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Redbrick buildings on the Harvard campus

Hollis Hall and Stoughton Hall in Harvard Yard are two of the dorms assigned to first-year students.

Harvard University

The weeks before May 1 can create lots of anxiety for admissions leaders.

But for private colleges at the top of the prestige hierarchy, 2023 is shaping up to be another excellent year. There are some signs that the cheering may extend beyond the institutions at the very top, but for those institutions where yield—the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll—is not assured, 2023 still isn’t certain (and we’ll report on what happens after May 1).

New York University received nearly 120,000 applications this year and offered admission to 8 percent of applicants. Three of NYU’s undergraduate colleges offered admission to fewer than 5 percent of applicants. 

Total applications were up 13 percent and set a new record for NYU.

The class that will be produced by the acceptance is expected not to have any racial or ethnic majority.

“These students represent the best of us,” Jonathan Williams, associate vice president of undergraduate admissions, access and pipeline programs, said in a press release. “As we look towards a future under new legal directives around diversity in higher education, NYU continues to demonstrate that selectivity and an exceptionally talented student body are not mutually exclusive to upholding values of diversity and access which so deeply enrich a university education.”

NYU has been competitive in admissions for years, but it has only been during the pandemic years that it began admitting fewer than 10 percent of applicants.

Harvard University admitted only 3.4 percent of the 56,937 would-be students who applied (counting early action and regular decision).

Beginning with the class admitted this week, the cost to attend Harvard College, which includes tuition, housing, food and fees, will be free for families with annual incomes below $85,000. This is an increase from the $75,000 annual income threshold announced last year. Nearly 25 percent of college students come from families with incomes under $85,000.

All first-year students at Harvard from families with incomes of less than $85,000 with typical assets will also receive a $2,000 start-up grant to help with move-in costs and other expenses incurred in the transition to college. This grant was launched in 2016.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the United States was $70,784 in 2021.

The University of Pennsylvania also reported a record number of applicants: more than 59,000.

This year, Penn instituted a new requirement on its application: every applicant wrote a thank-you note to someone.

“The applicants shared moments when someone else influenced them in a positive way. We read thank-you notes to family members—biological, step, adoptive, and foster. To the teachers out there, you’ve meant a lot to those in your classrooms! Strangers, you’ve left impressions that young people still remember strongly enough to share with us in their writing. The thank-you notes helped us see the students’ openness, receptivity, and generosity,” said a blog post by E. Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions.

Barnard College received 11,803 applications for acceptance into the Class of 2027 and offered admission to 6.5 percent of those eager to secure a spot. Barnard says the class is the most competitive ever, with 94 percent of the applicants who reported a high school ranking in the top 10 percent of their classes.

Over half (58 percent) of the newly admitted students identify as women of color.

“This was an exceptional group of applicants,” said Jennifer Fondiller, vice president for enrollment and communications. “We were so impressed with their academic records and with the energy and purpose they display in pursuing their passions, especially during these challenging past few years. We can’t wait to welcome them to campus.”

Bowdoin College is another institution that broke its application record: 10,966 applicants, up from last year’s record of 9,446.

The college admitted 850 students and expects to enroll about 500.

Duke University admitted 2,148 students via regular decision—from among 44,589 regular decision applicants, an admission rate of 4.8 percent.

For early decision, the acceptance rate was 16.4 percent. The overall admission rate of 6 percent was the second lowest in Duke’s history.

“Everyone reading applications this year was struck by the academic quality of the applicant pool, but even more so by the students’ commitment to their classmates and their communities,” said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions.

Dartmouth College also had a record applicant total of 28,841 applicants.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the application process for the Class of 2027 was the first since 2019 in which Dartmouth admissions officers offered a full complement of on-campus tours and information sessions, as well as fanned out to visit high schools across the country and around the world.

“As we reopened, people could once again experience the Dartmouth story in person, and that makes a big difference,” said Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid. “The applicant pool included a remarkable number of students whose academic interests were terrifically aligned with our liberal arts program and its points of excellence.”

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