Ready for some alarming college admissions news?

Tulane University received almost 46,000 applications for undergraduate admission last year. Guess how many people they admitted in the Regular Decision round?


That is not a typo, 106.

Furthermore, Tulane’s applications have risen more than 55% over the past 5 years, and the most recent overall admit rate was 9.8%. It’s especially notable that more than 75% of the class was admitted in one of the early rounds. (Early Action, or Early Decision 1 or 2.)

At this point, most parents and high school students understand that Tulane is just one example of the incredibly competitive nature of US college admissions. Despite this awareness, the single biggest mistake that I still see families making is with their school lists. Specifically, failing to include enough target or “safety” schools – especially since it can be hard to identify schools in these categories, given how rapidly the landscape is shifting.

For those who are in a financial and personal position to apply early decision to a first-choice school, I frequently see a related miscalculation. Specifically, families often choose early decision targets that are so selective that the student lacks a meaningful chance of admission. Since applying early decision can be a powerful tool – sometimes doubling the odds of admission if a student is in the admissible zone – it’s crucial to choose wisely.

Early action is also a critically important tool, as illustrated, for instance, by Tulane’s statistics. (But not a foolproof one, as application volume continues to rise.)

I understand that it can be hard for families to adjust their thinking about the right college list, especially if their image of a given school is outdated. However, it puts undue pressure on students when parents insist that schools within their child’s reach aren’t “good enough.”

If you’re a member of the class of 2023, the best way to respond to alarming college admissions news is proactively. Visit schools, choose your early targets well, think carefully about your candidacy, write your essays, and complete your applications over the summer. You have more control than you think, even in the face of rising selectivity rates.


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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
North Star Admissions Consulting