College Admissions: Profiting From Rejections

Receiving a rejection letter is bad enough but then you recall the amount of money you doled out during the college admissions cycle and the taste in your mouth turns sourer. And for good reason… Nationally, college applicants and their families waste over $200 million annually applying to colleges they are ultimately rejected from. With this year’s admit rates what they are, you can only imagine the profit colleges have seen across the board. Meaning, families need to get wise and craft an application strategy that is targeted, smart and rational.

It costs $75 to apply to Harvard and application fees across the U.S. typically hover at $60.  There is an added $12 to send individual SAT scores, $12 to send ACT scores, and $12 to send subject test scores. That doesn’t include the registration fees incurred to take those tests at multiple times over one’s high school career.

In 2016 UCLA received 119,000 applications (the most ever for any college in the U.S.). Over 63,400 were from CA residents and the 119,000 reflects a 5.3% increase in submitted applications from the previous year. Of those, UCLA accepted just 18%. Their application fee is $70 and their application profits in 2016 soared.


A 2017 study conducted by UCEazy, a company that assists first generation immigrants with the college application process recently examined over 600 public and private universities in the U.S. The study assessed the millions of dollars that colleges are making in the business of rejecting applicants.

They found that Harvard alone makes nearly $3 million in gross profits off of rejected applications each year.  The five universities that earn the most from rejected applications are:

  1. University of California-Los Angeles: $5,369,840
  2. University of California-Berkeley: $4,681,320
  3. Stanford University: $3,632,130
  4. University of California-San Diego: $3,608,290
  5. University of Southern California: $3,419,440

Many applicants and their families are unaware or ineligible for application fee waivers and collectively spending hundreds of millions of dollars to apply to colleges they are unable to get into.


Be mindful when crafting your application strategy and note it pays huge (AND SAVES YOU MONEY) to be systematic about creating an application strategy. This isn’t just about “dumb luck” or even “good luck” but should be based on clear data, which is what we use when crafting our student’s application strategies.

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