Early apps keep soaring

6,960 high school students applied through Chicago’s non-binding early action program, an 18.5 percent jump from last year. The increase in applications is part of a nationwide trend, as students continue to apply to more colleges than ever before.

By Gabe Valley

A record number of early action applications flooded into the College this year, marking an 18.5 percent increase—one of the largest increases among peer institutions.

6,960 high school students applied through Chicago’s non-binding early action program; 5,873 applied last year. Administrators see the growth as part of a pattern of yearly gains in application numbers for the College.

“The increase continues a long-term trend of growth in the number of students of high ability who aspire to attend the University,” University spokesperson Jeremy Manier said.

Over the past six years, early applications have increased by 280 percent. Only once in those six years has there been a fall in the amount of early applications received. The trend is also mirrored in overall applications, which saw a 42 percent rise last year—a greater increase in applications than at any other college in the nation.

“Never has the University of Chicago been more popular,” said a November 5 New York Times article that in large part examined the University’s shift to the Common Application and described Dean of Admissions James Nondorf as a “super-marketer.”

The increase in applications is part of a nationwide trend as students continue to apply to more colleges than ever, with 33 percent of seniors applying to 6 or more colleges last year, up from 19 percent in 1999, according to the Higher Education Research Institute.

Though Nondorf declined to comment for this article, he suggested in a news release that an increase indicates a growing and motivated pool of students who see the College as their first choice school.

“Finding students who would benefit from and contribute to the distinctive academic culture here is the goal of all our admissions efforts,” Nondorf said. “We look for students who cherish intellectual adventure, and who reflect a diversity of interests and backgrounds. Finding students with a range of perspectives enriches the University’s traditions of open debate and inquiry.”

Though administrators disagree, some students think the large increase is in part due to the non-binding nature of the University of Chicago’s early action program, meaning students are not obligated to come if accepted.

“I really appreciated that this was the one prospective school that did not require a commitment to going here if accepted [early],” said Jyothi Dhanwada, a senior at Northern University High School in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “Having the ability to look at multiple college options will make me feel more comfortable in making the right decision.”

Northwestern University, which has a binding program, saw a 25.9 percent increase in early applications that topped the U of C’s percentage-wise, but it received only 2,127 applications, less than one third the actual number of applications its cross-town rival did.

According to statistics released by other universities to the New York Times, the U of C has one of the largest increases in applications among non-binding early action programs.

Garnering 6,500 early applications this year, M.I.T.’s early application rate jumped 14.4 percent. Georgetown, with 6,615 applications, saw an 8.6 percent rise.