We hear it from everyone, parents, cousins, teachers, and strangers on the street: “It wasn’t this hard to get into college when I was your age,” and they’re right.
How messed up has the college admissions process truly become? As a result of a global pandemic, it is not remotely like what it once was. The admissions rates for the class of 2026 at some colleges are nearly half of what they were for the class of 2025. At Northeastern University, a private research college in Boston, Massachusetts, there were over 90,000 applicants. Of these applicants, only about 6,000 were accepted. This 7% acceptance rate is an astounding 11% lower than it was just one year prior. What exactly is leading colleges such as Northeastern to have such a low acceptance rate?
Not only has the number of applicants increased, but the number of available spots has decreased. The increase in applicants can be mainly attributed to the development of test-optional applications. At schools such as UCSD, the number of applicants saw a large increase this last year. In 2026 there were 131,226 applicants, 14,774 more than the year prior (2025). Additionally, at UC Berkeley the admitted undergraduate class is now unable to be enrolled this coming school year. Due to the overcapacity of the school, the accepted class has been deferred to choose: either to go online this year or wait until the next school year.
What exactly does this mean for rising seniors nationwide? Hopefully, with the tapering off of the pandemic, some semblance of normalcy in the college admissions process will be restored. Furthermore, applicants will be better prepared and not blindsided by the low admission rates like the class prior was.
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CalMatters, Mikhail Zinshteyn. “UC Berkeley Enrollment Capped by Local Residents’ Lawsuit, but Few Students Are Turned Away.” Times of San Diego, 6 Mar. 2022, https://timesofsandiego.com/education/2022/03/05/uc-berkeley-enrollment-capped-by-local-residents-lawsuit-but-few-students-are-turned-away/.
“Class of 2026 Applicants Grapple with College Application Process Shaped by the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The Chicago Maroon, https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2022/3/3/class-2026-applicants-grapple-college-application-process/.
Selingo, Jeffrey. “The College-Admissions Process Is Completely Broken.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 23 Mar. 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/03/change-college-acceptance-application-process/627581/.