Ivy League Acceptance Rates Tick Up for the First Time in Years

After years of record low acceptance rates, this spring, Harvard University, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania posted increased acceptance rates for the first-year class that will begin in the fall of 2020. This comes as a surprise to many who anticipated that acceptance rates would continue to shrink.

Some of the country’s most selective colleges became slightly less selective this year

The upward trend was also noted at other highly selective universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The below chart shows the breakdown, Ivy League university by Ivy League university:

What accounts for this increase? No one is quite sure yet. Some suggest that the increase was a predictable bounce back from last year’s record lows recorded by many top schools. Harvard, for instance, had a 4.9% acceptance rate this year as opposed to their record low of 4.5% last year. Columbia University recorded a 6.1% acceptance rate this year; last year’s acceptance rate was an historic 5.1 %.

However, the bounce back theory doesn’t account for the decrease in acceptances recorded by a few Ivy League universities. Princeton University, for example, admitted 5.78% of applicants last year; this year, the august university’s acceptance rate was 5.5 %.

Perhaps these increased acceptances were due, instead, to COVID-19 related concerns? Some have suggested that uncertainty related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (coronavirus outbreak) prompted the increased number of acceptances. However, given the percentage of change seen at Harvard, Dartmouth, and The University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton, if the change is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it suggests that the impact of the pandemic was minimal. 

Which is, I think, the point. Whether the increased acceptances at the Ivy League universities are attributable to a “natural” bounce back or whether the increased acceptances are attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, what remains conspicuously clear is that the Ivy League universities and other elite, highly selective universities such as MIT are really, and I mean really hard to get into.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

Schedule your free 20-minute phone consultation with Dr. Osborn to learn how The Writing Center of Princeton can help your child.

If you want at shot at the Ivies, here are two things to keep in mind as you begin to build your application and write your essays.

1. Early action and early decision applicants enjoy much higher acceptance rates than do regular decision applicants at the Ivy League universities.

It’s widely known that students who apply through early action (EA) or early decision (ED) programs are accepted to Ivy League universities and other comparable universities at significantly higher rates than regular decision (RD) applicants. 

For example, this year, 13.9% of early action applicants got into Harvard, but only 3.2% of regular decision applicants were accepted.

Why is this? When you apply early, you demonstrate strong interest, and that’s a very attractive motivator to universities interested in protecting their yield rates.

2.  If you choose to apply to an Ivy League university, start working on your application early, preferably no later than the spring of your junior year in high school.

It takes a lot of time to generate distinctive and admissions-winning topics for your Common Application essay or your Coalition Application essay and the supplemental essays. And then just as much time (if not more) writing all those essays. If you wait till September, you’re going to be working on application essays as well as your school work and your extracurricular activities all at the same time. You’re going to be stressed about maintaining your grades. If you haven’t already taken the SAT or ACT, you’ll be prepping for that as well. You are going to think that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. And you will be right. And that will result in poorer quality or rushed essays, and a poor quality essay is not going to get you anywhere, let alone an Ivy League university.

I probably didn’t need to write that. 😊

Ready to start applying to college? Call me. I’m always ready to help you.

“Writing application essays is not something my son likes to do. He didn’t know where to begin or even how to come up with a topic. But Susan made it happen. She helped him develop the confidence he needed to write the essays that got him into Cornell. We are grateful to her!”

Ria and Aneesh, South Brunswick, NJ

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, phone, and Google docs to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized curriculum for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and college aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and win admission to the Ivy League and other competitive colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.