It’s as predictable as the budding trees. Each spring the percentage of students accepted to top colleges drops lower. And each year a new crop of students and parents is shocked by the admissions outcomes. This season, Brown University, which has been “highly selective” forever, announced that it had accepted just 5.5% of the applicants who applied during its regular decision round.
Not to be outdone, Harvard and Princeton announced they’d only accepted 5%, while Stanford claimed an even lower 4%. To put that number in perspective, out of the 47,450 hopeful students who applied to Stanford, only 2,040 were offered spots in the class of 2022.
With odds that low, why even bother trying? It’s a valid question and many students are raising it. Yet, despite the odds, I have students each year who do get admitted to these highly selective schools.
When it comes to college application deadlines, November is fast becoming the new normal. Every year the number of high school students applying to college early via Early Action and Early Decision programs is increasing. Not only are more students applying early, more are being accepted in the first round. That means the whole timing of the college admissions process is changing.
Savvy students know they can increase their chances of admission at highly selective schools by applying early. Last year Harvard accepted 18% of its Early Action applicants, compared with just 5.9% of its total applicants that year. Princeton accepted a full 21% in the early round, compared with its much lower rate of 7.9% overall. Yale accepted 14.3%, in contrast to 6.7% overall.
Numbers for this year are still coming in for many schools, but Harvard’s Early Action acceptance rate is up about three percentage points, Yale’s is up one percent, while Princeton’s is up slightly less than one.
Although some schools have tried to gloss over the obvious conclusion—arguing that many students who apply early are academically superior—it seems clear that students who apply early boost their chances of success.