The start of each new school year means a new college admissions cycle is beginning. To help prepare for the year ahead, it is important to look back on the results from the Class of 2022. Unfortunately, it was the most competitive and unpredictable year yet. 

The advent of test optional policies coupled with ongoing uncertainty about being admitted have continued to drive application numbers higher and higher and admit rates lower and lower. The equation is simple: there are X number of spots, period. So the more applicants, the higher the rate of rejection. 

According to a Common App report, the number of applicants rose by 21.3% last year, dropping admit rates significantly at many already highly selective schools. For example, acceptance rates fell at Johns Hopkins by nearly 1.5%, nearly 2.5% at Boston University and a whopping 3% at Barnard University. That’s a lot of rejection letters.

How can you approach the college application process in light of what a competitive year this one was?

Start by focusing on your more realistic options. With more students applying at colleges across the board, what once may have been considered a school very likely to admit becomes a wildcard. Don’t be shocked if you get a rejection from your safety–remember the equation: more applicants for the same number of spots means higher rates of rejection.

With an open mind, broaden your list of target and safety schools. Instead of reaching for a school because of its reputation, focus on finding your fit first, and put on the rose-colored glasses second.