In Part Four of our multipart blog series focusing on lessons we took away from the unpredictability of 2018-2019 to make sense of the process for the upcoming application season, we are talking about the declining admissions rates around the country along with the growing benefit of early application plans.

UCLA received 111,266 undergraduate applications for the UCLA Class of 2023.  Although they haven’t released their admissions numbers yet, last year, UCLA hit its lowest admit rate of 14%. Assuming that the admissions rate remained at 14% again this year, UCLA accepted only 15,577 out of 111,266 applicants. While UCLA is the most applied to school in the country, application numbers are soaring with, by way of example, 64,000 students applying to NYU this year and over 65,000 students applying to the University of Michigan.

The increasing number of applications received by a college combined with an increasingly more competitive applicant pool have caused overall admit rates to rapidly decrease. In 2001, the overall admit rate of four-year colleges and universities in the US was 63.4%. In 2010, that admit rate dropped by almost 7% to 56.5% but still continues to hover around 56% overall.

With that said, admit rates at the country’s most competitive and well known universities and colleges continue to plummet. In 2001, the overall admit rate to the “most” competitive universities in our country (think Stanford, MIT, Ivy League) was 18.8%. In 2017, that dropped by over 11% to 7.4%. The admit rate at the next tier of most competitive schools in the US dropped from 31.7% in 2001 to 17.2% in 2017, and at the third tier, from 48.7% in 2001 to 32.6% in 2017.

In light of these numbers, more and more applicants are using early application plans such as Early Decision and Restrictive Early Action to boost their chances of admission. Often applicants feel that in order to have even a chance of admission to a highly selective school they have no choice but to strategically apply to their top choice using ED and/or EDII options. And, to be honest, often a highly qualified applicant’s best shot is to take advantage of Early Decision given the significant difference in Regular Decision and ED admit rates at most colleges, as well as the percentage of their freshman class colleges are now filling with ED applicants.

For the 2018-2019 application cycle, the Early Decision admit rate at Brown University was 21% compared with their 7.7% overall admit rate. Brown filled almost 45% of their freshman class with ED applicants. Vanderbilt accepted 20.6% of it ED applicants and only 9.6% overall, filling over 53% of their freshman class with ED applicants. Tulane University’s combined EDI and EDII admit rate was 32.2% and overall rate was 17% (which included non-binding Early Action applications) filling 28% of it’s freshman class with ED applications.

Early Decision isn’t for everyone and many things must be taken into account by the applicant and his family before applying ED, especially how applying ED impacts an applicant’s financial aid package. For many lucky students without financial limitations, however, the benefit of a significantly increased chance of admission to their first choice college often outweighs any potential negatives.