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Southern Charm and The "ESPN" Schools - As Seen in ScoopCharlotte

View Original ScoopCharlotte Article Published May 25, 2023

Across the country, colleges and universities are reporting surging numbers of applications for the 2022-23 application cycle as compared to previous years. A contributing factor to the increase is the popularity and widespread use of the Common Application (The Common App is an online portal that streamlines a student’s application process).

Schools join the Common App portal each year, which contributes to the increase; however, the ease with which a student can submit an application and the prevalence of test-optional applications has led applications per student to increase from 5.3 per student in 2019-2020 to 5.7 per student in 2022-23, an 8% increase (Jaschik, 2023). Total Common App applications submitted through March 1 rose a whopping 30 percent from 2019–20 to 2022–23, from 5.4 million to over 7 million (Jaschik, 2023).

Let’s take a look at some of the outcomes from this year’s cycle and what it could mean for the Class of 2024 and beyond.

Acceptance Rates, Deferrals, and Waitlists, Oh My…

The influx of applications has resulted in decreasing acceptance rates at many colleges and universities throughout the country – Boston College had over 36,000 applications this year, dropping its acceptance rate to a historically low 15% (Crimson Education, 2023). As a result, we have seen higher numbers of deferral and waitlist decisions for the Class of 2023, and overall we have seen some surprising results for students at schools that in the past may have been a target or likely school for a student with their same credentials.

The Rise of Popularity for the Southern University and the "ESPN" Schools

Southern colleges and universities are exploding in popularity with kids from Northeastern and Western states, contributing to unpredictability in application decisions. The University of Tennessee reported an eye-popping 51% increase in out-of-state applications, resulting in an expected acceptance rate of around 40% this year compared to 68.4% in 2022 (Hall, 2023).

We are also seeing a rise in popularity in what one of our colleagues dubbed the “ESPN” Schools – schools that saw tremendous athletic success last year. Tulane, TCU, and The University of Georgia are riding the wave of their football victories and experiencing a surge in applications. Who knew sports could be such a college application game-changer?

Test Optional

In 2022-23, 80% of schools remained test optional. Some schools, like the University of California systems, have removed testing requirements permanently. Other institutions are making year-to-year decisions. Because students who do submit testing tend to have more favorable scores, the average score profile at many schools is creeping up.

Just be aware – it is not always in your best interest to apply test optional to a school. Clemson reported that 70% of their admitted students this year submitted test scores, and 90% of admitted Auburn students did. This indicates that the most successful applicants at these schools were submitting their test scores. Small to medium-sized schools that take a more holistic approach to an application may discount test scores more than a larger public university forced to make quick decisions on the thousands of applications they receive yearly.

Ultimately, Katie Garrett (Garrett Educational Consulting) says the decision to submit test scores is not an all or none decision. There may be some schools on your list where strategically you may want to submit your scores and others where you wouldn’t submit scores at all to give you the best chance at admittance. “We make these decisions on a case-by-case basis with our students,” Katie says, “and the decision changes year to year based on an institution’s trends from the year before.”

What does Katie recommend for the Class of 2024?

  • Look at your list and research admissions trends from 2022-23 to get a better idea of where you stack up based on last year’s numbers. The increase in applications has also resulted in an increase in many schools’ average GPA and Test Scores of their admitted students, so make sure you are looking at the most recent numbers available.

  • Make sure your college list is balanced – one or two reach schools is ok, but you need to have a good number of likely and target schools on your list, as we have even seen some surprising results from schools that were considered targets for students this year.

  • If you have a number 1 school, consider an Early Decision (ED) Application. That shows the school you are 100% committed to them if you are accepted, and many schools are increasingly filling their classes with ED applicants. Just be aware that by applying ED, you are committing to that school if accepted, regardless of merit money or financial aid, so be sure you are able to meet this commitment.

  • Keep an Open Mind – there are thousands of amazing schools out there that can offer you an excellent education and an incredible 4-year experience. Make sure you go into the process with an open mind, and don’t discount a school because you aren’t familiar with it.

What About the Class of 2025 and Beyond?

Admissions trends are changing more rapidly than ever. Your college list is most likely going to be fluid right up until you start the application process. What does Katie say?

For students – right now, the best thing you can do is work hard in school. Get the best grades you are capable of, prepare for standardized tests, and continue to build your resume with extracurricular activities and summer activities.

For Parents – Encourage your students to keep their eyes on their current school work and not get too focused on schools just yet. Also, keep an open mind – There are countless fantastic schools out there, and your student might find the perfect fit where you least expect it.

For more information on the 2022-23 application cycle, read our full overview HERE or watch our May 16, 2023, Noontime Knowledge Webinar HERE.


Garrett Educational Consulting provides comprehensive college and boarding school admissions counseling for students in the Charlotte Metro area and across the United States. For more information about our services, click HERE


Jaschik, S. (2023, March 26). Application Numbers Are Up. Inside Higher Ed.

Crimson Education. (2023, April 24). Historic Low: Boston College’s Acceptance Rate Drops to 15%. Crimson.

Hall, A. (2023, March 8). Acceptance rate plummets by nearly 30% in most competitive year in UT history. The Daily Beacon.

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