Undergraduate admission to the University of Chicago is the most competitive it has ever been, according to statistics released Friday, a phenomenon administrators attributed to recent shake-ups in admission and financial-aid policies at highly selective universities nationwide.
This year, a record-high 12,418 students applied to the College, a 19.3-percent increase from last year. The University accepted 3,461 of those students into the class of 2012, a 27.8-percent acceptance rate and the lowest in University history. Last year, 3,628 students were accepted from 10,408 applicants, a 34.9-percent acceptance rate.
By comparison, Columbia University, which holds the same rank in the U.S. News and World Report college ratings as the U of C, had a 5.8-percent increase in applications and a 10-percent acceptance rate.
According to Vice President and Dean of Enrollment Michael Behnke, Harvard’s and Princeton’s elimination of Early Action programs and a nationwide trend toward increasingly generous financial-aid packages have contributed to the increased interest in the University and its peer institutions.
The College received 42 percent more early applications this December, a number Behnke was hesitant to cite as being entirely dependent on Harvard’s and Princeton’s decisions. After seeing the large increase in regular applications as well, Behnke attributed much of the growing interest in the U of C to the admissions office’s efforts in stepping up recruitment mailings and high-school visits.
“The only place I’ve heard of that had a larger increase [in overall applications] was Harvard, so that would suggest that a lot of interest in early apps was because of a definite interest in us,” Behnke said.
With mounting competition for limited admissions spots both at the U of C and other schools, the question of this year’s class yield—how many accepted students will decide to come to the University—is a particular concern for admissions officers.
“Because the group we admitted is so strong, I’d imagine they have lots of attractive offers, particularly from the Ivies,” Behnke said. “Harvard and Yale were even more generous to upper-income families than the Odyssey Program” which eliminates the family tuition contributions for students from families earning less than $60,000 per year.
Due to the uncertain yield, there is a relatively large waitlist of 1,200 students, compared to 800 students last year. The unusually large list stems from a pervasive caution in admissions offices in highly selective institutions.
“When you have such a selective institution and you’re looking at students that are going to get offers from other places, you have to be cautious,” Behnke said. “I’d be shocked if we didn’t take students [from the waitlist] this year.”
The admissions office expects another increase in applicants next year, when the University switches to the Common Application.