You Already Know This, But…


The statistics on college acceptance rates don’t lie. They also don’t come as a surprise to people working in the college admission profession.

Although media coverage and parent perceptions can make it seem as though a handful of selective universities are the norm, most US colleges and universities admit a majority of students who apply.

NACAC’s State of College Admission report has proclaimed this for years, but a new study from Pew Research Center is backing it up and pushing its findings into the mainstream.

Pew looked at 1,364 four-year colleges and universities. Of those, just 17 admitted fewer than 10 percent of their total applicant pool. Another 29 schools admitted between 10 percent and 20 percent of applicants.

In comparison, 53.3 percent of the colleges and universities included in the study admitted at least two-thirds of all applicants.

The Atlantic ran their own similar study.

Of the 10.8 million undergraduates enrolled in the country’s more than 2,500 four-year universities in the fall of 2017, more than 80 percent attended schools that accept more than half their applicants.

Only about 3 percent of undergraduates were enrolled at a four-year university that accepts fewer than a quarter of undergraduate applicants and just 0.8 percent of undergraduates were attending a university that accepts fewer than one in 10 applicants, The Atlantic found.

In the wake of the recent bribery scandal, these numbers – and the media attention on them — are more important than ever.

Maybe if we stop thinking about “college admission” as “how to get into exclusive schools,” and start recognizing how many institutions are really serving the public good, the process of applying doesn’t have to be as traumatic and stressful.

And if we are truly concerned about highly-selective colleges, let’s start a discussion about that.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

One thought on “You Already Know This, But…”

  1. In articles such as this, I believe it is also important to talk about outcomes. Students from that cohort of colleges that admit 80% are often just as successful in their careers as those who graduate from the “exclusive” schools. I would love to see more written about outcomes because in reality, this is what matters.

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