Escalating Applications & Admissions Selectivity: College Planning Advice for Rising Juniors and Seniors

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: May 30, 2022

We’ll cut to the chase. This post of ours has very important directions that will affect your college application planning. Take heed by following this advice:

  • Don’t avoid the SAT or ACT! Take one of these tests, since data suggest that colleges – even those that are test-optional – favor students who submit scores with their applications! As you’ll see in the chart below, every university other than George Washington favored applicants who submitted scores – and GW is actually the only one below that was test-optional before the pandemic!

Image 1 - Escalating Applications & Admissions Selectivity --College Planning Advice for Rising Juniors and Seniors

And another thing about those test scores: Average scores for admitted students will be higher next year, and probably the following year, too, so consider “differential score reporting.” That means that you’ll send your test scores only to those test-optional colleges where your numbers will be competitive.


  • The number of college applications submitted will continue to escalate – especially for larger universities and “brand name” schools. Because of test-optional admissions at well over half the nation’s universities, more students will apply who may not have previously applied, and more students will apply to more and more colleges, making admissions decisions really tough for schools. Take a look below at the increase in applications to a wide range of schools:

Image 2 - Escalating Applications & Admissions Selectivity --College Planning Advice for Rising Juniors and Seniors

  • Escalating applications means fewer students will be accepted because colleges don’t have many more freshman spaces available than they did a decade ago. Acceptance rates, once a bragging right for selective universities, have plummeted so low that some colleges have stopped reporting them. And we expect these acceptance rates to continue to drop.

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  • Because more schools have to adjust to the fact that they over-enrolled their freshman class last year, fewer students may be admitted in the upcoming admissions cycle. Here’s a prime example from Northeastern University, whose admit rate declined substantially because the school over-enrolled in 2021: 

From…enrolling 4,500 students in 2021 (1,500 more than target) after admitting 13,829

To…enrolling only 2,500 students in 2022 after admitting only 6,179


  • Given the substantial increase in applications and admission selectivity, we urge you to create a more conservative college list. Why? 
  1. Many “target” schools will have now become “stretch” schools. That is, your chances of admission are a bit of a stretch, though possible.

  2. Some stretch schools have become “lottery” schools – more out of reach for many of even the most accomplished students!

  3. State flagship universities such as the University of Florida and Florida State University have become harder to get into. For example, in 2016, FSU admitted 46% of its applicants for fall and 52% for summer; this year its overall admit rate dropped to 25%. FSU applications are up a spectacular 147% since 2016. So, if you’re interested in attending a state university, whether in or out of state, you should add some less selective state universities to your list.

  4. Keeping in mind that the admissions landscape continually changes, add extra targets or safeties to your list, remembering that criteria for admission at these schools on your list (target and safety) have changed substantially in the last two years.

    Early Decision admits rates will continue to grow as part of many colleges’ enrollment management plans. Those numbers will surge past many colleges’ RD (Regular Decision) admission rates, thus making it far more advantageous to apply during a college’s binding early decision round. In fact, many selective colleges now enroll close to half their freshman class through ED! The two charts below – for Ivy League universities and for more selective colleges – clearly indicate that it can easily be 3-4 times more likely to get into college through ED than through RD.

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So, begin researching and visiting colleges early enough, develop a stellar academic record, and take an active leadership role in some of your extracurriculars. You may be a great candidate for ED admission to your top-choice college!

ALWAYS stay alert to the latest college-admissions trends so that you can effectively manage your expectations! Join your colleges’ media accounts to get the latest news directly from them; they’ll love having you follow them, which may also increase your potential for admission.

Topics: College Counseling

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