Columbia University and Princeton University reported record-low freshman admission rates for the 2013-2014 academic year as applications climbed above or held near all-time highs. Columbia accepted 6.89% of the more than 33,500 students who applied, while Princeton offered admission to 7.3% of almost 26,500 applicants, the schools said today in statements. Top U.S. colleges are attracting record numbers of applicants even as the cost to attend increases faster than the pace of inflation and the number of high school graduates declines. The Common Application, an online form that lets students apply to multiple schools, has helped drive the surge, said Robin Mamlet, former dean of admissions at Stanford University. "More students are going for their reach or dream colleges through the use of the Common App," Ms. Mamlet said in a phone interview. In years past, completing laborious paperwork for each school limited the number that most students applied to, Ms. Mamlet said. "That barrier has been taken away." Princeton offered admission to 1,931 students, and about 1,290 are expected to attend, the Princeton, N.J.-based school said. A year ago, it accepted 7.9%, a record low at the time. Princeton and Columbia, among the wealthiest U.S. universities, are both "need blind," which means a student's ability to pay isn't taken into consideration for admissions. At Princeton, 60% of the current student body received financial aid, and the average grant in the coming year is expected to be more than $39,000, according to the statement. Tuition, fees, room and board will rise 3.8 percent for the next academic year, totaling $53,250, Princeton said in January. Columbia offered freshman seats to 2,311 students, the New York-based school said in an e-mailed statement. It accepted 7.4% of applicants a year ago, and 6.92% in 2011, less than half a percentage point above this year's rate. President Barack Obama is an alumnus of Columbia's undergraduate college. Alumni of Princeton include first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Students have until May 1 to accept the schools' offers. Columbia and Princeton are members of the Ivy League, whose eight colleges are all situated in the northeastern U.S.