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March 28, 2014 10:19 pm

Stanford edges out Harvard on admissions

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Illustration by Shonagh Rae of Yale, Harvard and dollar pennants©Shonagh Rae

Stanford University edged out its rival Harvard University for the second year in a row to be the most selective academic institution in America, despite cooling application trends.

The latest admissions figures showed applications overall remained near the levels of the previous year as the pace of the rise in those seeking out places in elite universities abates. According to figures analysed by the Financial Times, applications filed to 40 selective US institutions were stagnant at levels of the previous year.

Nonetheless, finding a spot at most of these universities remains a challenge.

Stanford was joined by Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in accepting fewer than 10 per cent of applicants.

Stanford received some 42,167 applications for the class of 2018, accepting 2,138 high school seniors. The university’s admission rate dipped to a record low of 5.1 per cent.

Harvard remained the most elusive of the Ivy League, accepting 5.9 per cent of the more than 34,000 applicants to its undergraduate college this fall.

Yale accepted 6.3 per cent of its 30,932 applicants, compared with 6.7 per a year earlier.

At Columbia University in Manhattan, the school mailed acceptance letters to 2,291 students, or 6.9 per cent of its applicants.

“The class of 2018 reflects the excellence achieved by the students of an increasingly diverse America,” said William Fitzsimmons, Harvard dean of admissions. “Attracting such outstanding students to the college is vital to Harvard’s mission of educating the future leaders of our nation.”

Of Harvard’s applicant pool, 3,400 were ranked first in their class, a figure twice the size of its typical incoming class. The gloating was not left to Harvard. Cornell University noted it rejected 31,235 students, more than the number of applicants to Yale.

Applicant growth has nonetheless slowed, mainly because of a levelling in high school graduation rates. The National Center for Education Statistics projects the number of high school graduates reached a peak of 3.44m in 2010. Their enrolment in degree-granting institutions is expected to rise roughly 1 per cent each year over the coming three years, the government body says.

At Dartmouth College, another Ivy League institution, applicants fell 14 per cent from a year earlier, lifting its admissions rate. Boston College, Columbia, Harvard and MIT also reported fewer applications.

The rise over the last decade was partly fuelled by the advent and growing acceptance of the Common Application, which allows students to fill out a single application and submit it to the colleges of their choice. More than 500 institutions now accept the form, including the eight members of the Ivy League.

Even with this week’s decisions, tens of thousands of students remain in purgatory, waiting to hear if a large envelope will one day arrive in their mailbox. Yale said it offered more than 1,300 applicants a spot on its waiting list as it looks to see if admitted students decline its offer.

“In the end, Yale could not make offers to a large number of talented young women and men, virtually all of whom will be successful students at other great colleges and universities,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions.

Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell each placed more than 3,000 students each on their respective wait-lists, while Princeton added 1,141 to its list.

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