The Real Truth About Ivy League Admit Rates

Fair warning: This post may make you reconsider some of the colleges on your list. The most selective schools in this country are actually even more difficult to get into than you previously thought. Believe it or not, the meager Ivy League admission rates published by the schools can be misleading.

“How so?” you may be asking.

The current acceptance rates:

Let’s start with a quick math lesson. First, the acceptance rate for the current freshman class at each school in the Ivy League:

Harvard 6%
Yale 6%
Columbia 7%
Princeton 7%
Brown 9%
University of Pennsylvania 10%
Dartmouth 12%
Cornell 14%

Now, subtract out all of the students that are admitted at a higher rate than the average. Say, athletes, sons and daughters of famous politicians, world-renowned prodigies, etc.

Guess what? When you take out those populations (they get counted in the average, too), you’re left with an admit rate that’s even lower than the ones listed above.

Inflated admission rates

As if these numbers aren’t daunting enough, for most of us they are actually inflated.

Yes–that’s right–for the majority of Americans, it may actually be more difficult to get into these schools than the numbers may indicate, and that’s because of who else is counted in these meager admission statistics.

“Special” population

Each of these schools gets their fair share of special populations whose admit rates are actually higher than the numbers listed above thus making the numbers for the rest of us even lower.

Take, for example, famous sons and daughters. Malia Obama is applying to college this year and has been sighted touring the campuses of a number of the Ivies, among others. Will any of these schools really reject someone whose last name is Obama?

This does not take anything away from Malia, whose academic preparation reportedly puts her solidly in the ranks of the Ivy-bound, but what school wouldn’t want someone of that notoriety in their midst? The same goes for Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who is world-famous for her relentless promotion of education for girls in third world countries. As long as Malala reasonably comes close to meeting their admission standards (and I’m sure she does more than that), who wouldn’t take her?

These are but two examples of many. Consider the children of ambassadors, senators, world-famous musicians, and the like. From a college’s perspective, there are real benefits to being able to claim these famous families as part of your community.

What about college athletes?

College athletes also are likely to have an acceptance rate that is higher than the overall admit rate average reported by the institution. Each of these schools supports a number of division one athletic teams for both men and women. These coaches work hard to recruit academically qualified, athletically talented young people because nothing unites a campus and promotes school spirit like a winning team. As a result, campuses are often willing to give weight to a student’s non-academic talents when considering their application. Many of these athletes are often “vetted” by the admissions office to see if they’re acceptable before they officially apply. It’s pretty safe to say that the admit rate for the football team, ice hockey team, basketball team, or others are higher than the overall averages stated above.

The others

So, when it comes to the point in the admissions process to decide on the “other” applications or those that don’t fit into some special population, these students are likely going to balance out the average to arrive at the numbers you see in the chart above.

What does this mean to you? You knew that getting into a top tier school was difficult, but it’s likely even more difficult than you first thought.

There is, however, good news in all of this. As you look at the admissions statistics of a broader range of schools over the last decade or so, you will notice that many have pretty impressive stats. Admit rates have gone down, so schools that were not as selective have gotten to be more so; graduation and retention rates have improved, and the list of “good” schools is much broader than many people initially realize.

These schools have talented, dedicated faculty who are ready and willing to teach you. So, don’t be afraid to reach for the stars, just remember that stars’ distance from the earth varies, but most of them shine brightly!

Look beyond admission rates

So, instead of just looking at an admit rate to determine the quality of an institution, look well beyond that. See how many faculty are teaching undergraduates. Determine how many undergrads they’re involving in that research with them. Examine the graduation rate, the net cost to you, student indebtedness, and other factors that will determine whether or not a college is a good fit for you!  Selectivity is a poor way to determine fit.

You wouldn’t buy jeans based on the price tag, would you? So, do your homework and see how comfortable a place is for you personally before you make your investment.