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How Vermont Academy is Combatting a Difficult Year in College Admissions

By Maryann McArdle
If it seems to you as though the topic of college admissions has been all over the news this year, you’re not wrong. The 2024-25 college admissions cycle will go down as one of, if not the most, tumultuous in history. Between the Supreme Court’s decision on ending Affirmative Action, the newly redesigned Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) rollout debacle, flipflopping requirements in standardized testing, and the continued rise in selectivity at the country’s most prestigious institutions, it’s a challenging time to be a high school senior. Just read The New York Times article “This is Peak College Admissions Insanity” by Daniel Currell and you’ll understand.
These days, Vermont Academy students are competing for college acceptances in an increasingly crowded field. Common Application data shows that first-year applications jumped 12% for the 2024-25 academic year, with international applications increasing a whopping 17%. More students are applying to more colleges, despite rises in application fees and additional essay requirements, hoping for a better chance of admission as acceptance rates drop. This competition has driven the overall acceptance rate across over 500 small liberal arts colleges to hit a record new low of just 54% this year, meaning that roughly one out of two students was denied.

Test-optional policies have also played a significant role in the lowering of acceptance rates. The great majority of colleges and universities have remained test-optional since the pandemic, although some are backpedaling and have started requiring testing again. But for the most part, there is currently no SAT or ACT score that must be achieved for a shot at a highly selective school. Students from all over the world believe that a high grade point average alone now gives them a chance at a more selective school or even an Ivy League school. Consequently, the more application numbers increase, the lower acceptance numbers go. Even universities that used to be fairly accessible have seen their acceptance rates drop to astonishing levels. For instance, Northeastern University (MA), which had a 29% acceptance rate in 2016, saw a 6.8% rate for this admissions cycle.
Despite the fierce competition, the VA Class of 2024 had great success in this year’s admissions cycle. By focusing on what colleges are looking for – a high level of academic rigor in their classes, active engagement in their school community, and genuine and continued interest in their extracurricular pursuits, our students received some impressive results. Many were admitted to their first or second choice schools which included a variety of highly selective institutions like Dartmouth College (NH), Amherst College (MA), Middlebury College (VT), Northeastern University (MA), Boston College (MA), Connecticut College (CT), Tulane University (LA), and The New York University Tisch School of the Arts (NY). We could not be prouder of this class or the distinction they have achieved thus far. We look forward to staying connected and hearing of all they will accomplish after they leave us. Best wishes to the VA Class of 2024!
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.