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Apr 10, 2014 02:40 PM EDT

College Acceptance Rates Hit New Low: Stanford Admits a 'Shocking' 5% of Applicants

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College may be getting more expensive, but it is also harder to get into, especially at the nation's top institutions.

The New York Times reported Stanford University turned away 95 percent of its applicants for the fall of 2014. Acceptance rates are falling because enrollment has risen over the past decade while classroom seats have grown much slower.

"Kids see that the admit rates are brutal and dropping, and it looks more like a crapshoot," Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., told the NYT. "So they send more apps, which forces the colleges to lower their admit rates, which spurs the kids next year to send even more apps."

One student from a Calif. private high school said he applied to 11 different colleges to employ the scattershot approach. He was only accepted to Yale, who announced recently their acceptance rate was 6.26 percent, down from 6.72 percent last year.

UCLA is the most popular school in the country in terms of applicants, at about 86,000 per year, a figure that has doubled since 2005. For the first time ever, UCLA's acceptance rate dropped below 20 percent.

"For most kids, this really used to be a regional process, but they have access to so much information online now, so every school seems local," Richard H. Shaw, the dean of undergraduate admission at Stanford, told the NYT.

Princeton, UPenn, Cornell and Brown joined Yale in lowering their already-low acceptance rates, but Dartmouth, Columbia and Harvard actually heightened their acceptance rates from last year.

In 2003, Harvard and Princeton were able to puff out their chests and brag about accepting less than 10 percent of their applicants. It even concerned some academic officials. Now, only Dartmouth is the only Ivy League school to accept more than 10 percent of their applicants.

Shaw is one of many in academia who cannot predict the future of acceptance rates and the many factors that impact them. He said he still cannot wrap his head around how they got this low.

"Honestly," said Shaw, "I'm sort of in shock."

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