High school seniors in DC area face heartbreak as top colleges reject record numbers

ROCKVILLE, Md. - If you're the parent of a high school senior with college ambitions, you know the past few weeks have been challenging with students getting rejection emails from their top colleges and universities of choice.

It's a heartbreaking scenario that's been getting tougher and tougher to swallow.

It's decision time, and we're hearing from so many high school seniors across the D.C. region who are getting deferred or rejected from their target schools.

Colleges and universities that in previous years applicants would have almost been guaranteed to get into.

According to the latest unofficial numbers from the University of Virginia. This year's acceptance rates: 28% in-state and 13% out-of-state for a total of roughly 3,900 slots.

<div>A student walks past Peabody Hall on the University of Virginia (UVA) campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.This year's rush week at UVA, the prolonged annual rite in which fraternities and sororities recruit new members, carries fresh significance. Depending on who you talk to, the student rituals embody either an unchecked culture of sexual violence or a community victimized by stigma and false accusations. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images</div>

More than 37,000 early action applications, 27,000 of those from out of state.

FOX 5 visited the University of Maryland at College Park Friday where the competition is just as great.

"Every year since the pandemic has been worse than the year before," said Jeff Selingo, author of the hugely popular book "Who Gets In and Why." "We’ve seen huge increases in applications, up 30%+ over the last couple of years ever since 600+ colleges went test-optional during the pandemic, so most students started to send applications to schools that previously they thought they didn’t have a shot at getting into."

"The system is really broken in that we actually have thousands of colleges and universities, but the problem is that most people are looking at their school at the same 30 or 40 or 50 colleges, and when students are applying not only in the Washington D.C. area but in New York and Boston and LA and Florida when they all keep applying to the same seven schools — it just makes it the hunger games in trying to get in."

One college counselor at a Montgomery County Public Schools high school recently shared a message to students that read, "Please do not despair if you did not get the decision you were hoping for.  I am shocked by many of the decisions I am seeing, deferrals from schools I have never seen before."

Some of the large and popular state schools are getting so many applications that they're having to defer those seeking early action to the regular decision timeline.  There are just not enough eyeballs to read over every application.