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Columbia Reports Record High Applications Received for the Class of 2025

17 MAR 2021

A record 60,548 students applied to Columbia University’s Class of 2025, marking a 51% increase in application numbers from the previous year. This and other spikes being reported across the board by top US universities sparks further questions about the effect of ‘test-optional’ policies and COVID restrictions on college admissions.

By now it’s no surprise to hear that a top US university received more applications in the latest admissions cycle than any other in recent years. Especially for the Ivy League, whose 8 universities collectively postponed their regular round notification date — dubbed ‘Ivy Day’ in the college admissions sphere — to April 6, at least a week later than their usual notification date. Harvard reported a nearly 43% increase in applications to the Class of 2025, UPenn saw a 34% increase, Brown’s applicant pool grew by 26%, and MIT announced a whopping 66% surge!

In line with this trend, Columbia University this week announced over 60,500 students applied to the Class of 2025, up from 40,084 for the previous year. Columbia’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions & Financial Aid, Jessica Marinaccio, attributed the dramatic increase to “both the appeal of Columbia’s generous financial aid program and the unexpected benefit of moving to all-virtual admissions outreach, which allowed Undergraduate Admissions to connect with prospective students in more regions.” The university noted Columbia’s test-optional policy was also a “likely influence.”

Naturally, sky-high application numbers at some of the world’s most prestigious universities have left many wondering about the effect such large application pools will have on their already-low acceptance rates. As was illustrated by MIT on Sunday in their traditional Pi Day admissions announcement, drastic increases in application numbers don’t bode well against a static number of available places. This year, MIT’s acceptance rate dropped to just over half of what it was last year.

Further, these figures call into question the ramifications that massive competition numbers will have for disadvantaged students. In an email earlier this year, Common App CEO Jenny Rickard pointed out the organization “continue[s] to be very concerned about the decline among fee waiver and first-generation applicants” — indicators of lower socioeconomic status — adding that “support for applicants disproportionately impacted by the pandemic will be necessary to prevent another year of the large and inequitable enrollment declines” observed in the latest admissions cycle.

In the same email, Ms. Rickard also noted international applicant volume surged this year relative to 2019-20, with countries such as India, Canada, Pakistan, the UK and Brazil exhibiting noteworthy increases.

These trends speak to the ascending baseline requirements for applicants to be admitted to top schools. It has already been historically difficult to gain admission to the likes of the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT and similar institutions, but with applicant pools like Columbia’s growing by more than half this year, the bar becomes even higher. At Crimson, we take pride in helping our students beat the odds: despite enormous applicant pools at most schools, more than 133 of our students were accepted to top universities in the US in the Early Round alone!

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