The Conflation of Colleges and Elite Colleges

What is true at America’s colleges is often not true at America’s elite colleges.

We were recently asked to comment for a CBS Radio piece just how much easier this Ivy League admissions cycle would be since colleges are having such trouble filling their seats. Before we could comment, we scratched our heads. And we don’t have a case of dandruff. No, the reason the question made us scratch our head was because the journalist presupposed that this is going to be an easier Ivy League admissions cycle. On the contrary, we anticipate this will be one of the toughest years in Ivy League admissions in recent memory. You see, the journalist was conflating two things. While it’s true that enrollment is down at many colleges, Ivy League schools are not worrying about filling seats next year. No, not when they will deny many more applicants than they choose to admit. That would make no sense. It seemed the journalist made the leap of logic that what is true at all American universities is true among America’s most selective universities.

Gap Year Students from Class of 2024 Will Fill Some Seats in Class of 2025

And wouldn’t that be nice for this year’s Ivy League applicants — if all the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an easier year in admissions. But the math tell us that this just isn’t going to happen. You see, when 20% of students in Harvard University’s Class of 2024 opted to take gap years, those students are going to fill seats in Harvard’s Class of 2025. The same is true at Yale University. The same is true at Dartmouth College, though only 14% of members of its Class of 2024 opted to go the gap year route. Heck, Dartmouth has come out and said that they do not anticipate expanding the size of the Class of 2025. So follow the numbers. If fewer seats are available and the class size isn’t expanding, it’s only going to be tougher to get in. And the fact is, these schools just didn’t have the time and notice to build new dormitories. We thus don’t anticipate they’ll be significantly expanding their incoming class sizes.

America’s Highly Selective Colleges Are the Exception, Not the Rule

One of the core objectives of this college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective admissions process, misconceptions perpetuated by the press, by school counselors, by private college counselors, and even by fishermen. So when you come across an article with a headline that reads, “College Admissions Will Be Easier Due to Decreased Enrollment,” know that these colleges to which the journalist is referring are colleges in general. And most colleges in America aren’t particularly selective. The Ivy League schools and their peers are exceptions among America’s colleges. They are not the rule.

 
 

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