Special Report

Colleges With the Largest Increases in Applicants

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Fueled by the uncertainties around the coronavirus pandemic and wider adoption of policies that only recommend, rather than require, SAT and ACT test scores, high school students applied for a record number of colleges in the 2020-21 college admissions cycle, driving application totals nationwide. (These are the highest and lowest paying college majors in America.)

From California to New England, the number of applications to accredited colleges and universities in 2021 was in some cases double the number in the previous admissions cycle.

Applications to top-shelf schools like U.C. Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania in the last admissions cycle rose by 28% and 34%, respectively, compared to the previous cycle, according to the Los Angeles Times. Colgate University, the private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York, saw applications jump 102% in 2021. Looking at the past five academic cycles, however, Colgate does not even make it onto the list of the top 40 schools.

To determine the 40 colleges with the largest increases in applicants over the past five academic cycles, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed applications data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges and universities were ranked based on the percentage increase in applications from the 2015-16 school year to the 2020-21 school year. 

Only schools with at least 1,000 applications in the 2015-16 school year were considered. Acceptance rates in the 2020-21 school year, total enrollment as of fall 2020, and application requirements for the 2020-21 school year also came from the NCES. (See also the hardest college to get into in every state.)

The number of applicants to the 40 universities or colleges on our list jumped by at least 110%, like at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design since the 2015-16 academic year. The number of applicants spiked by 865% at Southern New Hampshire University.

The median increase in the applications to these 40 schools (five of them located in Florida) over the five-year period was 140%, and the median acceptance rate was 70%. Most of these colleges are small, with a median total enrollment of just 4,195 students. 

Total enrollment at the 40 schools on the list stands at 454,415. Southern New Hampshire University, which is the only school on this list that is primarily an online campus, claims about 30% of this total enrollment. 

Here are the colleges with the largest increase in applicants

40. Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston, MA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +110.3% (1,273 to 2,677)
> Acceptance rate: 70.3%
> Total enrollment: 1,894
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores neither required nor recommended, recommendations required

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39. Arizona State University Campus Immersion (Tempe, AZ)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +110.9% (25,380 to 53,516)
> Acceptance rate: 88.4%
> Total enrollment: 74,795
> Application requirements: GPA recommended, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

38. Fisk University (Nashville, TN)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +111.2% (3,004 to 6,345)
> Acceptance rate: 66.5%
> Total enrollment: 911
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations required

37. University of Nebraska at Kearney (Kearney, NE)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +113.4% (2,511 to 5,359)
> Acceptance rate: 88.4%
> Total enrollment: 6,225
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations considered but not required

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36. Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +113.5% (29,828 to 63,691)
> Acceptance rate: 32.5%
> Total enrollment: 43,569
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

35. Lynn University (Boca Raton, FL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +113.6% (3,770 to 8,053)
> Acceptance rate: 78.7%
> Total enrollment: 3,232
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations required

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34. Lander University (Greenwood, SC)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +115.3% (2,614 to 5,627)
> Acceptance rate: 57.0%
> Total enrollment: 3,513
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations recommended

33. Alvernia University (Reading, PA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +120.5% (1,670 to 3,683)
> Acceptance rate: 70.0%
> Total enrollment: 2,560
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores recommended, recommendations recommended

32. Georgia Southwestern State University (Americus, GA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +122.6% (1,167 to 2,598)
> Acceptance rate: 73.4%
> Total enrollment: 3,162
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations recommended

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31. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott (Prescott, AZ)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +122.7% (1,908 to 4,250)
> Acceptance rate: 66.8%
> Total enrollment: 3,004
> Application requirements: GPA considered but not required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

30. Wartburg College (Waverly, IA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +123.3% (2,147 to 4,795)
> Acceptance rate: 71.7%
> Total enrollment: 1,563
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations required

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29. West Virginia State University (Institute, WV)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +124.8% (1,439 to 3,235)
> Acceptance rate: 88.5%
> Total enrollment: 3,638
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

28. Long Island University (Brookville, NY)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +125.1% (6,371 to 14,341)
> Acceptance rate: 85.0%
> Total enrollment: 15,066
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations required

27. University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Little Rock, AR)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +125.1% (1,938 to 4,363)
> Acceptance rate: 56.0%
> Total enrollment: 8,899
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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26. Alcorn State University (Alcorn State, MS)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +127.4% (3,010 to 6,846)
> Acceptance rate: 37.7%
> Total enrollment: 3,230
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations considered but not required

25. Grambling State University (Grambling, LA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +127.5% (3,584 to 8,153)
> Acceptance rate: 93.2%
> Total enrollment: 5,438
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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24. Saint Augustine’s University (Raleigh, NC)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +128.1% (2,581 to 5,887)
> Acceptance rate: 67.3%
> Total enrollment: 1,110
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations recommended

23. Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +130.3% (1,017 to 2,342)
> Acceptance rate: 80.3%
> Total enrollment: 1,073
> Application requirements: GPA considered but not required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

22. New Jersey City University (Jersey City, NJ)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +134.7% (2,789 to 6,545)
> Acceptance rate: 96.3%
> Total enrollment: 7,550
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores recommended, recommendations required

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21. University of Illinois Springfield (Springfield, IL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +138.5% (1,524 to 3,634)
> Acceptance rate: 77.3%
> Total enrollment: 4,146
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

20. Hawaii Pacific University (Honolulu, HI)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +140.5% (3,449 to 8,296)
> Acceptance rate: 81.4%
> Total enrollment: 4,243
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations recommended

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19. Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +142.5% (1,699 to 4,120)
> Acceptance rate: 50.4%
> Total enrollment: 10,483
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

18. University of Montevallo (Montevallo, AL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +144.8% (2,024 to 4,954)
> Acceptance rate: 60.5%
> Total enrollment: 2,600
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

17. Dean College (Franklin, MA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +145.5% (2,411 to 5,919)
> Acceptance rate: 70.5%
> Total enrollment: 1,180
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

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16. Defiance College (Defiance, OH)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +149.7% (1,210 to 3,021)
> Acceptance rate: 54.9%
> Total enrollment: 607
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

15. Mary Baldwin University (Staunton, VA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +159.1% (2,774 to 7,188)
> Acceptance rate: 87.1%
> Total enrollment: 2,110
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations recommended

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14. The University of Tennessee-Martin (Martin, TN)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +164.7% (3,400 to 9,001)
> Acceptance rate: 64.9%
> Total enrollment: 7,117
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

13. Central Washington University (Ellensburg, WA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +168.8% (4,934 to 13,263)
> Acceptance rate: 86.0%
> Total enrollment: 11,174
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations recommended

12. North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro, NC)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +172.3% (6,010 to 16,366)
> Acceptance rate: 56.7%
> Total enrollment: 12,753
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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11. Vanguard University of Southern California (Costa Mesa, CA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +172.7% (1,487 to 4,055)
> Acceptance rate: 50.0%
> Total enrollment: 2,289
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations considered but not required

10. Southern University and A&M College (Baton Rouge, LA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +176.8% (2,505 to 6,935)
> Acceptance rate: 43.4%
> Total enrollment: 6,917
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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9. Barry University (Miami, FL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +183.4% (3,765 to 10,671)
> Acceptance rate: 65.3%
> Total enrollment: 7,515
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores recommended, recommendations recommended

8. Norfolk State University (Norfolk, VA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +184.0% (2,445 to 6,944)
> Acceptance rate: 91.1%
> Total enrollment: 5,457
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations required

7. Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls, OR)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +184.5% (1,487 to 4,231)
> Acceptance rate: 95.1%
> Total enrollment: 5,323
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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6. Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +216.8% (4,333 to 13,727)
> Acceptance rate: 76.2%
> Total enrollment: 20,888
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations required

5. Savannah State University (Savannah, GA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +240.1% (2,950 to 10,032)
> Acceptance rate: 46.1%
> Total enrollment: 3,488
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

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4. Albany State University (Albany, GA)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +248.6% (2,196 to 7,655)
> Acceptance rate: 73.0%
> Total enrollment: 6,509
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

3. Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, AL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +254.4% (3,085 to 10,932)
> Acceptance rate: 63.7%
> Total enrollment: 9,238
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores required, recommendations neither required nor recommended

2. St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens, FL)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +259.8% (1,570 to 5,649)
> Acceptance rate: 59.6%
> Total enrollment: 5,601
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores considered but not required, recommendations considered but not required

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1. Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH)
> Increase in applications, 2015 to 2020: +865.3% (3,848 to 37,143)
> Acceptance rate: 93.5%
> Total enrollment: 134,345
> Application requirements: GPA required, test scores neither required nor recommended, recommendations required

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