How Test-optional Policies Are Impacting College Acceptances

As more schools have adopted test-optional policies, the acceptance rate trends have changed rapidly.

What are the early decision acceptance rate trends in 2022-23? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

When high school seniors were considering which prestigious colleges to apply to, they likely thought about applying early to their top choice. Early Decision (ED) is a binding decision that means if accepted, the student is obligated to withdraw their other applications and enroll at the school. Typically, the only way out of the ED binding contract is due to insufficient financial aid.

Not only do universities get to lock in some of the brightest students for their freshman class early, but students benefit from this type of decision too and will often see higher acceptance rates. Many top schools like Brown University, Rice University, Cornell University and Duke University have an Early Decision option. In the past few years, as more schools have adopted test-optional policies, the acceptance rate trends have changed rapidly. Here are some of the changes from this past cycle.

More Students Applying Early Decision

Over the past few years, admission officers have seen an increase in the number of students opting for ED, making it more competitive than ever. Brown University received 6,770 early decision applicants, a 10% increase from the previous year. According to their website, this is the fifth year in a row that the number of applicants for ED have increased. Dartmouth College saw a 14% increase in the number of ED applicants and had a lower acceptance rate (19%) than the previous two years. Yale University also saw a considerable increase; the early application pool for the Class of 2027 was 35% larger than the Class of 2024's.

More Underrepresented Students Gaining Admission

Universities continue to place a priority on accepted underrepresented or first-generation students. For Washington University in St Louis, 12% of ED admits are eligible for the Pell Grant and 13% are the first in their families to attend college. At Johns Hopkins University, 17% of the admitted students are the first in their families to attend college. Of Dartmouth College’s accepted students, 17% came from low-income areas.

Big Changes In Acceptance Rates

Some schools either had a significant drop off in acceptance rate or, perhaps more surprisingly, an increase. For example, Vanderbilt accepted 24.1% of its ED applicants this year, compared to 17.6% from the 2021–22 cycle. Northeastern saw a similar increase, having accepted almost 6% more ED applicants than the previous year. However, quite a few schools saw the opposite: Duke’s ED acceptance rate dropped about 5%, and the University of Georgia’s Early Acceptance rate decreased by almost 10% compared to the 2022–23 application cycle.

Colleges Not Releasing Data

Last year, Princeton University, Columbia University, Stanford University and Cornell University did not release their early action and early decision acceptance rates. This year, they continued this trend, with the University of Pennsylvania joining them. Stanford has opted since 2018 not to release the data, saying that it has no interest in being part of the “race” to becoming the most competitive schools. “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,” explained Stanford Provost Persis Drell.

More Students Going Test Optional

Michaela Schieffer, a counselor at Moon Prep, says for the time being, test-optional is here to stay. Test-optional can be a strong option for students with a solid academic record and strong extracurricular activities but weren’t able to achieve a high score on either of the standardized tests. Schieffer explains that many more of her students are going this route. This year, 38% of admitted ED1 Emory College students and 41% of admitted ED1 Oxford students did not submit a test score.

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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