Will new USN ranks alter admission rates?

Wondering if the new (‘24) US News rankings will impact admissions rates this year. Will Wake Forest get a little easier and Rutgers get a little choosier? S24 is applying to the same mix either way, but I’m just wondering if the outcomes might shift.

I can’t imagine admission rates changing in any meaningful way.


I believe it was at Cornell that professors studied this. They found that changes in USN positions appeared subsequently in changes in application levels. This effect may or may not be apparent for any particular school, however.

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So the last study I know of on this subject had pretty interesting results:


Basically, they found what is sometimes called a “front of book” effect. The rankings themselves mattered very little, but if you made the Top 25 (which was a big deal in US News back in the day), that would increase your applications by 6-10%:

The results suggest that making the U.S. News rankings list is associated with an increase in applications, particularly when colleges are 1 of only 25 schools on the list. The actual numerical ranking, however, does not predict the volume of applications. Across the models in the four columns of Table 2, being 1 of only 25 schools on the list is associated with between a 6% and 10% increase in applications (the sum of the estimates in the first two rows in column 1 or column 2). In all four specifications, the estimated coefficient on the numerical ranking is statistically significant and very small. For example, the estimate in column 1 suggests only a 0.02% increase in applications after a college’s ranking improves by 10 places. Making the list, especially a relatively short list, is the strongest predictor of changes in applications.

I’m not sure what is likely to happen in today’s environment. But you can see why concepts like T10 or T20 or so on persist. Some people are primed to see such lists as particularly meaningful.

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A college that becomes more “known” is likely to receive more applications which will drive down the admission rate. One way to become more known is a successful football or basketball team. Another is the USNWR rankings. It’s a bit of a cycle and may take a couple years to filter through and see the effects.

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I wonder if a change in rankings would affect yield rates too. I have heard several parents say that they are willing to pay full price for top ranked, prestige etc. But they would not pay full price for lower ranked schools. T20, T50 seems to be a big deal to a lot of kids/parents. Falling out of these cutoffs might sway decisions. Given the strong reaction that some of the schools have when they fall in the rankings, there must be a cost attached to falling in the rankings.

So a school like Northeastern that falls out of the T50 - would these parents be willing to cough up $80k if the school doesn’t look as prestigious.

I am really curious how the ranking will affect UC Merced application numbers this year.

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The only rankings that matter with regard to significant short-term effect are season ending football and basketball polls.

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Same here. I’m really pulling for them.

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Did anyone study whether dropping a supplemental essay or waiving an app fee significantly increased application levels? I know that is the case with some SLACs.

I don’t know of a study, but the case examples seem sufficiently persuasive as to these effects. Colby’s application levels, for example, have gone through the roof since they dropped some requirements.

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Even if an increase in ranking leads to an increase in applications, this only affects an individual’s admissions chances in so far as the additional applicants are more competitive for admission than they are. While an additional 6-10% in applications will result in the overall acceptance rate going down, it doesn’t necessarily have a proportional impact on an individual’s chances of admission. A student applying on the basis of fit probably has a better chance for admission than a student applying strictly on the basis of increased perceived prestige (which would probably describe a large number of those additional applicants).

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