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Some undergraduate institutions attract an extraordinary number of applicants, and at those schools, college hopefuls may need to make a concerted effort to distinguish themselves from other candidates.
The University of California–Los Angeles was by far the most popular school among prospective college students who sought admission in fall 2019. More than 111,000 individuals competed for spots in UCLA’s freshman class, but only 12% were accepted.
Among the 10 colleges that received the most applications in fall 2019, the average was 85,653. That number is far above the average of 8,889 applicants among the 1,219 ranked schools that provided this statistic to U.S. News in an annual survey.
Meanwhile, there are some colleges that saw numbers well below the average — including 10 that each received fewer than 250 applications.
Nine of the 10 schools that received the most applications in fall 2019 are National Universities, schools that are often research-oriented and offer a wide range of college majors and master’s and doctoral degrees. The one exception is California State University–Long Beach, which is a Regional University, a school that provides a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs but very few doctoral programs.
Eight of these 10 popular colleges among applicants are based in California, including six in the University of California system. The other two schools are in Pennsylvania and New York.
Below is a list of the 10 colleges with the most fall 2019 applicants. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|School||Number of applicants||U.S. News rank and category|
|University of California–Los Angeles||111,322||20, National Universities|
|University of California–San Diego||99,133||35 (tie), National Universities|
|University of California–Irvine||95,568||35 (tie), National Universities|
|University of California–Santa Barbara||93,457||30 (tie), National Universities|
|University of California–Berkeley||87,398||22, National Universities|
|New York University||79,462||30 (tie), National Universities|
|University of California–Davis||77,152||39 (tie), National Universities|
|Pennsylvania State University–University Park||71,903||63 (tie), National Universities|
|California State University–Long Beach||71,297||14, Regional Universities (West)|
|San Diego State University||69,842||143 (tie), National Universities|
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U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2020 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The application data above is correct as of Oct. 27, 2020.
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