The first members of Princeton’s Class of 2026 received their acceptance letters in December, but in contrast to past years, the University did not share how many were admitted or how many applied, announcing Dec. 16 that it would not release data for the early action, regular decision, and transfer admission cycles and would share information about the incoming class when it enrolls later this year.
The announcement on the undergraduate admission website said that publishing information such as admission rates and average SAT scores “raises the anxiety level of prospective students and their families and, unfortunately, may discourage some prospective students from applying.”
“We’ve heard directly from students, families, and college counselors that highlighting statistics about applicants — particularly at highly selective institutions — can give a false impression about those who are admitted to the University and what the institution prioritizes in its review process,” University spokesman Michael Hotchkiss said in an email to PAW. “Many factors, including some not easily captured by statistics, are considered in building a dynamic community at Princeton.”
The policy change drew criticism from The Daily Princetonian editorial board, which acknowledged the admission office’s concerns but questioned its approach. “Withholding data sends an even more discouraging message than low acceptance rates,” the Prince board wrote. “It tells applicants: ‘Our admissions rate is so low, we’re afraid to even tell you.’”
Brennan Barnard, dean of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the co-author of a family guide to college admissions, said colleges “are faced with this challenging balance between wanting to be transparent about their selectivity and also, rightfully, wanting to increase access and equity.” Barnard added that a college’s overall admit rate, without context, may not be particularly useful to prospective applicants, but more specific data, such as the admit rate for applicants who did not submit standardized test scores or the retention rates for enrolled students, could be helpful in choosing where to apply.
Princeton’s early-action option was not offered in 2020–21 because of the pandemic; in the regular admission period, the University admitted 1,647 of 37,601 applicants (4.4 percent), including students who had deferred their admission.
In choosing not to release statistics until after the admission cycle is complete, Princeton joins Stanford and Cornell universities, which enacted similar policies in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Stanford noted that the numbers of applicants and admitted students were generally used in stories that highlight the most selective colleges. “That is not a race we are interested in being a part of, and it is not something that empowers students in finding a college that is the best match for their interests, which is what the focus of the entire process should be,” Stanford Provost Persis Drell said in a Stanford News article.
Both Stanford and Cornell continue to share admission statistics in the fall as part of the Common Data Set Initiative, and Princeton plans to do so as well, according to Hotchkiss. (To see Princeton’s data for 2020–21, visit bit.ly/CDS_20-21.) “The University is not making any changes to its annual reporting of aggregate data, just stepping away from making announcements about admission data during the admission cycle,” he said.