Your Guide to Acceptance Rates

Bachelors Degree

Your Guide to Acceptance Rates

Throughout their application process, a student is most likely going to be going through a lot of numbers-SAT scores, LSAT scores, high school grades, tuition costs, so on and so forth. But there’s one number out of all of them that tends to set the stage for the application process; the acceptance rate. This is the number that people really pay attention to, the one which gives you your odds of being accepted into the university of your dreams or not. It seems that out of all the numbers that’ll be thrown around, this is the one that people will make the most fuss about, especially those intending to study bachelor’s who don’t really know a lot about this kind of stuff and tend to get overwhelmed with all the statistics.

In this article, we’ll be going through a quick summary on the acceptance rate-what it is, how it works and if it’s even worth paying attention to.

What is an acceptance rate?

In simple terms, the acceptance rate is the rate at which a university accepts students. It’s calculated by two numbers-the number of people who applied for your university and the number of people who got accepted. Divide the number of those who got accepted by the number of applicants and you’ve got your acceptance rate. Here’s a little example:

  1. A university received 39,506 applications.
  2. Out of those applications, 2,056 got accepted.
  3. Divide the number of acceptances (2,056) by the number of applicants (39,506)
  4. 2,056 divided by 39,506 is 5.2%
  5. The acceptance rate is 5.2%

And that’s the gist of it. Keep in mind that the number of applicants really has an impact on the acceptance rate. Another university who has the same number of acceptances as the one above but only 1,9753 applicants will have an acceptance rate of 10.7%-still pretty low, but a lot higher than the first university. So really, the acceptance rate is less determined by those accepted and more by the total number of students who applied for that university in the given semester.

What contributes to a university’s number of total applicants?


There are several factors which go into determining how many applicants a university will receive. A few of them include:

  • Prestige: An obvious one. The more well known a university is, the more people will try to attend it. Ever notice how all the Ivy League schools consistently have low acceptance rates?
  • Pull factors: A fancy name which gets immediate attention is good and all, but it doesn’t matter much if you can’t back it up with actual quality. Things such as low tuition, popular extracurricular activities programs, cutting edge research labs, generous financial aid, even a reputation for throwing great parties. All of these things are going to grab the eyes of people and make it rank higher.
  • Size: Even a school which does well in the first two points can still have an acceptance rate which can make them come off as not impressive. Why? As stated earlier, the number of applicants are really what pushes the acceptance rate. So even those universities which technically accept the same amount of students as the big shot fancy Ivy Leagues, for those who want to study in America, can come off as having a higher acceptance rate because there’s not as much people applying there as the Ivy League universities.

There are many other factors which contribute to the acceptance rate of a university but you get the main picture. There’s a lot of ways you can interpret all of this, but the most important thing to take note here is how the numbers-based ranking eat up these kind of statistics. The big names when it comes to university rankings such as the U.S. News and World Report have always been perpetuating these kind of number based statistics-so stuff like the acceptance rate gets a big rep. But now we move to the most important question of them all.

Read more: Top 7 Bachelor’s Degrees of 2023

Does any of this really matter?

Not as much as you think they do. Sure, they’ll tell you which university is more selective than the other, but being selective doesn’t equate to being good 100% of the time-correlation does not equate causation. On top of that, there’s the usual cases of corruption and the supposed “top-quality” schools purposely misleading data such as application numbers or SAT scores in order to lower their acceptance rates. I’m not saying that all universities are like this or that all statistics regarding university rankings are completely useless, but it’d be prudent for the future students to keep a more critical eye on these type of statistics and realize that there’s a lot more to a university then just their numbers.

But enough of me rambling on about this, take a look for yourself at some of these acceptance rates:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – 6.7%
  2. Stanford University – 4.34%
  3. Harvard University – 4.92%
  4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – 8%
  5. University of Chicago – 7.9%
  6. University of Pennsylvania – 10%
  7. Yale University – 7%
  8. Columbia University – 6.1%
  9. Princeton University – 6.5%
  10. Cornell University – 15%
  11. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor – 26%
  12. Johns Hopkins University – 14%
  13. Northwestern University – 28%
  14. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) – 17%
  15. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – 17%
  16. New York University (NYU) – 32%
  17. University of California, San Diego (UCSD) – 30.2%
  18. Duke University – 7.6%
  19. Carnegie Mellon University – 15.4%
  20. Brown University – 9.3%

Notice the wild fluctuations in all of these numbers. You’d think that these ‘the best of the best’ universities would have more or less stable numbers yet they’re all over the place. Again, a good place to get the basic ideas but taking these types of numbers at face value could mislead a student and distract from a university which may not be as prestigious but truly caters to them. Here are some other examples:

  1. University of Portland – 76,7%
  2. Boston University – 33%
  3. Florida Atlantic University – 63,3%
  4. American University Washington DC – 36,1%
  5. Drexel University – 74,7%
  6. University of San Francisco – 64,4%
  7. University of Texas at Austin – 31,8%

Again, numbers wildly fluctuating. They don’t really offer concise data on univerisites.


So what should I do in order to find out the university for me?

Much like anything in life, personal experience always outweighs the statistics which you read online. You could spend a lifetime reading all these numbers and charting which one of them is the best in each category, but the fact of the matter is that you won’t really know for sure unless you go for yourself. Go to the campus and explore-look at the architecture, ask the students what it’s like to learn there, take a stroll at the city it’s located in, take a workshop or online class, if you’d prefer to study online, to gauge their learning style. I guarantee you that these actions will tell you much more about a university than a bunch of numbers.

Read more: Challenges of Studying Abroad and How to Overcome Them

And yeah, that’s about it. If you’re still stuck in the beginner part of researching universities and just want to know of any campus that gives programs in your interest, be sure to check out UniApp.




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