First-year college applicants have risen 8%, suggests early Common App data


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Dive Brief:

  • The number of first-year applicants for the 2023-24 academic year has risen 8% year over year, according to new Common App data.
  • The number of applicants who the Common App considers to be underrepresented minorities also jumped by 15% year over year — a notable jump given fears about the U.S. Supreme Court decision against race-conscious admissions dissuading historically marginalized students from pursuing a college education. The jump was largely driven by 15% increases each in Latinx and Black or African American candidates.
  • Both public and private colleges drew more first-year applicants than the prior year, though publics experienced more growth. In 2023-24, applications to publics rose 14% year over year, compared to 10% among private institutions.

Dive Insight:

Students can apply to more than 1,000 colleges through the Common App, an online portal. Researchers analyzed over 1.1 million applications submitted by Dec. 1 to the 834 colleges that have worked with the Common App since the 2019-20 cycle.

The number of underrepresented minority applicants is just under 275,000. But their numbers are growing at a faster rate than their counterparts, the Common App found. It classifies underrepresented applicants as students who are Black or African American, Latinx, Native American or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

Researchers highlighted the racial and ethnic makeup of prospective U.S. students this year “given considerable concern regarding the potential repercussions of the United States Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admissions.”

The percentage of first-year applicants identifying as one or more underrepresented minorities rose slightly from 27.4% in 2022-23 to 29.4% in 2023-24.

Low-income students are also applying in greater numbers. Applicants from lower-income ZIP codes increased 14% year over year while those from higher-income areas ticked up 5%.

Colleges are seeing more applications from international students, up 19% during the 2023-24 year, Common App found. Ghanaian applicants to U.S. colleges almost tripled to just over 9,800, up 173% from the year prior. The country of origin that saw the second most growth was Mongolia at 76% with 676 applicants.

International students make up about 5.6% of the total college population in the U.S., according to recent U.S. Department of State data.


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