There are notable trends to take into account for students interested in applying to competitive college programs this year 2024; from a surge in applications, to changes to test-optional requirements, to efforts to increase diversity on campus, knowing these trends and how to respond accordingly can make a significant different on your chance of admission. 

  • 41% Increase in First-Year Applications
    • A surprisingly large increase was noticed in the number of students applying to college for the 2023-2024 application season. According to the Common App Research Brief (, 836,679 first year applicants applied, representing a 41% increase since the 2019-2020 season and a 12% increase (89,000 applicants) over the prior year. 

  • 67% Increase in Under-Represented Minority Students URM) – 
    • There was also a surge in the number of underrepresented minority students and first-generation applicants (up 67% vs. 2019-2020 application period), which is great news for education equity. However, as schools focus on a balanced class profile, students who do not identify as underrepresented minorities may face greater challenges in earning their admissions spot.

  • Early Action is a Must 
    • Early action and early decision have become much more normalized and a common choice for students, increasing the degree of competitiveness during these application periods.  This trend is noteworthy because early action and early decision have previously offered a competitive advantage for students against those applying regular decision—it still does, but largely this trend toward submitting early means that early submission is more important than ever.  

  • Test Optional is Purely Fiction 
    • In an effort to promote a more diverse campus, universities have continued to support test-optional policies for applicants. University of Michigan announced they will be test-optional for the 2024-2025 application period, and advocates say this policy levels the playing field between students from wealthy and low-income families. 


However, much to the disservice of the common applicant, what UM doesn’t say is that you will still be judged against your peers. If your peers or your fellow students in YOUR pool of competitors are submitting their test scores and you are not, it becomes a deficiency, you become an outlier, and it can have an extremely deleterious impact on your chance of admission. For applicants, the college admissions process is in many ways about standing out from the crowd and finding ways to be uniquely differentiated from the field of similarly qualified candidates—and that is where a standardized test can be helpful. Applicants who do not submit test scores can still find success, but much more weight is placed on the essays and activities/honors/awards descriptions sections of your application to demonstrate you are highly qualified and will present unique value to the class profile the school is seeking to create. 


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College admissions continues to grow increasingly competitive. It is crucial to meet with a college admissions expert to navigate the changing landscape of college admissions successfully. To learn more about 2024 college admissions trends and how you can stand out as an applicant, connect with a member of our team at The Application Authority.  


Learn more about what an admissions counselor is and how they can help you achieve your goals: 

  • What is an admissions counselor?

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