Dive Brief:

  • The number of international students seeking admission to colleges through the Common Application rose by 63% over a nearly decade-long period, according to new data from the organization.
  • The data shows 31,456 international applicants used the Common App in the 2014-15 academic year, jumping to 51,426 applicants in 2020-21. A similar rise, 61%, came in domestic applicants using the Common App — an online portal enabling students to apply to more than 1,000 member institutions — during this period. 
  • Over each of the eight years, international applicants comprised between 4% and 5% of the overall applicant pool. They submitted about 13% of all applications.

Dive Insight:

Many colleges prize international applicants. Not only do these students bring diverse skills and perspectives during a time of globalization, they generally pay higher tuition rates than their domestic counterparts. 

Also, during the early years of the coronavirus pandemic, international enrollments experienced some of the most significant declines, stressing some institutions’ already precarious financial situations.

The new Common App data further illuminates trends affecting these key populations.

The largest number of international applications came from China in 2021-22, matching the substantial rise in students from the global powerhouse enrolling in U.S. colleges over the last decade or so. Since the 2014-15 academic year, applicant totals from China rose 26%, reaching 12,113 in 2021-22. 

The organization also reported a dramatic increase in applicants from India, up 130% from 2014-15, to 6,253 in the 2021-22 year.

Applicants from China and Korea applied in significant numbers through early decision programs, which allow students to receive an admissions answer sooner, but also bind them to attend a particular institution before they can weigh competing offers.

About 65% of the Common App’s users in China, and half of those in Korea, applied early decision in 2021, which according to the portal represents “a high degree of familiarity among these applicants with the nuances of selective college admissions.”

Early decision applicants tend to be more affluent, and so this pattern “may reflect differences in both financial and informational resources available to international applicants across home countries,” according to Common App. For instance, only 15% of applicants in Nigeria used early decision in 2021-22. 

Several countries see students applying in great numbers to highly selective colleges, which the Common App defines as those with an admit rate of 25% or below.

Almost all applicants from Singapore, 94%, used Common App to apply to one of these colleges, as did 81% of applicants from Turkey, 79% from Korea, 76% from China, 75% from Taiwan, 74% from India and 74% from Canada.