Enrollments Rebound at US Universities Post Covid | This Week in Admissions News

27/01/20235 minute read
Enrollments Rebound at US Universities Post Covid | This Week in Admissions News
The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, Common App published its report on early admission statistics showing a rebound in numbers following the pandemic. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!

Enrollments Rebound at US Universities Post Covid

A new report from the Common Application suggests that this will be a better admissions year for more institutions than last year. The report covers applications submitted by Jan. 1, some but not all of which are early-decision applications. But Common App officials said they believe that this report includes many applications that are regular decisions as well. Through Jan. 1, 2023, 1,079,936 distinct first-year applicants had applied to 841 returning members of the Common App, an increase of 20% from 903,553 in 2019–20. Total application volume through January 1 rose 24% from 2019–20 (4,317,709) to 2022–23 (5,346,600). 

Other key findings:

  • The number of distinct international applicants increased at nearly triple the rate of applicants in the United States since 2019–20 (45% versus 17%). The leading countries were: China, India, Nigeria, Ghana and Canada. West Africa emerged as a new leader in sending students to the US. There were 1,664 applicants from Nigeria and 1,303 from Ghana during the 2019-20 admission cycle. As of January, applicants from those countries were at 6,035 and 5,553, respectively. 
  • The number of students submitting SAT or ACT scores seems to have settled. The Common App experienced “a steep decline” in those submitting scores from 2019–20 (78%) to 2020–21 (44%) and a slight rebound in 2021–22 (48%). Many have wondered if the numbers would go up, with most students now able to take standardized tests. But thus far, the numbers have not gone up. Only 47% of those who have applied have submitted an SAT or ACT score.
  • Applications grew more at public institutions (39%) than at private institutions (3%).
  • Last year’s admissions numbers were generally very good for colleges, public and private, that are competitive or highly competitive in admissions. For other colleges, admissions performance was mixed. Some colleges had good years, but many struggled.
  • Underrepresented minority applicants increased by 30% over 2019–20, while first-generation applicants increased by 35%, nearly three times the rate of continuing-generation applicants over the same period. Students reporting eligibility for a Common App fee waiver increased at over four times the rate of students not reporting fee waiver eligibility (47% vs. 11%).

Elaborating on the last point, a report released by Brookings provided new information about why college enrollment has favored white, Asian and wealthier students. The report says academic preparation is the reason why. “We find that academic preparation explains a substantial portion of socioeconomic, gender and racial gaps in college enrollment,” the Brookings report said. “[Socioeconomic] gaps in enrollment, especially in four-year colleges, are enormous; 89% of students from families in the top SES quintile enroll in college compared with 51% of those in the bottom—a 38-point gap. Among students with similar academic preparation, the gap is much smaller though still notable. Students from the top quintile are 11 points more likely to enroll in college than students from the bottom quintile who have similar academic preparation.”

The Common App data represents just a slice of the total international-enrollment picture, documenting undergraduate applications at 841 participating colleges. But the numbers offer a nearly real-time glimpse into application trends, and they track individual applicants, meaning that the data are not distorted by students applying to more and more colleges.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. The medical schools at Stanford and Columbia universities, the University of Pennsylvania and Mount Sinai are withdrawing their cooperation from the U.S. News & World Report rankings, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The move comes less than a week after Harvard Medical School said it would no longer provide data to the publication. It remains to be seen whether US News will reform its medical school rankings like that for law schools after several big names boycotted the publication's methodology. Yale Law School quit the rankings in November, with more than a dozen other top law schools following suit soon after. 
  2. BlueSky Ranking of University Rankings combines the results of the four major global university rankings – Times Higher Education, QS, US News and ARWU Shanghai. In the 2022/23 rankings, only Harvard made it to the top 5 for North America, with only three other Ivy League schools – Princeton, Columbia and Yale – among the top 9. Beyond the sports field, they compete with Stanford, MIT, CalTech, UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago when measured by their academic reputations, teaching, research, citations and international outlook.
  3. U.S. News & World Report announced the 2023 Best Online Programs rankings. Designed for individuals looking to complete or further their education, the rankings evaluate online bachelor's and master's degree programs at regionally accredited institutions. The Best Online Programs include rankings of bachelor's programs as well as the following master's-level disciplines: MBA, business (non-MBA), computer information technology (including computer science), criminal justice/criminology, education, engineering and nursing. While the methodologies are different for each discipline, they all incorporate metrics specific to online learning.
  4. New measures to make it easier for international students to study and stay in Finland have contributed to a 54% increase in applications from students seeking first-time residence permits, University World News has reported. By the end of October 2022, first-time residence permits for studies had been granted to 7,060 applicants from outside the European Union. In contrast, in January to October of 2021, student residence permits were granted to 4,595 applicants. As a result of changes in legislation, students from abroad may be granted a residence permit for the entire duration of their studies. Previously, students could only be granted a residence permit for a maximum of two years at a time.