Black-paged notebook reading New Trends three times, with pencil and magnifying

5 Recent and Interesting College Admission Trends Students Should Know About

College admission sees unique trends every cycle that can be crucial for future applicants. Take note of these five recent trends for a great application.

It’s no secret that college admission has gotten more competitive. As summer approaches, rising seniors should use their free time wisely to start preparing their applications, including going on college visits, drafting admission essays, and continuing to build your résumé. Here are a few other things and interesting trends you should keep in mind about this past admission cycle as you begin the process.

1. Test-optional policy changes continue

In March 2023, Columbia University was the first Ivy League school to announce that they were going permanently test-optional. The University, along with 1,800 other schools across the nation, have made submitting SAT or ACT scores with an application the student’s choice. Schools like those in the University of California system, California Institute of Technology, and Reed College have gone to the extreme and are test-blind instead, meaning that even if students submit standardized test scores, they will not be considered or even viewed in the review process. Luckily, students who didn’t submit test scores don’t seem to be at a disadvantage. Colgate University reported that 56% of its admitted students to the Class of 2027 included test scores with their applications.

As you solidify your college list, be sure to look at test-optional policies and how long they’ve been extended. For instance, Johns Hopkins University will stay test-optional until the 2025–2026 application cycle, whereas the University of Michigan announced that its policies will only remain in place for the 2023–2024 admission cycle. On the other hand, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has already reinstated its SAT/ACT requirement for all applicants after suspending it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: What Are Test-Optional Colleges All About?

2. Application volume increases

Application volume to colleges and universities continues to increase in general. According to the Common Application, total application volume increased by 30% from 2019–2020 to 2022–2023. More students are applying to college—and they’re applying to more schools on average. For example, New York University had nearly 120,000 applications this year for first-year admission, a 13% increase from the previous cycle; whereas, the University of Georgia had more than 43,700 applicants, a 10% increase from last cycle. As for who made it in: NYU admitted just 8% of those 120,000 applicants, while UGA admitted around 35%.

3. Early applications remain popular

Applying to college early through Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, and Early Action programs remains a popular admission choice. These various early deadlines tend to give students a boost in acceptance rates, with Early Decision usually providing the biggest advantage. However, early applications skyrocketed in popularity this year. NYU received 22,000 Early Decision applicants, an increase of 14% from the previous cycle, while the University of North Carolina’s Early Action applications increased by 10% to nearly 38,650.

While students usually experience higher acceptance rates when applying early, the advantage starts to decrease with the increasing interest in these options. That’s why it’s important to have realistic expectations; just because the acceptance rates might be higher for Early Decision, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a better chance of being accepted. If a student isn’t a competitive applicant, they likely won’t see a significant bump in their odds.

Related: How to Be a Competitive College Applicant

4. Legacy preference is decreasing

In college admission, a “legacy” student is someone whose parents attended the same university. According to an article from The Guardian, these policies tend to favor White, affluent students, with many of the nation’s highly competitive colleges and universities still considering legacy in their admission process as recently as 2020. However, legacy policies have become less of a factor in admission decisions after the Varsity Blues Scandal of 2019 and litigation brought against top schools like Harvard University and UNC. Cornell University and Amherst College are examples of schools where legacy students won’t get a preference over non-legacy students when applying.

5. BS/MD programs are even more competitive

BS/MD programs, also known as direct medical programs, allow students interested in medicine to apply to undergraduate and medical school simultaneously. Once accepted to the program, they have a guaranteed spot at the partnered medical school. These programs have always been competitive but have gotten even more so in the last few years. Brown University's program in Liberal Medical Education had 4,192 applicants this admission cycle compared to 3,827 in 2021–2022; Drexel University’s Early Assurance program saw a similar increase, going from 2,298 applications in 2020–2021 to 2,705 for the next application cycle. If you’re interested in this type of program, take extra time to build your résumé to help you stand out among other BS/MD applicants.

Related: How to Get Accepted to a Direct Medical Program

College admission is more competitive than ever, and you should spend your summer wisely researching to ensure you find colleges that are a good fit—including policies and admission competitiveness that will benefit you. By looking at trends from previous cycles, you can arm yourself with information to enter the application cycle prepared.

Start building a list of schools with admission trends that fit your needs using our College Search tool, or try exploring colleges by state using our new College Search Map!

Connect with schools mentioned in this blog!

Connect me with Columbia! Connect me with Reed!

 Connect me with Johns Hopkins! Connect me with UM–Flint!

Connect me with UGA! Connect me with NYU!

Connect me with UNC–Asheville! Connect me with Brown!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Joseph Johnsly

Joseph Johnsly

High School Class of 2021

It's an honor for me to be writing to share a little about my experience with CollegeXpress. I've been using CollegeXpress for about a year now, and the reason why I chose it is because it provides astonishing scholarships for every student around the globe. Besides that, this organization dispenses all the information necessary to help students get to college. CollegeXpress has helped me have an easier experience with applying to colleges and choosing the best fit for myself.

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

Tinuola Dada

Tinuola Dada

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2015

I am very excited to be this year's recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship will bring me ever closer to my academic and professional goals. CollegeXpress has been an exceptional resource to me, and I recommend it to all rising seniors as they begin to navigate the college application process.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

Casey Kammeyer

Casey Kammeyer

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

I love the site CollegeXpress; it has been very helpful finding colleges and getting them to send me information. It has also been very, very helpful with finding tons of scholarships. Also, I told many of my friends about it and they love it as well!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg, PA

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Fisher College

Boston, MA

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK