WU receives record number of applications, admits 4,374 students in a tumultuous college admissions cycle
Washington University received 33,634 applications to the class of 2025, marking a 20% increase from last cycle, with 4,374 total students admitted at an overall acceptance rate of 13%.
The pool of admitted students includes residents of all 50 states and 45 different countries. In addition, 10% of admitted students are the first generation in their families to attend college, 13% are Pell Grant-eligible, 15% are Latino and 15% are Black.
Emily Almas, assistant vice provost and director of admissions, expressed her excitement over this year’s admitted students.
“They are just amazing,” Almas said. “They are talented and accomplished and contributed to their communities, whether that’s at their high school or in their family or their state or even involved in organizations that have had impact of a great scale…I feel very fortunate that they have indicated an interest in Wash. U. and that we have the potential to welcome these really great people to our community.”
The University has 1,795 seats reserved for the incoming class, approximately 60% of which have been taken by Early Decision I and II applicants. In addition, 60 students matched to Washington University through QuestBridge, a program that connects talented low-income and first-generation students with selective universities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for college admissions, impacting several facets of the process. Many of the usual admissions factors—campus visits, test scores and essays on extracurricular activities—have been disrupted. As a result, some colleges and universities across the country are turning to waitlists to brace the uncertainty of the cycle, though Almas said it’s difficult to predict how many will be pulled from the waiting list until the deposit deadline of May 3 gets closer.
“It’s incredibly uncertain what choices students will make,” Almas said. “It remains to be seen whether we will have space for students from our waitlist, and we’ll have to wait a few weeks and see.”
Reilly Dillon and Samuel Wang, applicants who were admitted March 24 in the regular admissions cycle, both said the hardest part of the application process was the inability to visit campuses.
“Since I wasn’t able to visit any schools, I had an extremely difficult time creating a strong emotional attachment to any one particular school,” Wang said. “However, luckily for me, Wash. U. is one of the few schools I’ve visited that I’ve really enjoyed.”
“The most difficult part of the application process for me was definitely figuring out what schools to apply to without having been able to visit a lot of schools,” Dillon said.
Some higher education institutions also saw large increases in the number of students taking gap years in the previous admissions cycle, impacting the number of open spots for the incoming class of 2025. The University of Pennsylvania had a 300% increase in students choosing to take a gap year last spring, a drastic increase that Washington University did not experience.
“We did have increased students from the prior year take a gap year, but we did not see hundreds and hundreds of students taking a gap year,” Almas said. “That was not something that I would point to when students are wondering about our admissions process this year.”
Some have attributed the rise in applications to colleges and universities across the nation to the change in standardized testing policies, as many institutions waived the requirement over public health concerns. However, Almas points out that it’s difficult to ascertain what has driven the increase in applications.
“It could be related to the test optional policy for this year’s class…It could be that students ended up applying to more institutions if they didn’t have an opportunity this past year to visit college campuses; they may have applied to more schools as a result…It could be that our virtual recruitment efforts were able to reach more students who previously we were not engaging with,” Almas said.
In addition to robust virtual offerings, admitted students will be able to visit campus in person for modified, outdoor-only campus tours. Though these visits will be different from a typical admitted students program, Almas said they will be conducted with the safety of visiting families and the University community being the top priority.
“We know it’s going to be very different than the kinds of experiences a student might have had two years ago visiting our campus as an admitted student,” Almas said, “But we do want to make sure we have some venue for students to take advantage of that if they want to.”