While some institutions are struggling to find interested students, Harvard, Brown, and Tufts are all seeing increases in those looking to join their class by 2025.

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Several top colleges and universities report that their admissions applications have skyrocketed, including New York University, which topped 100,000 for the first time.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NYU was one of many universities to make a number of changes to the admissions process, including the option to make standardized test scores optional, increase funding, and move the application deadline. The decision to essentially delete the test benchmark – as more than 1,600 colleges and universities have done – has presented an opportunity to students who may have viewed it as a barrier to adoption.

However, not every institution enjoys the wealth of applicants. Early applicants for a free federal application for state student aid (FAFSA) declined in the fall and lagged significantly behind for first-generation students. Students and families have raised concerns about paying full price for an education that may be remote rather than the traditional college experience. Some potential applicants, particularly from underserved and hardest hit communities, are affected by other decisions related to COVID-19.

Nevertheless, it was not a problem at many larger universities and high-ranking institutions to attract interested students. In fact, NYU has received more applications for 14 consecutive years, and 2020-21 was nothing more than the way it needed to connect with prospective students. Taking a more holistic approach only helped increase the numbers.

“Although the pandemic deprived us of many of the tools of a regular admissions process for a year – campus visits, tours, face-to-face meetings, face-to-face meetings with students on college evenings across the country – in 2020 NYU was still able to get questions across that mattered to applicants: our concern for the well-being of the university community; our continued academic strength in a wide variety of disciplines; and our commitment to serving our students and fulfilling our educational mission, “said Andrew Hamilton, president of NYU, in a statement.

The number of applications is also increasing at other elite universities.

The Harvard Crimson reported late last week that Harvard University had seen a 42% increase in applications – to a record 57,000. For many hopeful students, this doesn’t mean they have a better chance of getting in, even if the results are optional. More than 10,000 of those who took early action in the fall and less than 8% accepted, the lowest level in Harvard history.

Another Ivy League school, Brown University in Rhode Island, enjoyed this cycle and range of students as well.

The Brown Daily Herald reported that more than 46,000 applied for university admission, beating last year’s mark by 10,000. As with Harvard, this year Brown made test scores optional, which has likely increased the number of students applying for the 2025 class. But like Harvard, the final choices are unlikely to increase significantly from previous years.

Brown’s student newspaper found that applications from rural areas – a target of Brown’s admission efforts – increased by nearly a quarter. Applicants for first-generation students who fell nationwide since last year rose a third at Brown.

One area at Brown that stayed flat was the number of color students who applied (just under 50%). NYU reported a 22% increase in applications for Black and Latinx students, as well as a huge increase in Alaskan Indians and Natives (39%).

Another top school that has seen the growth of underrepresented communities was Tufts University, outside of Boston. It was so significant that Tufts Now reported that this cycle is the first in which American students of color outperformed white students.

Applications from Latinx students increased by 42% and from black students by nearly 40%. American Indians, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders rose 35%. Applications from black students have increased nearly 90% since 2018, according to the campus publication.

Like its neighbors above, Tufts saw an overall 35% increase in applications, according to Tufts Now.

As with many elite universities, Tufts can be expensive to attend with tuition fees of $ 59,000 plus room and board. However, the quality of the educational offering coupled with the university’s commitment to provide “100% Proven Need for All Students” make it a viable option for those who may have considered it unattainable. It offers two early decision options for students – one in November and one in January, which coincide with the regular admission deadline.

Read more from UB: How the University of Rochester and the College of the Holy Cross handled approvals during the pandemic.


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