By and large, the near 10 percent-increase in Early Action applications to the University is to be heralded. A larger applicant pool means that the University has a greater opportunity to accept talented, unique students who embody the “Life of the Mind.” With a greater number of students to choose from, incoming classes are more likely to possess diverse opinions, progressive thought, and academic talent. The increase in applications will further benefit the University in the increasingly significant world of college rankings—with more selective admissions, expect the U of C to continue its rise in influential admissions rankings like U.S. News and World Report.
The beauty of this increase is that it has come at little cost to the guiding philosophy of the University. The increase is the result of a conscious effort by the admissions office to increase awareness of the U of C through redesigned application materials, a carefully strategized rise in national collegiate rankings, and an increasing number of on-campus programs catering to potential applicants.
But while we applaud the potential for both admitting better students and improving recognition of the University, it is important to remember that over-emphasizing rankings and statistics has the potential to erode what truly makes the U of C a special place.
Recent steps to promote the more cosmopolitan aspects of life at the University and to make the application process more appealing are more than reasonable, but the administration and admissions officials must be careful not to forget that the root of what makes the University of Chicago an impressive name in both the academic and professional world is the quirkiness and intellectual curiosity of our students. Abandoning our Uncommon admissions questions, eliminating aspects of the Core, or, as the Princeton Review put it, attempting “to recruit beyond its nerdish base, bringing in more students of the frat boy/jock variety,” might attract applicants and improve statistics, but would result in the death of what distinguishes the U of C from any generic elite private university.
While administrators should be congratulated for the improved in recognition the University is currently enjoying, they should also be wary of the potential for excessive tinkering at the expense of what is truly worth acknowledgment.