To do this, financial website LendEDU tracked the following two metrics for 1,253 four-year higher education institutions in the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years:

  • Total number of applicants.
  • Admissions yield (enrolled-to-admitted students ratio).

This data is derived from the National Center for Education StatisticsIntegrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). A college had to have a minimum of 500 applicants from both the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years to be considered for the analysis.

While the decade-long growth in applications at a higher education institution is telling of a school’s surging or decaying popularity, tracking admissions yield over 10 years is also important as it reveals how many students truly wanted to go to that school when they applied.

Each school's scores for these two metrics were then averaged together to develop the final, overall ranking that was representative of the most desired U.S. colleges and universities among applicants over the last decade.

The most desired colleges of the last decade

The following ranking derives from the IPEDS dataset and involves an analysis of 1,253 four-year higher education institutions. To be considered for this ranking, a school had to have a minimum of 500 applicants from both the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years.

Each school’s respective rankings for both its percent increase in applicants between 2008-09 and 2018-19 and its raw increase in admissions yield over the same period of time were averaged together to develop the overall rankings. Further below in this report, you will find more robust rankings for each of those metrics.

To see how a school ranked in its respective state alone, you can either sort the table based on the “State” column or type the desired state abbreviation into the search bar.

Colleges that have seen the largest increases in applicants over the last decade

The following ranking involves the same dataset, but specifically revolves around the “Total Number of Applicants” metric. Each school was ranked according to its percent change in the number of applicants from 2008-09 to 2018-19.

To see how a school ranked in its respective state alone, you can either sort the table based on the “State” column or type the desired state abbreviation into the search bar.

Colleges that have seen the largest increases in admissions yield over the last decade

The following ranking involves the same dataset, but specifically revolves around the “Admissions Yield (Enrolled-to-Admitted Students Ratio)” metric. Each school was ranked according to its raw change in admissions yield from 2008-09 to 2018-19.

To calculate a school’s admissions yield, its number of enrolled students from a given year is divided by its number of admitted applicants from the same year.

To see how a school ranked in its respective state alone, you can either sort the table based on the “State” column or type the desired state abbreviation into the search bar.

Methodology

All data used in this report originates from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a primary source for information on colleges in the United States provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Final release data for application, enrollment, and admitted statistics at individual colleges was for both the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic year. This data refers to those who were applying to colleges with the intent of being a freshman during the fall semester of either the 2008-09 or 2018-19 academic year.

To be considered for the analysis, a college or university had to be a four-year institution and have a minimum of 500 applicants from both 2008-09 and 2018-19.

We ranked schools according to their percent change in the total number of applicants from 2008-09 to 2018-19 in descending order. This is the percent change equation we used:

Percent Change in Number of Applicants = (’18-’19 Applicant Total – ’08-’09 Applicant Total) / (’08-’09 Applicant Total)

We ranked schools according to their raw change in admissions yield from 2008-09 to 2018-19 in descending order. To find the admissions yield for each school for each year, we took the number of enrolled students at that school in a given year and divided it by the number of admitted students at that school in the same year. We then just subtracted the ’18-’19 admissions yield for a given school by the same school’s ’08-’09 admissions yield.

To complete the overall rankings, we found the average ranking for each school based on the two individual rankings for change in applicants and change in admissions yield.

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