Class Of 2028: Applications Up, Acceptance Rates Down

Class of 2028: Applications Up, Acceptance Rates Down

College acceptance rates for the Class of 2028 are declining, with some highly selective institutions reaching record-low rates.

To add to the decline, FAFSA issues have led to a significant 30% decrease in completion of the student aid form this year, raising concerns about reduced college enrollment among low-income and first-generation students.

Inside Higher Ed recently highlighted early trends on the Class of 2028 giving a closer look at application numbers and acceptance rates.


The number of applicants increased by nearly 6% over last year, according to Common App data. That’s in part due to affordability initiatives from colleges.

Last summer, Duke University announced that it was offering free tuition to North and South Carolina-based applicants from families earning less than $150,000 annually. The initiative led to a significant increase in applicants this cycle with Duke receiving 4,700 more applicants than the previous year.

Enrollment and application numbers are also up at two-year colleges, and interest in vocational and credential programs is on the rise.

Robert Massa, a retired undergraduate enrollment professional with stints at Dickinson College and Johns Hopkins University, says more students are considering shorter-term degrees and FAFSA’s drop in completion rates will affect four-year colleges hard this summer.

“The FAFSA debacle is a big question mark hanging over this year, and it will be really disruptive for regional public universities in particular, those that serve and depend on lower-income populations,” he says. “Students who maybe applied and got into a four-year program might be more likely to consider going to a community college instead—or not going to college at all.”


Highly selective colleges became even more competitive this cycle. Selective institutions such as Williams College and Rice and Duke Universities all boasted record-low acceptance rates.

This year, Harvard’s acceptance rate saw a rare increase, rising from 3.34 to 3.59%, marking its first uptick since 2020. However, during the same period, the university also experienced a decrease in applications by over 5% compared to the previous year.

Some private universities are also becoming more competitive. Northeastern University, for instance, received over 90,000 applications, marking a nearly 30% surge compared to the roughly 62,000 it received in 2019. Similarly, Fairfield University in Connecticut admitted only 33% of applicants this cycle, indicating a significant decrease from the nearly 45% admission rate from last year.

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, Common App

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