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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

Some Ivy Leagues Have Refused to Release Their Acceptance Rates as Application Numbers Soar

On March 31st, 2022 those who applied for admission at Ivy League universities heard the news of whether or not they were accepted. Typically, following this day, Ivy League universities release to the public their admissions statistics. These include their number of applicants for the year, the number they accepted, the number of students who enrolled, and their overall acceptance rate.

This year, just five of the eight Ivy League schools chose to release acceptance rates. This decision comes following a year of record-number applications for many universities including Harvard and Yale. The Common App saw a 21% jump in applications for the 2021-2022 cycle compared to the 2019-2020 cycle and a 14% increase in applicants. The most highly selective schools had the greatest percentage increase in applications and even the early-admission deadlines had record applicants.

In part, the greater number of applications is due to the decision by many universities to temporarily or permanently not require standardized test scores (a choice made largely due to COVID-19). However, it is also due to high school students continuously witnessing decreasing acceptance rates from selective schools and figuring that they need to apply to a greater number of universities to increase their odds. As the pool of applicants continues to grow, acceptance rates will only continue to decrease, and the cycle will continue.

However, whether or not schools should release these decreasing acceptance rates or if it is more advantageous to hide them from the public, is of fierce debate.

Who Released Rates

This year, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth all chose to release their acceptance rates. Harvard, Yale, and Brown, all reported record-lows. Harvard’s rate was 3.2% which is .2% less than the year prior. This year they had 60,000 applicants. Yale’s current acceptance rate is 4.5% and Brown just hit 5%. Dartmouth and Columbia released very similar rates to the year prior. Darmouth accepted 6.2% of applicants and Columbia accepted 3.7%.

New York University, though not an Ivy League, reported an acceptance rate of just 12.2% this year which is a new record low as well.

The schools who have chosen to continue releasing their acceptance rates have said that they think transparency in the admissions process is important. Prospective students have the right to understand their chances of admission prior to putting in the work on an application and paying the application fee.

Others think that the universities are continuing to release the rates because it allows them to look even more selective, prestigious and elite. Reputation is everything and touting a low acceptance rate can only support the prestige of a university.

Who Withheld

Withholding acceptance rates is not a new phenomenon. In 2018, Stanford, a highly selective school although not an Ivy, announced it would no longer release acceptance rates. The school explained that the competitive nature of college admissions is not something that they want to be a part of. They want students to carefully examine what school would be the best fit. They don’t want students to try desperately to get into extremely selective schools just to say they did it. By withholding acceptance rates, the school hoped to diminish some of the competitive mentality and allow students to think more rationally about their applications.

This year, Princeton, Cornell, and University of Pennsylvania, three of the Ivy Leagues, decided not to release their acceptance rates. Many of the schools claimed the decision was made to reduce anxiety and improve the mental health of high school students.

According to data from the CDC, 37% or one third of high school students, experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. Princeton explains that they are concerned releasing acceptance rates will increase anxiety and potentially discourage extremely well-suited applicants from applying. This does more harm than good and doesn’t benefit students.

The University of Pennsylvania emphasizes that they are not trying to reduce transparency and will still be posting some admissions figures. The withholding of acceptance rates specifically is done solely to benefit the potential pool of applicants.

The Debate

Should universities be transparent with their acceptance rates or is withholding this information more beneficial for the mental health of applicants and for ensuring the right applicants apply to the right school?

Many are wary about the motives behind both decisions. Is withholding rates truly for the mental health of prospective students or does it provide a different competitive edge for the university? Further, for those who do submit acceptance rates, is the reason truly for transparency or is it to appear more prestigious?

Whether or not withholding acceptance rates will become a trend among other universities is yet to be seen. However, we are seeing universities mimic each other as more and more are now becoming test-blind. Perhaps there is a correlation between these two policy decisions and which universities are on the right track has truly yet to be determined.


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