2023 College Admissions Trends


As college admission season comes to an end and the Class of 2023 commit to their respective colleges, analysts and college counselors have begun the journey of assembling college admissions data. Charting the difficulty of the topmost colleges, as well as trends and strategies that were most useful this year. The class of 2023 trends indicates that admissions have nonetheless gotten very competitive as compared to past years.

The first trend on most rising seniors’ minds is the policy regarding the importance of early admissions. Early applications to top universities have still led to higher rates of success among applicants, as the regular decision round has been notorious for the 2-3% acceptance rates (Harvard, MIT, Columbia). Still, many students have taken advantage of this trend and are applying to these institutions, something that increases the deferral rate. A deferral is the “midway” decision, in which applicants are not offered admission (and not denied as well) in the early round, but are submitted for re-evaluation in the regular decision round for comparison with the regular decision applicants.

The comparison between the early and regular admission rates (although smaller among higher-ranked institutions) is significant. The acceptance rates of several popular institutions are indicated below.

Harvard University reports that it accepted 7.6% of its applicants in the early decision round, and 3.4% of applicants in the regular decision round. MIT’s was similar, coming to 3.9% in the regular decision round. Meanwhile, Princeton, although they have withheld their admissions data, it has been speculationed that the university accepted around 12% in the early round and 4% in the regular decision round. Columbia University’s early acceptance rate of 10.3% was nearly three times higher than its regular admission rate of 3.9%.

Another important factor when considering the acceptance rates of the university is the amount by which it has decreased over the past years. Harvard University’s acceptance rates have decreased by around 1% in the past five years, while Princeton’s acceptance rate in the regular decision round has decreased by 2%. This trend is similar to most ivies. 

The relaxation of the SAT requirement, and the decrease in the value of perfect “4.0 GPA, 36 ACT” students has contributed to one of the reasons why college admissions are getting so competitive. Most students are doing anything to stand out, including running their own businesses, non-profits, and other initiatives, activities that have slowly become the norm over the past few years. 

As extracurricular activities and academic profiles of students become more competitive, college counselors advise developing excellent essays to advocate for oneself in another way through their application. Admissions officers have been looking for “personality” that cannot be demonstrated through test scores and activities, so that is really the place rising seniors should focus on the most! It is advised that rising seniors begin writing their college essays well before their deadlines, starting as early as the summer before their senior year. It’s also very important to develop a college list that contains reach schools, but more targets (in order to account for unpredictability).

We wish the class of 2024 the best in their college application season!