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Getting in is Easy?

I frequently say “Getting into college is easy. It’s getting OUT that’s hard.” This always sound impossible- how can I say such a thing? Simple. Data. Rather than trusting my opinion, let’s look at a breakdown that shows just how hard it really is to get into college.

Out of the gate, we are going to look only at regionally accredited colleges and universities. These colleges have the gold standard type of accreditation, and while other types of accreditation may be important in some fields (Bible colleges, trade schools, conservatories, etc.) those programs tend to be highly specific when it comes to admissions and students they serve. In this post, we’re looking at “regular” colleges and universities that offer a wide variety of degrees and majors.

First, we need a list. I’m using the US News & World Report ranking. They just released the newest 2024 list this week. They are considered to be “The” ranking authority, and they have extensive data going back decades. Feel free to conduct this experiment using alternative ranking companies- it comes out the same every time.

Before we do a “totals” list, I want to show you 2 important numbers as they relate to the national universities.

National Universities (n=439)

National universities include the highly selective “Ivy League” and enormously large research universities. Schools in this category offer the highest level of prestige and brand recognition.

Acceptance RateNational Universities“getting in”
will accept less than 10% of applicants20 universities<– crazy hard. Too many applying.
will accept more than 90% of applicants86 universities<– everyone that meets the admissions requirements will get in.
US News World Reports 9/25/2023

First, look at the very tippy top of the list. There is a bottleneck of applications by students who identify the most prestigious universities as their “target” university. Is there anyone, if given the chance, that wouldn’t want to go to Harvard? This popularity, like any good brand, creates more hype. Hype drives demand. Demand generates more applications. Too many applications for too few spots lowers your acceptance percentage. Harvard received 59,000 applications this past admissions cycle. So if you’re entering “that” competition, yeah. Getting into college is really, really, really hard.

I also want to draw you attention to the 86 ALSO nationally ranked colleges and universities on the list that accept everyone! Approximately 20% of the universities simply let you in assuming you meet admissions requirements. Don’t make the incorrect assumption that they are the “bottom” ranked! Those 86 universities are distributed in the top and bottom half of the list. If your teen applies to any or all of those colleges, getting in is really, really, really easy.

Community Colleges (n=1,462)

Community colleges are 2-year, frequently public, institutions that offer 2-year (associate) degrees and sometimes streamline the transfer of credits or a degree into a 4-year college. They aren’t part of the big ranks, but I wanted to add them because Homeschooling for College Credit parents can use community colleges for dual enrollment or 2-year degrees. If your teen doesn’t need a 4-year degree, you can opt out of the crazy admissions hype. If your teen plans to transfer their 2-year degree into a 4-year university, their odds of a smooth and seamless transfer is almost certain.

Acceptance RateCommunity Colleges“getting in”
100%1,462 colleges<– everyone that meets the admissions requirements will get in. 9/25/2023

Ranked List 4-year Colleges(n=1,827)

U.S. News & World Reports ranked 1,827 colleges and universities for the new 2024 list. Approximately 500 had acceptance rates of over 90%!

Acceptance RateAll “getting in”
more than 90%500 (4 year) universities<– everyone that meets the admissions requirements will get in.
US News World Reports 9/25/2023


Your chances of “getting in” to college are a result of where you’re applying. If you only apply to the top 20 universities, it is unlikely that you’ll get into any of them! To you, college admissions is most certainly like litting the lottery. If, on the other hand, you apply to one of the 1,962 (2 and 4 year) colleges and universities that are open admission to everyone that meets the basic requirements, you have nothing to worry about. For everyone except those aiming for elite admissions, your chances of getting in (when you meet the admissions criteria) are still better than 50%.

In a future post we’ll discuss why graduation rates are so bad (national average is less than 50%) but for now, take a deep breath. Getting into college is much easier than getting out.

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