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Countdown to college: Early admissions trends for the Class of 2024

By Lee Shulman Bierer on

Published in Education News

With Class of 2024 results coming in for the early admissions round at top colleges and universities around the country, here is what we've learned thus far.


Unlike past years that saw big gains in everyone's early numbers, this year was more of a mixed bag. Brown saw its number of Early Decision applicants grow by 8 percent, on top of a 21 percent increase in ED last year. Cornell saw its pool grow by 7.4 percent, and a news release from the university notes that the number of ED applicants has grown by 90 percent over the last decade.

Harvard saw its pool decrease by nearly 8 percent from last year's 6,958 early applicants. The last time Harvard had a decrease was in the fall of 2013. Duke's ED pool decreased by 552 students (11.4 percent) from last year. Dartmouth's ED pool decreased by 16 percent to 2,069. Penn saw its ED applicant pool drop by 9 percent from the record level reached last fall.

Admissions deans cite natural disasters, school shootings, global economic uncertainty, teacher strikes and demographic trends as possible explanations for declining early pools. It could also be that savvy students are being more strategic in how they use their early option, aiming for a surer bet rather than going for a long shot.



Diversity of background continues to be a key priority in the selection process. Schools are working to build more diversity into their applicant pools through targeted outreach and partnerships with organizations such as Questbridge. Several schools mentioned that greater numbers of low-income and first-generation students among those offered admission.

Cornell and Penn are schools that went big for legacy admits, with 22 percent and 24 percent of the ED admits, respectively, being the children of alumni.

Many schools with binding early decision programs will admit 45 percent or more of their incoming class through the early process. Doing so ensures that they can lock in a solid foundation for their incoming class and reduce yield volatility.

Based on publicly reported data, the toughest early admission pool this year belonged to MIT, where 9,291 students applied for early admission and 687 (7 percent) were offered admission.


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