It’s Time for You to Know the Truth About US University Acceptance Rates

Posted On 25.04.2019 | Blog

There's a good chance that you've been lied to.

Unfortunately, this is especially true if you're an international student applying to US universities.

Or perhaps, it's better to say that you've been misled by the numbers that US universities reveal as their acceptance rates following each application cycle.

Let's take a look at the acceptance rates for the class of 2022 at a few top US universities:

While these numbers may already make you feel like you have a better chance of winning the lottery, we have to warn you: they're even lower for international students.  


Acceptance Rates Are Different for International Students

The acceptance rates that you see in university newspapers and on websites like the US News and World Report represent the overall acceptance rate for all students, both domestic and international.

And, as you may already know, the acceptance rate for domestic students (US citizens living and attending school in the US) is always significantly higher.

To help you visualize what we mean, we’ve compiled a graph for two of the most popular universities among international students: USC and Stanford.

As you can see, although USC accepted around 13% of all applicants, only around 2% were international students. For Stanford, international students make up less than 1%!

Does this mean that applying to these universities is a waste of time?

Not exactly.

But it does mean that when applying to top US universities, you should be aware that there is no guarantee that you’ll be accepted, regardless of whether or not you’re an academically strong student.

That being said, we’d like to share 6 ways you can prepare to maximize your chances of being accepted to a top US university.


6 Ways to Maximize Your Chances of Being Accepted to a Top US University


1. Make sure your grades and test scores are strong

There's no getting around this one. Admissions officers will often look at grades and test scores during the first review of your application as a way of quickly deciding whether or not you meet the minimum standards for further consideration. If you struggle in either of these areas, consider working with a tutor as soon as possible.


2. Make sure your extracurricular activities are strong

This point often comes as a surprise to international students that aren't so familiar with the US admissions process. Admissions officers will look at the extracurricular activities that you have listed on your application as a way to evaluate whether or not you have the potential to make an impact on campus. It's also a way for them to see that you value trying new things and pursuing your passions in ways that aren't required of you by your school.


3. Use a college readiness software provided by your school

If your school uses these programs, like Naviance or SCOIR, you can look at compiled records and sample data points showing how past students from your school have performed in terms of acceptance and rejection from US universities. You'll often find that the average grades, test scores, and acceptance rates from your school differ from those publicized on university websites and newspapers, making them a better point of reference when determining your competitiveness for acceptance.


4. Have a balanced school list

If you want to apply to top US universities, a balanced school list is essential. And by balanced, we don't just mean you apply to competitive, “reach” universities and “safety” universities where you're more than likely to be accepted. You should also apply to “target” universities where, while still competitive, you're more likely to be accepted due to having an above average profile for students typically accepted to that university.


5. Apply early decision to your top choice university

Many top US universities accept the majority of their students during the early decision round. Since applying early decision means that you commit to a binding agreement with one university if you are accepted, fewer students tend to apply than during the regular decision round. This smaller application pool often results in higher acceptance rates for students who use this option. It important to note that not all universities offer early decision applications, and at some top US universities, it doesn't always make that much of a difference for acceptance rates.


6. Work with a university admissions consultant  

When you're aiming high and applying to top US universities with acceptance rates below 2%, it's easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. As admissions consultants, our job is to help you navigate this process and identify gaps in your application to encourage and support you in developing the strongest application possible!


If you'd like to work with our experienced US Admissions Consulting team at ARCH, please email to schedule an initial consultation meeting. We specialize in helping students defy the odds and gain acceptances to top universities. And we look forward to helping you do the same!