Seeing a 17.5% increase in applications, Haverford College attracted an influx of interest this past year. Haverford received 5,336 applications for the Class of 2025, compared to 4,539 for the Class of 2024, making for a more competitive admissions cycle.
Of the applications for the 2020–21 cycle, 4,592 were submitted during the regular decision period, as well as 304 applicants for Early Decision I, 151 for Early Decision II, and 289 through QuestBridge.
This year’s upswing is a significant divergence from the annual trends. Between 2016 and 2019, the average number of applications had been approximately 4,528 per year. The greater number of applications for the Class of 2025 meant that students had to work harder than ever to stand out in the applicant pool: This year’s acceptance rate was 17.8%, the second-lowest in the college’s history.
Over the past decade, Haverford’s admissions rates have dropped, matching a broader trend towards greater selectivity among many institutions of higher education. Last year, out of the 4,539 applicants for the Class of 2024, 810 were admitted, an admit rate of 18.4%. Haverford had an admissions rate of 16.3% for the Class of 2023, and 18.7% for the Class of 2022. This compares with much higher rates throughout the mid-2010s, with an average admissions rate of 24.2% between 2011 and 2015.
The rise in applications came after Haverford decided to adopt a test-optional policy in April 2020 to create “greater flexibility” during a time when taking an SAT or ACT would be much more difficult, according to Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jess Lord’s announcement.
Optional test scores allow other aspects of applications to shine, encouraging a more holistic evaluation. Without an SAT or ACT score, greater focus is placed on components such as the personal essay, recommendation letters, and high-school grades and extracurriculars.
Of this year’s applicants, nearly 60% chose to omit their test scores, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. This policy will be in effect for a three-year trial period, at which point the college will evaluate the effects of test-optional admissions.
Swarthmore College also adopted a test-optional policy for the Class of 2025, with their applications rising by 12%. Bryn Mawr College saw a slight increase of 3%, already having abandoned SAT/ACT requirements in 2014. The University of Pennsylvania enacted their test-optional policy in 2020 and experienced a 34% increase in applications.
Dean Lord also says that making tests scores optional on applications “strengthens Haverford’s leadership in and commitment to access, diversity, and inclusion.” SAT and ACT tests disproportionately put low-income, Black, Hispanic and Latinx students at a disadvantage, as well as students living with disabilities. The decreased reliance on standardized testing for college admissions will provide more opportunities for systematically underprivileged students to flourish.
The large bump in applications to Haverford College demonstrates a growing interest in the school and perhaps reflects the attractiveness of their new test-optional policy. Regular decision applicants to the Class of 2025 received their results on March 19.
This is great! However, I’m a little unclear on how there is such a strong causal claim being made. A lot of students chose not to go to college last year because of the pandemic, so couldn’t one argue that part of the rise in applications is due to so many people delaying? I know that by March, students had already applied and been accepted to institutions (so deferral wouldn’t be reapplying), but I would imagine that some people might have meaningful gap year experiences that led them to reapply.