Football vs Alabama (sr)

Fans cheer on the Vols at the Alabama game in Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15, 2022. Moments after Tennessee won in a last-second field goal, fans stormed the field. 

UT has never been more popular, or more competitive, for first-year applicants.

In the lead-up to the first release of admissions decisions on Tuesday, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions released statistics on the first round of applications for fall 2023, painting a picture of just how rapidly UT’s applicant pool has grown in the wake of positive national publicity in fall 2022. 

The office also announced that next fall’s first-year class would be smaller than this year’s record freshman class of 6,846 students. Though the acceptance rate in 2022 was already seven percentage points lower than in 2021, it is expected to drop again for the most competitive year of applications in the university’s history. 

UT received 38,483 applications by the early action deadline of Nov. 1, a 43.2% increase representing 11,601 more early action applications than in 2021. According to the Office of Enrollment Management, the university received a total of 36,290 applications in 2022.

Of this fall’s early action applicants, 25%, or 9,609, were in-state students and 75%, or 28,874, were out-of-state or international students. Compared to last fall, there was a 15.9% increase in in-state applications by Nov. 1 and a staggering 55.3% increase in out-of-state or international applications. 

UT received 44,300 first-year applications as of Dec. 12, a 43% increase overall compared to the same time last year. 

On Tuesday, students from all 95 counties in Tennessee, all 50 states in the U.S. and 54 countries found out whether they were offered first-year admission into the class of 2027. Some took to social media using the hashtag #utk27 to celebrate their offers. 

Early action applicants who did not receive an offer were deferred until the second round of admissions decisions in mid-February, when deferred students and those who applied by Dec. 15 and who complete their application by Jan. 6 will receive their decision. 

The increased popularity comes as UT leadership heralds a “university on the rise.” The success of the football program, which had its first 10-win season in nearly two decades and defeated Alabama in a home game that drew 11.5 million viewers, brought international attention back to Neyland Stadium and to UT. 

Chancellor Donde Plowman has said athletics success goes hand-in-hand with campus growth, including growth in research expenditures, student success programming and higher rankings for the university. 

The growth of this year’s freshman class brought logistical issues in transportation and housing especially, prompting students, staff and faculty to speak out against the expansion of the student body and call for a decreased acceptance rate. 

In an answer to the resounding question “why not accept fewer students?” the Office of Undergraduate Admissions said the incoming class of 2027 would bring an end to a ten-year trend of growth in the first-year class.   

“To deliver the best Volunteer experience for all students across all four years and in course offerings, residential experience, and student life, UT will reduce the size of its first-year class and enroll fewer first-year students than last fall,” the office said on its website. 

“Because UT will be enrolling a smaller first-year class, fewer students will be admitted in the first and second admissions release, with more students invited to join a waitlist following the second release.”

It is unclear yet how sharply the acceptance rate will drop for the incoming class. Based on unprecedented growth in the applicant pool, however, it is clear that the newly competitive admissions are not the end of an era so much as the beginning of a new one for UT, as it climbs in the national imagination. 

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