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Articles / Admissions / Ivy League: The Year of Single-Digit Acceptance Rates

May 19, 2020

Ivy League: The Year of Single-Digit Acceptance Rates

Well, it's over. Another anxiety-filled college admissions season has ended. March 30 was D-Day ("D" for "Decision") for many high school seniors, especially those applying to the Ivy League and other so-called "elite" colleges and universities. For applicants aspiring to the Class of 2015, timing was unfortunate. This was, without question, the most difficult year ever for landing a slot at an Ivy League school.

As you can see from the chart below, six of the eight Ivies had overall acceptance rates in single digits. That's relatively mind boggling. Those odds make sense, though, when you look at the number of applications these schools received. Five of the eight got over 30,000. One has to wonder how the admission folks managed to keep their sanity throughout a process of this magnitude.

CollegeNumber of ApplicationsAcceptance RateSource
Brown30,9488.7%Brown News and Events
Columbia~35,0006.9%Columbia Spectator
Cornell36,39218%Cornell Daily Sun
Dartmouth22,3859.7%Dartmouth Now
Harvard34,9506.2%Harvard Gazette
Princeton27,1898.4%News at Princeton
University of Pennsylvania31,65912.3%Daily Pennsylvanian
Yale27,2827.4%Yale News
Compare ACT scores for the Ivy League
Compare SAT scores for the Ivy League

Poster "Xiggi," a highly knowledgeable resource on the College Confidential discussion forum, has summarized not only the Ivies' punitive acceptance rates, but also those of a number of other schools. Let's take a look at a few of his comments about this year's amazing Ivy (and other) admissions news.

Admission statistics for Class of 2015

As the results for the regular decision round come in, here a few of the notable announcements.

Princeton University has offered admission to 2,282 students, or 8.39 percent, of the record 27,189 applications for the class of 2015 in what may be the most selective admission process in the University's history.

Beyond the 2,282 students offered admission to the class of 2015, an additional 1,248 were offered positions on the wait list.

Princeton University - Princeton makes offers to 8.39 percent of applicants in record admission cycle

Stanford offered admission to 2,427 students out of 34,348 applicants to the Class of 2015.

This brings Stanford's current admit rate to nearly 7.1 percent, compared to 7.2 percent last year. Among the admitted students, 754 had applied through the early action program and received an offer of admission in December.

According to the Office of Undergraduate Admission, an additional 1,078 applicants have been placed on the waitlist and will hear from Stanford, pending matriculation results.

Stanford accepts 2,427 high school applicants | Stanford Daily

MIT received 17,909 applications for admission --an 8% increase over last year-- and admitted 1715 students for an admit rate of 9.6%, or fewer than one of every ten applicants.

MIT Admissions | Blog Entry: "MIT Admissions Decisions Now Available Online"


Vanderbilt received a total of 24,756 applications (14% increase in applications from 2010)and admitted 15.45%.

Applications from underrepresented students grew 15.7% from 2010, demonstrating our continued commitment to diversity. As a result of our increasing international reputation, international applications grew 27.5% from 2010

Vanderbilt Class of 2015 Admission Decisions Mailed Today | The Vandy Admissions Blog | Vanderbilt University


NU received 30,975 applications for freshmen admission, up 12% from last year and up 22% from two years ago and admitted a total of 5,573 students, or a record low 18% of the applicant pool. Last year, NU admitted 23% of the applicants, and two years ago 27% of the applicants.

NU overall acceptance rate at 18% -- down from 27% just 2 years ago

Harvard accepts a diverse class of 2015

Nearly 35,000 students applied to Harvard College this year and 2,158, or 6.2 percent, were accepted into the class of 2015, the college has announced.

The letters bearing the good news to accepted applicants were mailed today, the school said in a statement.

As expected, the accepted students have stellar academic backgrounds, with about 45 percent of them scoring 700 or above on one or more portions of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Eleven percent of the accepted students are the highest-ranked in their high school classes.

The admitted class is also diverse. The accepted students were 17.8 percent Asian-American, 11.8 percent African-American, and 12.1 percent Latino. Ten percent of those admitted are foreign citizens, the university said.

“Although it is difficult to make precise comparisons to previous years because of changes in federal requirements concerning the collection and reporting of race and ethnicity information, it is likely that the percentages of African-American and Latino students are records," the school said.

Just over 51 percent of the admitted students are men.

According to Harvard, more than 60 percent of the admitted students will receive need-based scholarships, averaging more than $40,000, thanks to a record $160 million in available financial aid.

