Admissions Rates At The Most Selective Schools: What Do They Mean For You?

College admissions results are in for the Class of 2016, and while many students experienced joy at getting accepted to the college of their choice, many others experienced disappointment.  The competition to get into some of the country’s most coveted institutions continues to remain incredibly stiff, and many of the most selective colleges saw even lower admissions rates this year than last year.  Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth all had acceptance rates that were under 10%.  Here’s a taste of the admissions percentages for the class of 2016 at some of the most selective schools:

  • Harvard:   5.9%
  • Stanford:  6.6%
  • Yale:  6.8%
  • Columbia:  7.4%
  • Princeton:  7.9%
  • Dartmouth:  9.4%
  • Brown:  9.7%
  • Duke:  11.9%
  • Amherst:  11.9%
  • Vanderbilt:  12.0%
  • UPenn:  12.3%
  • Pomona:  12.8%
  • U. Chicago:  13.2%
  • Swarthmore:  14.1%
  • Northwestern:  15.3%
  • Cornell:  16.2%
  • Georgetown:  16.5%
  • Williams:  17.7%
  • USC:  18.2%
  • UC Berkeley: 19.7%
  • Wesleyan:  19.7%
  • Tufts:  21.0%

There’s no question that these numbers are daunting.  But, what do they really mean for you, if your one of those students thinking about applying to these colleges in the future?  The answer is simple:  it’s time to dig more deeply and think more broadly.  Even if you’re the most stellar student with top test scores and involvement in lots of activities or very focused involvement in just one activity, you have no guarantee that you will be accepted at institutions with admissions rates like those above.  Face it.  It’s a crapshoot.

Dig More Deeply:  Instead of deciding on one college and discounting another because of their respective levels of selectivity, if you look beyond the admissions rate, and really understand what a college can offer you, you just may find a better fit.  Just because a school is competitive to get into doesn’t mean that it offers you anything more than a school that is less selective, nor does it mean that it’s the right fit.  Perhaps, getting into a more competitive institution will give you bragging rights, but bragging rights don’t buy happiness nor do they buy success.  Investigate all of your potential schools with an eye to your priorities.  Know your priorities.  Do the schools to which you are applying actually meet them?

Think More Broadly:  In the U.S. alone, thousands of colleges and universities stand waiting to provide a top-notch education to their students.  That means that even if some of the most competitive schools out there do meet your priorities, guess what!  So do many other fine institutions that are less selective.  Cast your net more widely.  If you know what you want to pursue in college, find those schools that are strong in that major.  If you want to be in a certain geographic area or at a certain size school, go visit schools that match your criteria and see if you like the academics and the campus “vibe”.  The highly selective schools noted above don’t have a monopoly on excellent academics, great school spirit, and overall opportunity.

By digging more deeply and thinking more broadly about your college choices, the admissions numbers above won’t seem so scary.  They will become less important to you because you’ll have a wide array of alternative and excellent college options that fit your priorities and needs.  Remember, it’s not the college that a student attends that makes the student successful.  It’s the student that makes the student successful!

Andrea Aronson

College Admissions Specialist

Westfield, New Jersey


Published by Andrea Aronson

Leading our New Jersey office and based in Westfield, NJ, Andrea Aronson holds an MBA from the Wharton School and a certificate in college counseling from UCLA. As a marketing expert, she assists all students in presenting themselves in the best possible light.

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  1. The admit figure is wrong for Vanderbilt. It was actually 13.3% not 12%. Many people confused the regular decision rate (12%) with the overall admit rate (13.3%).

    And then there’s Vandy’s massive wait list acceptances….

  2. Not sure the source of JC’s data, but below is direct from Vanderbilt that maps to the data in the listing above. The overall admit rate was12.02% and the regular decision admit rate was 10.8%. (

    The Vanderbilt Admissions Department sorted through a pool of 28,340 combined Early Decision and Regular Decision applications to fill 1,600 first-year slots. The difference in applicants from last year’s 24,837 to this year’s showed an increase of 14.1 percent.

    According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the applicant pool was not only the largest, but also the most impressive in the university’s history. The Class of 2016’s statistics are as follows:

    28,340 — total number of applications submitted this year

    24,837 — total number of applications submitted last year

    3,062 — number of students admitted regular decision

    12.02 percent — Overall admit rate (as of mailing day)

    10.8 percent — admissions rate (for regular decision students)

    14.1 percent increase in number of applications from last year to this year

    Middle 50 percent SAT (CR + M): 1470 – 1590

    Middle 50 percent ACT: 33 – 35

    Percentage of students in the top 10 percent of their graduating class: 96.35 percent*

    Average rank in class (percent from the top): 2.77 percent*

    *Data reported only for students enrolled in schools that provide exact rank in class information

    Vanderbilt Regular Decision admission letters were mailed Wednesday, March 21, and international students will receive their decision via email today.


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