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Changes in Admissions 2023-24



The recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action has created a great deal of uncertainty with both our school and individual clients. With the school year starting in most parts of the country, it’s a good time to discuss what we believe will be the major admissions trends this year. Our conversations with education industry sources have uncovered more varied opinions than in prior years, so it will be interesting to see how things play out, but it seems likely to be a very different admissions year.


The end of legacy admissions was a trend talked about last year that has heated up dramatically post the SCOTUS decision on affirmative action, with Wesleyan University, Occidental College and, more recently, Carleton College ending the practice. Georgetown students and staff have signed a petition (something they also did a few years ago), and the issue continues to be front and center in state legislatures, with many pointing to the elimination of legacy admissions in state institutions that occurred when California, Texas and Georgia eliminated affirmative action. We agree that legacy admissions is under pressure; we would also note that, while data shows a declining percentage of legacy admissions at many schools, it has been remarkably “sticky,” and we suspect legacy admissions will still help many students in the admissions process this cycle. For families looking for a benefit from the elimination of legacy admissions, it is worth noting that, at Johns Hopkins and other schools that have moved against the practice, the primary beneficiary have been worthy first-generation applicants.


We have been talking about the impact of negative enrollment trends on state systems for some time, and 2023 should be even more acute, with state systems in the Northeast and Midwest predicted to see their college-age populations decline by 15% through 2029. A decline in in-state populations should result in increasing pressure on less selective regional colleges and state systems. While the economic impact of this on schools will be seen over a longer period of time, we believe that opportunities for out-of-state students at flagship schools that are not already overpopulated with out-of-state students can be significant from the standpoint of acceptance likelihood and cost, with increased discounting to attract those students, a practice seen in the SUNY system last year. We continue to think Indiana (Bloomington), Illinois (Urbana Champaign), Minnesota (Twin Cities), Ohio State, Purdue, and others (Washington) offer students a great education and experience that might be a bit easier for out-of-state students to get this year.


The Common App saw a 7.5% growth in applications last cycle, and we are assuming they will be up again this year. The increased competition makes early decision more of a “new normal” for families, which in turn will pressure early admissions acceptance rates further. The bottom line is that, while early decision has been an advantaged admissions route and will continue to be one, the benefit of applying early should continue to decline at most schools. Of some interest is Virginia Tech’s recent elimination of their early decision option, driven by the SCOTUS affirmative action ruling. We expect Virginia Tech’s change to be a somewhat isolated event, but believe a few other schools will follow, which does point to the possibility of even more general pressure on early decision acceptance rates. In brief, early decision applicants at traditionally more competitive colleges are likely to be increasingly disappointed.


The varied responses we are seeing as universities respond to the SCOTUS affirmative action decision will subtly change admissions outcomes and surprise families who are not paying attention. The impact of Lafayette College limiting extracurricular slots on their Common App, Wake Forest creating an EA option for 1st generation students and the multitude of new essay prompts remain to be seen but they will change the process at each school. Diversity is still important to most universities, and the changing ways they pursue it should make admissions results less predictable.


Finally, with the increase in applications has come a rapid increase in deferral rates as universities hedge their bets a bit more with students who are “on the bubble.” We expect this trend to continue and believe it highlights the importance of both differentiated applications as well as developing a better understanding of what schools are looking for and favoring in the current admissions cycle.


For those who think they might benefit from support in navigating the admissions landscape, we are available to help.



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