Harvard accepts a diverse class of 2015


Brown admits 2,692 for Class of 2015 | Brown University News and Events

The Office of College Admission at Brown University is making official offers of admission to 2,692 applicants for its Class of 2015. Those offers, posted online at the University's admission Web site after 5 p.m. EDT, represent 8.7 percent of applicants from a total of 30,946, Brown's largest applicant pool ever.

Highlights of the admitted Class of 2015 include:

The pool: The total of 30,946 applicants is about a 3-percent increase over last year. Brown has experienced a 50-percent surge in applications over the last three years.

United States: Students from all 50 states were admitted. The top states were California (393), New York (322), Massachusetts (216), New Jersey (141), and Texas (101).

International: Students from 79 nations are represented in the admitted class. The top countries were China (57), India (34), United Kingdom (33), Korea (30), and Canada (28).

Gender: Of the admitted class, 51 percent are women.

First generation: Seventeen percent of the admitted candidates are the first generation in their families to attend college.

Financial aid: Nearly two-thirds of the admitted class applied for financial aid.

Diversity: The admitted class is the most racially, socio-economically, and geographically diverse class in Brown's history.

Academic interest: The admitted class plans to study physical sciences (33 percent), social sciences (25 percent), life and medical sciences (22 percent) and humanities (16 percent). About 4 percent of students are undecided.

Concentrations: The most popular intended concentrations are engineering, biology, international relations, economics, and human biology


Yale admitted 2,006 of 27,282 applicants to the freshman class for the 2011-2012 school year. The admission rate dropped to 7.35% from 7.5% last year.



The School of Engineering and Applied Science admitted 9.9 percent of applicants, for an overall admit rate of 6.9 percent for the two schools—lower than the the most competitive rate in the Ivy League last year, which was Harvard's 6.92 percent. The admit rate for Columbia College dropped to its lowest point ever—just 6.4 percent for the class of 2015.

Those numbers represent a significant drop from last year, when the College admitted 8.3 percent of applicants and the combined admit rate for CC and SEAS was 9.2 percent.

The total number of applicants for both Columbia College and the SEAS was 34,929, a 33 percent increase over last year.

This year, over 3,000 more students applied to the College than applied to the College and SEAS combined last year—a spike which may be partially due to Columbia's switch to the Common Application.

The increase in selectivity is consistent with the numbers released last December, when Columbia officials said that Early Decision numbers had also broken a record, with 3,217 applicants—up from 2,983 the year before.

Columbia College admit rate drops to 6.4 percent


Dartmouth Admits 9.7 Percent of Applicants for Class of 2015|Dartmouth Now

After processing 22,385 applications, a College record, Dartmouth is offering admission to 2,178 students, or 9.7 percent of the applicant pool, to the Class of 2015. The total offered admission includes the 444 students admitted through early decision. In 2010, the rate of admission was 11.5 percent which, at the time, was the most competitive year the College had ever experienced.

Laskaris credits the College's partnership with Questbridge in helping to broaden the socioeconomic diversity and academic strength of the applicant pool. Questbridge is a non-profit program that links bright, motivated, low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at highly selective colleges and universities.

After a one-time increase in the size of the incoming class of 2014, the projected enrollment for the Class of 2015 will return to prior levels. “After consultation with faculty and senior officers, our goal is to matriculate 1,100 first year students in September," Laskaris said. “We will continue to consider the question of optimal size of the student body, particularly within the context of the strategic planning process..."


Regular decision admit rate drops to 9.5 percent | The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn's overall acceptance rate is 12.3 percent, down from 14.2 percent last year. This number also marks a record low, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said.

On Wednesday, the Admissions Office reported that 9.5 percent of regular decision applicants were admitted to the Class of 2015, down from 11.4 percent last year. This marks the first time that the University's regular decision acceptance rate has dipped below the 10-percent mark.

This admissions cycle, the University admitted a total of 3,880 of 31,659 students, Furda said. Last year, 26,938 students applied and 3,830 were accepted.

The target enrollment across all four undergraduate schools is 2,420 students.


Cornell Sees Record Number of Undergrad Applications | The Cornell Daily Sun

Cornell received its highest number of undergraduate applications ever, according to admissions statistics released today as thousands of high schoolers discovered whether they would have a place in the Sesquicentennial Class of 2015. 36,392 people applied for spots in next year's freshman class, beating last year's total number of applications by less than one percent.

The overall admit rate for both Early Decision and Regular Decision was 18 percent, a slight decrease from the 2010 admit rate of 18.4 percent.

This year, a total of 6,534 applicants were admitted, according to a report from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Out of this total, 1,228 applicants were admitted Early Decision and 5,306 were admitted Regular Decision.

In addition to the applicants accepted, 2,988 students were offered a place on the waitlist, compared to 2,563 from last year.

What do you think of this year's admissions results? Comment below.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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