell even as the nation's population of high school graduates grew, and despite economic upheaval, which typically drives more people into higher education.

Are college degrees declining? ›

Strong Job Markets, Weak Confidence in Degrees

The steepest decline in completion across degree types, the NSCRC report found, was among older or adult learners. Degree earners aged 25 and up dropped by 4.1 percent, compared with a 1 percent decline for 18- to 25-year-olds.

Will it be harder to get into college in 2023? ›

Admission rates for 2022-2023 have not been announced but are expected to remain just as low. Given this competitive environment, admission experts say students shouldn't assume they'll be a 'shoe-in' at any school.

Are college admissions becoming more competitive? ›

But recently, the college admissions landscape has gotten more competitive: The number of submitted applications rose by 21.3% between 2019-2020 and 2021-2022, according to a March 2022 Common Application report, which included data from 853 member schools.

What is the hardest college to get into in 2023? ›

Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, unsurprisingly, are America's toughest colleges to get into in 2023, according to Niche's most recent rankings.

Are US universities declining? ›

Nationwide, undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines even after returning to in-person classes, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Are acceptance rates going up or down? ›

The 2020 pandemic continues to affect college applications in 2022, with an unprecedented increase in college applicants, a decrease in college acceptance rates, the rise of test-optional schools, and the elimination of SAT subject tests, among other factors.

Why is the college dropout rate so high? ›

51.04% of students drop out because they cannot pay for college (What to Become, 2021). Moreover, 55% of students struggle to financially support their education, which results in 79% of them delaying their graduation (ThinkImpact, 2021). $3.8 billion is consequently lost each year (ThinkImpact, 2021).

What is the least accepting college? ›

Here is the list of 30 educational institutes with the lowest acceptance rates:
  • Tulane University (USA) ...
  • Northwestern University (USA) ...
  • Cornell University (USA) ...
  • Johns Hopkins University (USA) ...
  • Dartmouth College (USA) ...
  • Duke University (USA) ...
  • Vanderbilt University (USA) ...
  • National University of Singapore (Singapore)
May 13, 2023

Why is college on a decline? ›

Part of the reason is that students on average are collectively taking fewer classes. In the last two years, students began taking . 4 fewer units a term. That may seem insignificant, but with more than 400,000 students, that fraction of a change means the equivalent of 8,000 fewer full-time students enrolled.

What if no college accepts me? ›

If you didn't get into any colleges you applied to, consider checking out schools with rolling admissions. Schools with rolling admissions typically have priority deadlines between November and February, but many schools can keep their applications open until spring or later.

What year is usually the hardest in college? ›

Although junior year often holds the most challenging classes, it is not always the most difficult. Students are able to take what they have learned from their previous two years of schooling to better prepare themselves for the more strenuous classes.

Is college harder today than in the past? ›

College is more competitive.

But Jacoba Urist of The Atlantic says that there is truth and untruth to the myth of college admissions getting harder each year. "As it turns out, getting into college actually isn't any harder than it was a decade ago," she wrote.

What's the hardest college to get into right now? ›

Stanford University is one of the hardest colleges to get into in the US. Every year, thousands of hopeful students apply here, and a small handful gets in — as few as 4%. According to the university's website, it says their admissions team practises a holistic approach.

What major has highest dropout rate? ›

These Are the 10 Degrees With the Highest Dropout Rates
  • Computer Science: 9.8 percent.
  • Business: 8.6 percent.
  • Advertising: 8 percent.
  • Journalism: 7.6 percent.
  • Art: 7.3 percent.
  • Architecture: 7.2 percent.
  • Engineering: 7 percent.
  • Biology: 6.8 percent.
May 29, 2023

What is the most dropped major? ›

Computer science, unfortunately, is also the major with the highest dropout rate among undergraduate students — about 1 out of 10 computer science majors leave college before getting their degree.

Which student is most at risk for dropping out of college? ›

First generation bachelor's degree-seekers have a dropout rate that is 23.5% higher than average. First generation students have a 92.2% higher dropout rate than students whose parents had bachelor's degrees or a higher level of education attainment.

What is the easiest college major? ›

Business Major

Business isn't just one of the easiest college majors — it's also the most popular major. You'll study core topics like accounting, management, and organizational behavior. You can specialize your skills with upper-level courses in logistics, training and development, or entrepreneurship.

What college has the best dorms? ›

The Princeton Review recently released its 2022 ranking of the best college dorms, based on student ratings of their dorms and residence halls. Taking the top spot is Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

What GPA do you need to get into Harvard? ›

The GPA requirements for Harvard University are between 3.9 to 4.1. You will need an incredibly high GPA and will likely be graduating at the top of their class in order to get into Harvard University.

What is the enrollment cliff? ›

The "enrollment cliff" refers to the dramatic drop in the college-age population beginning in 2025. Forecasting the number of college-age youths is a relatively simple task. Take the birthrate of a given year and fast forward 17 and 18 years — when most kids start college.

Are degrees becoming less important? ›

A recent survey of HR managers by Intelligent.com found that 53 percent of hiring managers have ditched the requirement for a bachelor's degree for some roles in the past year. And roughly a third of those dropped the requirement for senior-level positions.

How has college enrollment changed since pandemic? ›

COVID-19 has caused unprecedented drops in college enrollment numbers. Large enrollment declines are observed among underserved student populations. Data reveals that fewer low-income students have applied for financial aid this year. Experts worry these losses could spell trouble for future enrollment.

Are most successful people college dropouts? ›

Based on these numbers, the college dropout success rate is only at around 6%. There is no guarantee of financial success if one chooses to leave school and pursue an interest that could possibly be translated into a scalable business.

