Ivy League acceptance rates for incoming undergraduates are at an all-time low, according to Bloomberg. Columbia University’s acceptance rate for undergraduate students stood at 6.89% in 2013 from 7.4% in 2013. Princeton University saw a less dramatic change, decreasing from 7.9% in 2012 to 7.3% this year — Harvard, even more so, budging from 5.9% in 2012 to 5.8% in 2013. The allure of prestige and generous financial aid are factors that tie into the appeal of Ivy League programs for college-bound freshmen all over the country. However, acceptance rates are far from being indicators of intelligence.
While the acceptance rates may be getting lower, the students making the acceptance cuts aren't necessarily any smarter than their losing competition.
For one, a graph completed by the New York Times shows that students are more likely to be accepted through early decision, compared to regular and overall admission rates.
Applying for early decision, of course is a risky pursuit. Students are obligated to attend if accepted to a university — this puts a serious damper on the aspect of variety to make the best choice for a student’s academic and financial agenda. Such practices more or less benefits the wealthy and well connected.
Another reason for a decrease in admits signals an increased application pool for a limited amount of space. In Bloomberg, a former Stanford admissions points out that the universality of the Common Application makes it easier than ever for college seniors to apply to high-reach schools. Last year Harvard topped the charts as Ivy with the lowest number of acceptances. In a statement, the school’s dean of admissions and financial aid, William Fitzsimmons said, “We have always been conservative about the number of acceptances sent out at this time of year in order to avoid the possibility of overcrowding. Harvard's high graduation rate — typically 97 to 98% — leaves little margin for error.”
Perhaps the most important aspect to factor in is the subjectivity universities are compelled to struggle with. What is an admissions officer or committee to do when they are presented with two, three, four, or more applications with the same high scores and grades? They look to accomplishments, activities, and essays. And while any given applicant may be an SAT super star with a perfect GPA, but if they can’t talk about themselves in a way that stands out, they may be more likely to receive a rejection. More often than not, the personal statement can make or break a student, yet, is an aspect that may fall in the back burner during the overall chaos of applying.
Finally, there is tradition backed by elitism.
The origin of the Ivy title finds its origin in athletics — namely, the athletic conference between the Big 8 in 1954. Since then, the Ivies have become synonymous as epitomes of educational and social success. An admission is a ticket into an exclusive club. What would it say about the reputation of these universities if their selectivity rates were to meet the national averages of other universities within the U.S.? There would go everything that makes an Ivy a dream for hopefuls to vicariously live from via prominent alumni.
All in all, a rejection this cycle doesn't suggest that a student wasn't clever enough to make the cut. Rather, there are several unforeseen circumstances that can jolt the unpredictable field of admissions in any given direction at any given time. A bang for your buck in future endeavours can still be met at other quality institutions.