COLLEGE CONNECTION: Ivy League acceptance rates continue to decline


Numbers don’t lie, and recent statistics support the claim by former Ivy League admissions directors that getting into an elite college or university is more competitive than ever before.

The statistics given for the Class of 2021 reflect declining acceptance rates at the Ivy League schools: Harvard 5 percent, Columbia and Princeton 6 percent, Yale 7 percent, Brown 8 percent, The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 9 percent, Dartmouth 10 percent, and Cornell 13 percent. For the Class of 2001, two decades earlier, Harvard University (typically the most competitive of the Ivies) had accepted more than 12 percent of its applicants.

A recent Business Insider article cited reasons for this trend, quoting former admissions directors at several of the nations top colleges and universities.

“The rise in the number of international applicants to the most selective institutions in the US has inflated the number of overall applicants, as well as, in some cases, the GPA and testing profiles,” according to Cat McManus, a former dean at UPenn and admissions officer at Princeton.

However, McManus added that selective colleges often have a limit on the number of international students that they are seeking for each incoming class. So this trend alone cannot take full blame for the declining acceptance rates.

“In addition to the sheer number of applicants, the expectations for candidates have increased,” according to Angela Dunnham, a former assistant director of admissions at Dartmouth.

The emergence of The Common App, which allows students to fill out one application online and submit it to up to 20 colleges and universities at once out of more than 800 member institutions. This has greatly increased the number of applications being received at almost all competitive institutions. An article in the Harvard Crimson stated that the Class of 2000 was chosen from a pool of 18,000 applicants and had an 11 percent acceptance rate which, at the time, was the lowest in Harvard’s history. Statistics 21 years later cited almost 40,000 applicants with a 5 percent acceptance rate at this prestigious institution.

Several admissions people stated that the expectations of colleges have greatly increased in this era when many students utilize test prep courses and/or private tutoring to attain perfect, or near perfect, SAT scores and impressive GPAs.

“Whether applicants are actually ‘stronger’ is tough to say,” according to McManus. In addition to test prep, “there is also a lot of (college application) essay ‘help’ that goes on – both domestically and internationally,” added McManus.

Susan Alaimo is the founder and director of SAT Smart in Hillsborough that has been offering PSAT, SAT, and ACT preparation courses, as well as private tutoring by Ivy League educated instructors, for more than 25 years. Visit or call 908-369-5362.