The 2014 Acceptance Rates at the most competitive universities in USA are:
Stanford University 5.2
University of Pennsylvania 9.9
Some of the non-Ivies are harder to get into than the Ivies - Stanford, MIT, and Caltech, for example. These schools attract students who have remarkable achievements in math and science.
If you ever doubted the desirability of the prestigious "8" Ivies - the statistics below should prove just how many are clawing to get in:
Brown University — 30,291 applicants (2,619 accepted)
Columbia University — 32,967 applicants (2,291 accepted)
Cornell University — 43,041 applicants (6,025 accepted)
Dartmouth College — 19,235 applicants (2,220 accepted)
Harvard University — 34,295 applicants (2,023 accepted)
University of Pennsylvania — 35,788 applicants (3,551 accepted)
Princeton University — 26,607 applicants (1,939 accepted)
Yale University — 30,922 applicants (1,935 accepted)
Why the numbers of applicants keep increasing is outlined nicely in this recent New York Time article:
Among the reasons cited the top culprit is the applicant pool. It is not unusual for qualified students to apply to ALL of the schools listed above. This introduces many inefficiencies to the acceptance process. It also results in a good student often attending a school that is not a good match. It would be much better if students took time to fully investigate the schools, find a match, focus on that school exclusively, and then apply under a restrictive early admissions process. With so much competition for so few spots, it is a fierce contest indeed. I think the applicant pool is waiting for the universities to blink first. I suspect that students (and their exhausted parents) are thinking: "Save us from ourselves, please. Do something!"
In a recent post on a yahoo group I follow closely, one parent suggested that the top universities develop a software program as an intelligent buffer between them (the schools) and the applicants. Applicants who are determined to apply to all of the best schools would have to rank their top three picks. Let the software do the rest. Theoretically, this would produce more precise placements for those who are attractive to ALL of the schools, leaving more openings and reducing some of the scrambling that occurs in April.
My Big Idea: I think the top universities should include a question designed specifically to find the most committed kids. This essay question would be: "How many times have you visited this university (include dates) and what were the highlights of your visit(s)? If you have not explored the campus of this university, why not?" Most universities claim that they do not track official visits. That is, they say that they don't go through their records to see if you attended an official tour. Many do not even have a formal sign-up for their tours. I think this is a mistake. Why ignore data that can help discern the "sincerity factor"?
Bottom line: If applicants do more homework, become more focused in their search, and select more sincerely, and if universities used the important information that this sincerity reveals, everyone would be happier and the bottle-neck would be loosened. Of course, not all kids would be truthful, and, true, internationals would have a special challenge, but surely this question would help eliminate the birdshot approach?