"Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in."
The article includes numbers for ULCA as well as several Ivies, suggesting higher levels of competition for spaces across the spectrum of universities and students. There is nothing simple in these equations. There are many forces at work that drive up these numbers and drive down the percentages, from the recruiting done by many colleges and universities - enticing students to apply who don't have a chance of getting in - to the increasing numbers of wealthy foreign students applying and being accepted, in part because they do not need financial aid, to the ease of applying to many schools through the Common Application.
Universities engage in marketing. The schools present themselves as meritocracies, or we want to believe they are, but given the impressive qualifications of so many of the students, and the other factors that go into admission decisions, including athletic ability and legacy admits, merit is only one consideration.
Rather than try to summarize the article, I urge you to read it - and to read some of the top reader comments, which add many more dimensions to this complex story.
Here is an excerpt: