This Thursday, prospective members of Princeton’s Great Class of 2026 received offers of admission from the University. We’d like to tell you more about the class, but we cannot because the University has declined to release any statistics about accepted students – both during the Regular Decision round or during the Early Action process. We asked our columnists for their Reactions to this unusual decision.
Less information never solves anxiety
By Abigail Rabieh, Columnist
Princeton explained that their decision to withhold admissions statistics was partially an effort to “tamp down the anxiety of applicants.” Unfortunately, this goal is unrealistic, this solution is a bandaid, and Princeton’s shift will only serve to increase applicants’ stress.
When I reflect on my college application process, I do not think that I suffered from information regarding acceptance rates at different colleges. In fact, I found it helpful to have a realistic idea of my chances at acceptance. Knowing that the previous year’s acceptance rate was 6.46 percent allowed me to dampen my expectations, as I should have. This is because the whole application process is so arbitrary, and any student at Princeton could just as easily have not gotten in.
It is important for applicants to have that data, so that they can craft a series of applications that suit their needs. For example, I applied to schools which have a wide range of acceptance rates — from 4 percent to 71 percent — to make sure that I would have a set of schools to choose from, and to increase the likelihood that I would be accepted to at least one.
Additionally, Princeton’s decision to withhold this data will actively worsen students’ stress. Most college applicants know that Princeton is considered a selective school — after all, it has been ranked the best university in the country for more than a decade by US News and World Report. We often imagine things to be worse than they are: if Princeton, a selective university, won’t even admit their statistics, it will lead people to assume that the numbers are so low that even the University thinks it is demoralizing. This may be true, of course, seeing that last year’s acceptance rate was 4.38 percent. However, hiding the truth won’t help.
Admission statistics, in my opinion, are not the most stressful thing about applying to college. They only tell the truth. The entire college application system is broken: Education is supposed to be the Great Equalizer, but applicants are sorted by merit with unequal outcomes, we rank colleges based on irrelevant criteria, and college applications cause high school students immense anxiety. Princeton knows this and presumably knows they cannot fix it on their own.
The University could try other methods to tackle applicant stress — such as not releasing their decisions on the same day as every other Ivy League school. By releasing this information on a single day, many competitive and high-achieving students who have often applied to more than one Ivy may receive several rounds of disappointing news all at once. Perhaps changing this policy, or being more open about what criteria applications are actually considered against, would allow students to have a better understanding of what to expect when they apply to Princeton, or at least mitigate their anxieties throughout the process. Hiding such important information will only make things worse.
Abigail Rabieh is a first-year columnist from Cambridge, Mass. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at @a.rabs03, or on Twitter at @AbigailRabieh.
I’m glad Princeton has a modicum of shame
By Rohit Narayanan, Community Opinion Editor
Hiding admissions statistics does nothing to fix the fundamental problems with college admissions. It doesn’t even serve to reduce stress, since as Abigail noted, students will assume the rates are even lower than they actually are. But it is a positive development in one respect: it shows Princeton has at least an ounce of shame about how ridiculously low its acceptance rate is. That’s progress!
Top universities like Princeton have seen acceptance rates plummet in recent years. In just 10 years, Princeton’s acceptance rate has decreased from around 8.5 percent to just less than 4 percent. What institution, no matter how omnipotent, can filter out the top 4 percent of the most qualified applicant pool in the world? It’s a game of luck with people’s mental wellbeing in the balance.
But what’s scarier than the low admission rate is the fact that Princeton and other top colleges seem to revel in their selectivity. While Dean of Admissions Karen Richardson has strenuously denied that Princeton seeks to drive down its acceptance rates, it’s undeniable that the allure of selectivity is a big part of Princeton’s pitch and a subterranean acceptance rate only serves to further that goal.
This year, the acceptance rate may be lower than ever before, but instead of flaunting it, we are admitting it’s a travesty by hiding it. I wish Princeton would take a systematic approach to admissions rate deflation, like starting an admissions collective. But the first step is admitting we have a problem. And Princeton has done just that. Princeton, unlike other Ivy League institutions, is also making a tangible effort to increase capacity by building new residential colleges, hopefully in order to raise acceptance rates going forward.
In the middle of Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, Netflix’s documentary on the notorious admissions fraud, one student asks: “When we have children and they apply to colleges, where do you think they are going to be going? Like no one’s going to be getting into colleges at that point. It’s crazy.” I’m glad I am going to an institution that sees this future and at least recognizes that it’s not ideal.
Rohit Narayanan is the Community Opinion Editor and a sophomore from McLean, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The ulterior motives behind this decision
By Mohan Setty-Charity, Senior Columnist
Right now, affirmative action is under attack in the Supreme Court. Groups like Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) argue that race-blindness is the only way for the process to be fair. They’re wrong. As Ashley Olenkiewicz ’25 recently explained in the ‘Prince,’ affirmative action is an “indispensable tool in the continual effort to rectify the effects of the United States’ abhorrent racial history.” I think part of Princeton’s rationale to stop releasing admissions statistics is to push back against SFA and other anti-affirmative action groups by decreasing transparency. And that can be risky.
Many people assume that admissions statistics provide useful information to applicants and other parties. They think that when seeing an institution’s acceptance rate, or its range of standardized test scores, applicants will have a better idea of the number of fellow students who are interested in applying, how challenging it is to get in, and some characteristics of admitted students. But is that a reality?
In fact, these statistics only reflect an incredibly small part of a broader picture. The acceptance rate for a certain school often tells us very little about the odds of an individual getting admitted, given the various factors that affect admissions decisions. And while knowing the average standardized test scores can make some people feel better or worse, it would be a mistake to think that there is a distinct cutoff that guarantees or ruins one’s prospects of admission.
What admissions statistics do is allow for information distortion by groups like SFA, who are trying to lead applicants to believe that just because they achieve a certain GPA or standardized test score, they earn a spot in the coming class. But in reality, no one is guaranteed admission. When Princeton refuses to share admissions statistics, it means people cannot make this faulty argument as easily.
The University now has what it wants: more leeway in shaping a class they want. This means that they can emphasize racial or socioeconomic diversity, community building, and a commitment to progress.
The admissions office has stated that they are going to release data about the matriculated members of the Class of 2026 this fall. But this is a different set of data that serves to reveal certain characteristics of the incoming class rather than giving a false impression of what it takes to get accepted, like admission statistics. In order to justify withholding current admissions statistics, the University needs to prove that it has continued to make efforts to create a well-rounded and balanced incoming class.
Mohan Setty-Charity is a sophomore from Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.