A first report indicates a significant increase in the number of students applying to college for the upcoming academic year (2023-24). The new data comes from a report just released by the Common Application, which covers applications for the next year at four-year institutions received by November 1, 2022.
By that date, 748,118 different first-year applicants had applied to 841 colleges participating in the joint app. This figure represents a 26% increase from 2019-20 (592,471 applicants), the last year in which applications were not affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s also an increase of nearly 72,000 applicants from last year at this time.
The figures are limited to the 841 institutions that were members of the Common App throughout the reference period from 2019 to 2020. Because the pandemic has impacted college applications so severely in the last two admissions cycles, the Common App report included comparisons not only to last year, but also to the more typical 2019-20 admissions cycle.
By the same date, November 1, the total number of applications (which counts multiple applications from most students) increased by 41% from 2,030,120 in 2019-20 to 2,853,554 in 2022-23. On average, applicants applied to more Common App member schools in 2022-23 (3.8) than in 2019-20 (3.4), a 12% increase.
Applicants from underrepresented minorities increased by 32% in 2019-20, while applicants from first generation through college increased by 43%, more than double the number of applicants from the running generation over the same period. In addition, the rate of students who claimed eligibility for a fee waiver for the shared app increased nearly three times that of students who reported no eligibility for a fee waiver (54% vs. 16%).
As is common, students who applied early in the college admissions process tended to come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. About 61% of domestic applicants at the time lived in the wealthiest 20% of ZIP codes nationwide, compared to just 5% from the bottom quintile.
The number of unique international applicants has increased by more than three times the rate of domestic applicants since 2019-20 (63% vs. 20%). China, India, Nigeria, Ghana and Canada were the leading countries for international applicants.
Applications to public colleges and universities increased more (+44%) than applications to private members (+28%) compared to 2019-20.
Applications to the most selective members (admission rates below 25%) grew at the highest rate since 2019-20 (+45%), but applications to less selective members (admission rates 75% and above) also grew strongly (38%). According to the report, “The vast majority of applications were submitted to less selective member institutions (with acceptance rates of 50% or more).”
Test results report
Among applicants by November 1, less than half (48%) reported a standardized entrance test result in their application. This compares to test score reporting rates of 78% in 2019-20, 45% in 2020-21, and 51% in 2021-22.
As in previous years, underrepresented minority applicants, first-generation applicants and applicants requesting a fee waiver were less likely than their peers to include standardized test scores in their applications (39%, 35% and 35%, respectively). Women reported test results less often than men, ranging from 43% to 53%.
Regional and state differences
Overall, there has been an increase in applications across much of the United States. South Carolina saw the largest growth from 2019-2020 at 91%, followed by Texas at 74% and Alabama at 64%. South Dakota saw the largest decline (-25%), while Utah, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine saw smaller declines (-9, -4%, -7%, and -3%, respectively).
This first wave of Common App data does not guarantee that final total application counts will increase for next year, but the timing is significant nonetheless, as the data includes the applications submitted for early action and early decision deadlines that are being used from many private four-year colleges and universities. On the other hand, the data does not include applications to community colleges, which have suffered the largest enrollment losses during the pandemic period.
The Common App said it plans to release monthly updates on college applications through March 2023, along with a final report next August.