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BY THE NUMBERS

New data show how hard it was to get into an elite US college this year

A Harvard University student cheers during the 135th playing of "The Game" against Yale University, at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., November 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RC140C5D1500
Reuters/Brian Snyder
Watch your back! Harvard had an even lower acceptance rate for the class of 2023.
By Kevin J. Delaney
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Elite US universities have been accepting smaller and smaller percentages of applicants in recent years, and this year the admission rate at many top schools declined even further.

Many selective colleges have now notified applicants of their status and begun publishing their admissions statistics for the class that will graduate in 2023. A wave of schools, including members of the Ivy League, notified applicants the evening of March 28.

Harvard University’s already-low acceptance rate dropped even further, as it admitted just 4.5% of its 43,330 applicants for admission. Admissions rates declined at most other super-elite schools, with the exceptions of Princeton University and Cornell University, which both saw declines in the number of applicants.

Here’s a table with the class of 2023 acceptance rates released so far. They’re listed below as 2019 acceptances, with the class of 2022 listed as 2018 acceptances.

Harvard
4.5%
1,950
43,330
4.6%
42,749
Columbia
5.1%
2,190
42,569
5.5%
40,203
Princeton
5.8%
1,895
32,804
5.5%
35,370
Yale
5.9%
2,178
36,843
6.3%
35,306
Brown
6.6%
2,551
38,674
7.0%
35,438
MIT
6.6%
1,410
21,312
6.7%
21,706
U. of Pennsylvania
7.4%
3,345
44,960
8.4%
44,482
Duke
7.4%
3,078
41,600
8.6%
37,330
Dartmouth
7.9%
1,876
23,650
8.7%
22,033
Swarthmore
8.7%
995
11,400
9%
10,749
Bowdoin
8.9%
830*
9,332
10.3%
9,081
Cornell
10.6%
5,183
49,118
10.3%
51,328
Amherst
11.0%
1,144
10,567
12.8%
9,722
Williams
12.4%
1,205
9,715
12.2%
9,559
Stanford
**
**
**
4.3%
47,451
Caltech
n/a
n/a
n/a
6.6%
8,208
U. of Chicago
5.9%
n/a
n/a
7.3%
32,283

*calculated based on other data released by the university.

Stanford University last year said it would no longer publicize its acceptance rate, in order to help reduce the focus on such data. “That is not a race we are interested in being a part of, and it is not something that empowers students in finding a college that is the best match for their interests, which is what the focus of the entire process should be,” Stanford provost Persis Drell said at the time. Critics of a focus on acceptance rates also often note that universities can increase their perceived selectivity by boosting the volume of applications received via aggressive marketing and other tactics.

The latest admissions announcements come amid increasing criticism of top universities’ processes for selecting students, in the wake of a national US scandal involving parents and students cheating to get into top-tier schools. That has also prompted a discussion about the pressures that parents and kids feel to get into elite universities, at the same time those schools are admitting lower percentages of applicants.

Quartz’s Jenny Anderson recently reviewed research into whether attendance at a highly selective university makes a real difference. Her conclusion: “The prestige of a university does not determine what a student learns, their happiness at school, or how satisfied they are with their lives after graduation.”

Table updated April 1 to include the University of Chicago’s reported acceptance rate. 

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