College Admissions Trends to Watch in 2024

18/01/20245 minute read
College Admissions Trends to Watch in 2024

How can the latest early round college admissions data affect your applications? Read on to find out!

College Admissions Trends to Watch in 2024

1. A Surge in College Applications

A recent Common App Research Brief reveals a substantial surge in college applications for the 2024-25 academic year. During the robust early application season, 836,679 first-year applicants applied to 834 participating colleges through November 1, 2023. This marks a 41% increase compared to 2019-20.

Notably, applications from underrepresented minority students rose by 67%. This indicating increased diversity in the applicant pool. The report also shows growth in first-generation applicants, those eligible for fee waivers, and students from lower-income areas. (1)

2. A Shift in Interest

While the total amount of early applications to top colleges has stayed steady, the balance has shifted. Fewer students are interested in the Harvard/MIT Cambridge combo, and more are opting for the lower-ranked Early Decision options. Harvard saw around a 20% decline from the early application peak in the 2020-2021 cycle.

Applications to public institutions increased by 82% compared to 2019-20 than did applications to private institutions, which only increased by 47%. (1)

3. Early Decision: Applicants Increase, Acceptance Rates Decrease

More and more students are opting for early college application options like Early Decision and Early Action. Compared to 2 years ago, most selective schools are admitting fewer students in the early rounds. However, many top universities still admit 50% or more of their incoming class through early admission options according to the Common Data Set.

While early action and early decision options are surging in popularity, this may not indicate an increase in overall applications. It may simply reflect a shift in timing towards early applications rather than the traditional regular decisions.

Applying early can still be advantageous to your application strategy. As it stands, colleges are still concerned about their yield rate, or the percentage of students that decide to attend after being accepted. Applying early, especially through options with a binding commitment, reassures universities that you are serious about attending.

4. Additional Early Decision Rounds

Many colleges are adding Second Early Decision rounds (ED2). This allows students another chance to commit early to a second-choice school if denied from their first choice.

Strategic early applications, especially to less competitive schools, can maximize chances and potential merit aid. But there are drawbacks to applying early, such as less to refine your application and not being able to compare financial aid offers. Applying Early Decision also carries the risk of rejection instead of deferral.

5. Standardized Testing

The number of institutions that require standardized test scores as part of their admission criteria is dwindling. In 2019-20, 55% of Common App member schools required standardized test scores. In 2023, that dropped to only 4%.

According to the Common App Research Brief, (2) only half of applicants through November 1, 2023 reported a standardized test score with their application. That’s down from 80% during the 2019-20 application cycle.

This trend could change. Multiple Ivy League schools will see their test-optional policies expire in 2024. Yale has announced it will come out with a new decision in the coming months. And many top 50 schools have already gone back to requiring the SAT, including MIT and Georgetown.

6. Video Submissions and Interviews

In the age of AI tools like ChatGPT, colleges value authenticity more than ever. An excellent way to do this is through video submissions and interviews. An increasing number of institutions offer applicants the option to submit a video essay or introduction. This includes Brown, UChicago, Tufts, Washington University in St. Louis, Goucher, Bowdoin, and George Mason University.

Many universities are also embracing third party technology like InitialView, which is similar to the Common App Personal Statement but in the form of a video intro that is sent to multiple schools.

Video submissions allow students to showcase their personality in a less formal manner than a written application. We at Crimson emphasize the importance of authenticity and spontaneity. We also suggest not overly focusing on production values when creating these video introductions.

The Bottom Line: Focus on Fit

As competition becomes fiercer and authenticity is more important than ever, we remind our students to focus on personal fit rather than prestige. Many institutions — not just the most selective — could give you an excellent education and set you up with career prospects after graduation.

While it’s helpful to know the latest admissions trends, we recommend focusing on the factors that matter most to you, including degrees and programs, on-campus opportunities, campus culture, and location. With this in mind, you’ll end up with a school list that suits you perfectly.


  1. College Applications For 2024 Show Strong Early Surge
  2. Common App Research Brief
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