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The Impact & Effect of College Acceptance

In the last two decades, Ivy League college acceptance rates have dropped severely, plunging from double to single figures in the matter of a decade. This increased sense of competition from an already difficult feat for even the most driven of scholars has become what many deem as close to impossible. 

In 1990, Harvard University stood at an acceptance rate of 19.3% which, in comparison to the jarring 4% it stands at now, seems incredible. The transfer acceptance rate stands at an even more jarring state– less than one percent. A measly 0.8% 

For the percentage of the student body overcome with the drive to attend these elite universities, high school is a battlefield of how many APs, Honors, and Dual Enrollment courses they can jam into their schedules on top of a well-rounded list of extracurriculars, achievements, and awards. 

One variable we can attribute to the decrease in college acceptance rates is the role (or lack thereof) of standardized testing. In May 2020, The University of California Regents voted to suspend SAT and ACT requirements and eliminate them entirely by 2025. Many colleges since have dropped SAT requirements. 

Many criticisms regarding standardized testing surround the idea that it discriminates against underrepresented students. It also should go without saying that the American public education system is very underfunded, and many students aren’t provided with the quality of education and support necessary to be readily prepared for the Ivy League.  

The lack of standardized testing being a requirement for the college application process has undoubtedly created more competition. 

An interesting tactic made by many universities that is important to touch on is e-mail marketing. After PSAT season, many students find their inboxes flooded with e-mails from a variety of supposedly interested colleges, and for many people, this grabs their attention. 

According to College Reality Check: “It’s not uncommon for many colleges and universities to send traditional and electronic mails during or after the PSAT or PreACT taking season. Such is something that they do in order to increase the number of applicants, which can help lower their acceptance rates and potentially boost their college rankings.”

The economic side of college admission is another aspect not nearly talked about enough. College application fees often range from $30-90 based on the institution. Colleges cash in annually on these applications on top of tuition and countless other fees. According to statistics from The Ivy Coach, application fee revenue made from 2022-23 Ivy League applications ranged from 1-4 million dollars. 

In short, when colleges get mass amounts of students’ hopes up, there is an increase in applications. Subsequently, when they have more applicants, they can deliver more rejections, lowering their acceptance rates while cashing in a fair amount of money from application fees. 

Another economic perspective to consider is that many lower-class individuals have an unfair disadvantage in higher education. Not only is college EXPENSIVE, but those fortunate enough to be able to afford private school typically are blessed with a plethora of programs, extracurriculars, and access to tutors throughout their private high school career. 

These factors further solidify the chance for academic success, whereas people who aren’t born into wealth or don’t have access to quality education have to work hard to seek out extracurriculars. According to the article: “Top US Private Schools with the Most Graduates Getting Into Ivy League Universities,” by TheStreet: “94 of the top 100 feeder schools into the Ivies were private schools.”

This is not to say (or discourage) those in the public school system from aiming high, but it is to point out a massive flaw in our education system. Many students feel cheated, or at a disadvantage in college acceptance due to the factors aforementioned. It is something that can hopefully have more light shed on it by people in positions of power in future years.