What percentage of US has gone to college? ›

The percentage of adults in the U. S. between the ages of 25 to 64 with college degrees, certificates, or industry-recognized certifications, has increased from 37.9% in 2009 to 53.7% in 2021, a gain of nearly 16 percentage points.

Are people who go to college more successful in life? ›

The evidence that a college degree significantly improves one's employment prospects and earnings potential is overwhelming. Bachelor's degree holders are half as likely to be unemployed as their peers who only have a high school degree and they make $1.2 million in additional earnings on average over their lifetime.

What college degrees are not worth getting? ›

20 Most Useless College Degrees 2023
  • Useful Degrees That Might Interest You. Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below. ...
  • Advertising. ...
  • Anthropology And Archeology. ...
  • Art history. ...
  • Communications. ...
  • Computer Science. ...
  • Creative Writing. ...
  • Criminal Justice.

What percent of college grads don t use their degree? ›

Roughly one-fifth of recent graduates, 21%, are working in jobs, either full or part-time, that aren't related to their major area of study.

Do employers still care about college degrees? ›

And remember those critical skills employers are looking for? Having a degree demonstrates that you have those. Many employers are even willing to leave a job unfilled longer so they can fill it with the right degree-qualified candidate. Your future employer cares about your degree, and so should you!

Is it OK to still be in college at 23? ›

It is never too late to go to college or benefit from the advantages of a postsecondary degree.

What is a good degree to get in 2023? ›

Best College Majors Table of Contents
  • Computer Engineering.
  • Actuarial Science.
  • Computer Science.
  • Management.
  • Electronics Engineering.
  • Healthcare Administration.
  • Health Informatics.
  • Construction Management.
May 15, 2023

How important are SAT scores for college admission 2023? ›

Current figures estimate around 80% of four-year colleges won't require standardized tests for fall 2023 admissions, so the burning question remains: are SAT/ACT scores still important? The shorter answer is: yes. Just because scores are optional, it doesn't mean they aren't still important.

What makes colleges more likely to accept you? ›

ACT / SAT Test scores

No matter which you take (colleges don't actually prefer SAT or ACT scores over the other) higher test scores will increase your acceptance odds. Not only that, but ACT / SAT scores can also qualify you for scholarships and certain forms of financial aid.

What do colleges really look for in applicants? ›

Colleges today are looking for students whose strengths and experiences will be an asset to their school. Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess.

What is the hardest major in college? ›

Top 15 Hardest College Majors Table of Contents
  • Chemistry.
  • Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Environmental Earth Science.
  • American Studies.
  • Nuclear Engineering.
  • Energy Engineering.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Applied Mathematics.

Why is it harder to get into college now? ›

Together, these factors–the increases in selectivity, the focus on rankings, the intensified stress on test scores, the lack of clarity around each school's enrollment priorities–has made the college admissions landscape feel treacherous, littered with obstacles to potentially thwart applicants' aspirations.

What is the easiest but best college to get into? ›

Colleges with 100% acceptance rates
  • University of Maine--Fort Kent.
  • University of Maine--Presque Isle.
  • University of Pikeville.
  • The University of Texas at El Paso.
  • Utah Valley University.
  • Wayne State College.
  • Weber State University.
  • Western Nevada College.
Mar 30, 2023

Are colleges harder to get into now? ›

The first thing to acknowledge is that the hype and anxiety are not unfounded: it is, in fact, much more difficult to get into college than it was a generation ago. The number of college applicants has risen sharply, especially over the past ten years, and this trend does not appear to be letting up any time soon.

Will it be harder or easier to get into college in 2023? ›

Admission rates for 2022-2023 have not been announced but are expected to remain just as low. Given this competitive environment, admission experts say students shouldn't assume they'll be a 'shoe-in' at any school.

Why is no one going to college anymore? ›

College enrollment has declined over the last decade. It comes amid higher education affordability issues and a surging student-debt crisis. Today's hot labor market and campus politics may also have contributed to the drop.

Is it even worth going to college anymore? ›

Bachelor's degree holders generally earn 75% more than those with just a high school diploma, according to “The College Payoff,” a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce — and the higher the level of educational attainment, the larger the payoff.

How many people think college is a waste of time? ›

A survey from the WSJ and the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that 56% of Americans say earning a four-year degree isn't worth the cost.

What degree is most dropped out? ›

These Are the 10 Degrees With the Highest Dropout Rates
  • Computer Science: 9.8 percent.
  • Business: 8.6 percent.
  • Advertising: 8 percent.
  • Journalism: 7.6 percent.
  • Art: 7.3 percent.
  • Architecture: 7.2 percent.
  • Engineering: 7 percent.
  • Biology: 6.8 percent.
May 29, 2023

Why are college applications declining? ›

Some students fell behind academically and didn't feel prepared for college. Others lost access to counselors and teachers who help navigate college applications and the complicated process of applying for federal student aid. “Students feel like schools have let them down,” Campbell said.

What is the most accepting college? ›

Colleges with the Highest Acceptance Rates - Top 100
SchoolLocationFall 2021 Acceptance Rate
Academy of Art UniversitySan Francisco, CA100%
Adams State UniversityAlamosa, CO100%
Alliance UniversityNew York, NY100%
Baptist College of FloridaGraceville, FL100%
17 more rows

Why are colleges so competitive now? ›

There are a number of reasons for the increased competitiveness in college admission. Although the number of high school graduates in each state has either plateaued or decreased in recent years, there are more applicants because a larger percentage of graduates apply to four-year colleges.


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