Colleges see record low acceptance rates

Lauren Kostakis, News Editor

It’s no secret that college admissions are a nightmare, especially when applying to top schools. Having a 4.0 GPA, playing varsity sports and completing hundreds of hours of community service is no longer enough to get into the country’s best universities. The declining admissions rates across the country are a growing source of stress for many high school students. The standards unfairly demanded for acceptance have risen so high that for the average student it’s hardly worth applying to these highly competitive schools. The introduction of the Commonapp as a method of applying to college has caused the number of applicants to skyrocket because under qualified applicants can easily apply to any college. This influx of applicants should not be an overlooked factor in the decline of college acceptance rates.

“When applying to college, I wanted to apply somewhere that had an acceptance rate percentage somewhere in between, so it wasn’t too easy to get into, but also not too difficult at the same time,” said Allison Stanmeyer (‘23).

Admissions rates are plummeting for a variety of reasons. In a post-pandemic world, many schools are phasing out standardized tests, thus eliminating the need to get excellent scores, like a 1500+ on the SAT or 34+ on the ACT. These students with high GPAs and low standardized testing scores cause inflation in the average test scores of accepted applicants to colleges. This inflation makes it seem like prospective students need to achieve almost impossible scores to get into college at all because only the best scores are being reported. This causes the applicant pool for these colleges to grow, forcing the college to become more selective and making the acceptance rate lower.

The number of students taking AP and Honors classes has also influenced admission rates. These classes come with a weighted addition to the student’s GPA regardless of their class grade. These weighted additions allow an increasing number of students to graduate with above a 4.0. These advanced classes also show colleges the rigor that a student is able to handle, thus making them a more attractive applicant. The attractiveness of an applicant is affected by a student’s geographical location as certain states and counties are more academically rigorous than others and college admissions officers are aware of the number of weighted classes available, as well as the number of students from a specific area that take those GPA boosting classes.

At Madison, many students consider the University of Virginia (UVA) to be the best in-state option for high quality education with the benefit of in-state tuition. UVA currently has a 26% acceptance rate according to Naviance. Coming out of Northern Virginia, especially in Fairfax County, it is widely accepted that you need at least a 4.4 GPA to have a good chance at admission. UVA also recommends 4 years of foreign language, higher than most other accredited colleges in Virginia, which recommend 2-3 years of foreign language. As the state flagship, UVA is the gold standard of Virginia colleges, but for many students it’s nearly impossible to attain.

But admissions statistics do not tell the whole story. Acceptance rates and admissions do not show the value of an individual student, but rather what that specific college is looking for at that specific time. The “perfect student” could still be rejected for reasons outside of their control. The admissions system as a whole needs to be overhauled. The system favors students who have access to better academic resources. Furthermore, each school has their own criteria for what students are required to include in their application. These discrepancies mean that the student isn’t being judged on their own merit, but rather by the merit and whims of their admissions officer.