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College Admissions Trends from the Class of 2023

Updated: Aug 7

As the 2022-23 college admissions cycle comes to a close, several trends have emerged, shaping the landscape of college applications and admissions. From record-breaking application numbers to changes in test optional policies and increasing selectivity, let's dive into the key trends of this admissions cycle.


Acceptance Rates, Deferrals, and Waitlists

A record number of applications were submitted through the Common Application in 2023 (the "Common App" is an online portal that streamlines a student's application process). Applications rose 30% in 2022-23 compared to 2019-20 (from 5.4 million to over 7 million), and applications per student went up 8 % in the same period (Jaschik, 2023). What are the outcomes we are seeing related to this significant increase?

  • Acceptance rates at many schools are dropping - Boston College is reporting a historically low 15% acceptance rate after receiving 36,000 applications this cycle (Crimson Education, 2023)

  • Admissions decisions are becoming less predictable in the past; we have seen many more deferrals from Early Decision and Early Action to Regular Decision this year.

The University of Michigan is reporting approximately 20,000 on its waitlist.
Clemson Deferred 15,000 of their 26,000 Early Action applicants this cycle.
  • Deferrals are increasing because of higher applicant pools and because many schools over the past couple of years have over-enrolled their classes as more of their admitted students said yes to them than they expected.

What about the waitlist? What does it mean when you are on it?

  • The waitlist isn't technically a list; you don't necessarily have a number assigned with your application where you will get admittance if enough people say no to the school.

  • The waitlist is more like a pool of applicants that a University can use to pull from if they need to fill open spots. Institutions are trying to build balanced classes, so they may need to pull an applicant based on gender, geographical location, or perhaps they need a tuba player. The schools will reach into their waitlist pools and offer admission based on their needs in building the class profile they are looking for.

  • We may continue to see large waitlist pools at schools going forward; however, we have seen some movement on schools' waitlists earlier this year than in the past and some movement on lists from schools where generally they seldom dip into that pool.

What Should You Do if You Are Waitlisted?

First off, you need to deposit at a school that you were accepted to by the May 1 deadline to ensure that you are headed off to school in the fall. After that, you need to:

  • Pay attention to your email and your portals at schools where you are on the waitlist. Many schools now require you to accept your spot on the waitlist rather than just placing you there. Others are sending multiple confirmations to allow students to remain on their waitlists.

  • If you do get offered a spot off of a waitlist, pay close attention to your requirements - many schools give you a very short time to make your decision and deposit (which goes back to paying attention to your emails and portals).

  • You can't rely on getting in from a waitlist, so you should begin preparing for the school you committed to. It is time to get excited 🎉. You must find a roommate, pick your classes and dorm, and start shopping for your new room!


The Increase in Popularity of Schools in the South and The "ESPN" Schools

Southern colleges and universities have become increasingly popular among students from Northeastern and Western. The applicant pools for these institutions have exploded, making admissions decisions less predictable compared to previous years.

  • The University of South Carolina (USC) alone witnessed a staggering 78% increase in out-of-state applicants over the past three years.

  • The University of Tennessee saw a 51% increase in out-of-state applications, which has driven down its expected acceptance rate to 40% this year as compared to 68.4% in 2022 (Hall, 2023)

  • Clemson University saw a 15% increase in out-of-state applicants, resulting in an out-of-state acceptance rate of 36% for Early Action applicants and 27% for Regular Decision applicants.


Public universities, particularly those renowned for their successful sports programs, have experienced a substantial increase in applications. These institutions dubbed the "ESPN" schools by one of our colleagues, have seen a surge in interest from prospective students. For example, Tulane, TCU, and The University of Georgia are all seeing surges in applications on the heels of their football success this year.


Test Optional Trends

  • 80% of schools were test optional in 2022-23.

  • Some schools have gone test optional permanently; for example, The University of California Systems no longer require testing for applicants.

  • Other schools have returned to requiring testing from all applications, including The University of Florida, The University of Tennessee, The University of Georgia, and Georgia Tech.

  • Some schools have a test optional policy, but the students seeing the most admissions success are submitting test scores - 70% of admitted students at Clemson submitted test scores this year, and 90% of admitted students at Auburn did.

  • Submitting test scores is not an all or none decision - Garrett Educational Consulting makes strategic decisions on whether or not to submit tests based on the student's profile and the trends at the school to which they are applying.

  • The test optional trend is causing the average test score at many institutions to creep up as most of the students submitting test scores are at or above the prior years' average.

Other Trends

  • A student's intended major is becoming more important at many schools. Many schools place caps on admissions to certain majors, so it may be a factor when you are applying. For example - at NC State, 3 of the most competitive majors are Computer Science, Business, and Engineering.

  • Schools are savvy and aware of students who are attempting to game the system to get admittance to a school by picking a less competitive major. Many think picking Forestry Management at NC State will make their path easier; however, if nothing about your background or profile shows that you were interested in this area before applying to NC State, the admissions officer may look at your application with a much more critical eye.

  • Males are a shrinking number in the application pools to universities and colleges. It is becoming more challenging for them to find males to admit to their programs, and schools are having trouble maintaining a 50/50 ratio. The College of Charleston is approximately 70% female, and UNC-Chapel Hill is 60% female.

  • Summer Admits - schools are now offering summer admissions to students, meaning students will graduate from high school and head off to college a few weeks later to begin their studies in the summer sessions.

  • January Admits - schools are also offering January (or second semester) admissions which means a student will do something first semester and begin their studies on campus in January. Some schools offer organized programs for the fall semester, and others leave the student on their own to find something to do. Some schools allow students to classes for credit before arriving, and others do not.

College admissions trends are changing faster than ever, so what is important to keep in mind as your student navigates high school and approaches senior year?

  • As always, students must continue to focus on doing the best they can in school and involve themselves on and off campus to build their resumes.

  • It is ok for a student to have 1 or 2 reach schools on their lists, but it is crucial that students make sure their lists are balanced with a good number of target and likely schools on their lists.

  • School lists will likely be more fluid going forward, with lists changing even in the summer before senior year as prior year trends continue to emerge. Some schools that you thought would be in the target or likely category may change, so it is essential that a student compare their profiles with the most recent data from the schools they are applying to.

  • Keep an open mind - just because your student hasn't heard of a school doesn't mean it isn't an excellent place for them. Encourage your student to keep all options open.

  • Parents - this means you need to keep an open mind too. Many schools that weren't as popular when you were coming through are completely different now. Make sure that you are always talking positively about any school, as that may be your student's best fit school at the end of the process.

  • REMEMBER - heading off to college is an exciting time, and your students need to keep in mind that college is what they make of it. Success isn't driven by the name of the institution that your child attends; it is based on what your student does once they get on campus.

Congratulations to all of the seniors on your graduation, and best wishes to you all in your next steps in life!


For more information about the trends from the 2022-23 admissions cycle, watch our May 16, 2023, Noontime Knowledge Webinar.


 

Garrett Educational Consulting provides comprehensive application support for college and boarding school admissions. Learn more about our services HERE.


Sources:

Jaschik, S. (2023, March 26). Application Numbers Are Up. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2023/03/27/common-app-releases-last-application-numbers-year#:~:text=Total%20application%20volume%20through%20March,to%205.7%20applications%20per%20applicant).


Hall, A. (2023, March 8). Acceptance rate plummets by nearly 30% in most competitive year in UT history. The Daily Beacon. https://www.utdailybeacon.com/campus_news/administration/acceptance-rate-plummets-by-nearly-30-in-most-competitive-year-in-ut-history/article_8221a90c-b543-11ed-a243-1b12478d8de7.html



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