Colleges Placing a Higher Value on the Demonstrated Interest of Making the Effort to Apply Early

Many of this year’s high school seniors have gotten, or will soon be receiving, word of whether they’ve been accepted to their top choice colleges for the 2023-24 academic year. And if the early results are any indication, save for a handful of highly selective schools, there’s a good chance that word was “yes.”

This year’s high school juniors should take note.

The Common App reported a 26% increase in early decision/early action applications compared to the 2019-20 season, the last year before the pandemic brought seismic shifts to the college admissions landscape. And of approximately two dozen top colleges surveyed by, almost half accepted early applicants at rates better than 25%. Some colleges, such as Fordham and Colorado, admitted more than half of those applying early. The numbers seem to indicate that colleges this year were placing a higher value on the demonstrated interest of making the effort to apply early – whether that was via a binding Early Decision application, or a non-binding Early Action.

The exceptions to the trend seem to be the most highly-selective schools – the Ivies, Northwestern, NYU, and others – where statistics point to lower early acceptances than in past years, or aren’t made available to the public. It’s an interesting turn of events, since many students enter this stage in the process concerned about the competition for an acceptance to these schools. It’s entirely possible that the greater numbers of early applicants are actually discouraging the most competitive institutions from admitting very many students. After all, if it seems that everyone is applying early, then how many of your early applicants reallywant to attend your specific school?

The increase in the number of early applicants themselves could be an indicator that applicant anxiety was on the rise this year, given the uncertainty around how the process would slowly revert back to “normal” as the pandemic started to wane. It could reflect the impact of most colleges’ decision to retain a “test-optional” admissions policy for another year. And for many early applicants, it was a way to lock in an acceptance early at the school of their dreams – or simply to lock up the process early and take some of the stress out of the rest of senior year.

Another interesting trend that may be driving higher numbers of applicants is a Common App-cited statistic regarding fee waivers: the number of students claiming eligibility for income-based application fee waivers during the early application period increased by more than 50 percent over the 2019-20 season. This was a welcome shift, as nearly two-thirds of overall applicants came from the top 20% of the most affluent ZIP codes in the U.S. Underrepresented minority applicants and first-generation student applicants also grew dramatically: 32 and 43 percent, respectively.

All of this points to the importance of starting the process early if you want to maximize your chances of gaining admission to your top choice schools. One2One can help you chart a path to early admission, whether binding or non-binding, as well as helping you sort through the numbers and use them to your advantage when choosing where and when to apply!

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