Selectivity: Acceptance Rates at 4-Year Colleges

NACAC recently published information for their State of College Admission Report. They found that in the Fall of 2021, four-year, not-for-profit colleges accepted 73 percent of applications from first-year students, on average. The average acceptance rate was higher for public colleges (78 percent) compared to private colleges (70 percent).

What is selectivity?

The term “selectivity” is another way to refer to a college or university’s acceptance rate—the percentage of applicants that are offered admission to the institution. A more selective institution is one with a lower acceptance rate. Acceptance rates vary from the single digits to near 100 percent, and institutions with very low acceptance rates represent only a small fraction of higher education institutions.

How does Fall 2021 compare to recent years?

Fall 2021 was the first full admission cycle that was disrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. In Fall 2020, the average acceptance rate was 70 percent, and in Fall 2019, it was 68 percent. The national data suggest that colleges accepted more applicants, on average, to accommodate the increased uncertainty about how prospective students would respond. However, for the past 20 years, the average acceptance rate for four-year colleges has not dropped below 63 percent.

NACAC members have access to the complete report. You can visit to join if you aren’t currently a member and would like to.