Large admitted class forces adjustments on College

Administrators are having to tweak, and in some cases significantly change, admissions and housing after high yield has led to another unexpectedly large class.

By Stephanie Xiao

More students than expected have accepted a spot in the College’s class of 2016, pushing University officials to balance the U of C’s increasing popularity and its commitment to an intimate undergraduate experience.

The incoming freshman class will comprise approximately 1,525 students, 125 more than the College’s consistent target size, according to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier.

The number of students who accepted an offer of admission—the “yield rate”—rose to 46.8 percent, up 6.9 percentage points from last year. This is the first year that the yield rate strayed from the 36–40 percent range since 2007, even as the acceptance rate continued to decline. The Class of 2016 will also be the most diverse class to date, with 42 percent consisting of students of color.

The College only accepted 20 transfer students, instead of the usual 40 or 50.

The College is keeping a “z-list” option for the first time, offering applicants admission into the class of 2017 if they first take a gap year. Manier said that between 20 and 30 students are expected to accept that option.

The unexpectedly high yield partly stems from the University’s growing name recognition, which pulls in larger applicant pools but makes it trickier for administrators to estimate matriculation.

“It definitely means something to go to the fifth-best university in the United States,” said Daisy Lu, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School in New York City, referring to the University’s ranking in the latest U.S. News and World Report. “It means that I have tons of resources and an impressive alumni base to draw from. It means that my mom can brag to our relatives abroad in China. It means that when I say I’m attending UChicago in the fall, I get nods and respect from my teachers and peers.”

The perception of prestige is difficult to track, however.

“The appeal of the College to students around the world has been growing quite a bit in recent years, and that creates a somewhat difficult job of predicting exactly where yield will end up in a given year,” Manier wrote in an e-mail.

A few incoming students worry that a larger class may diminish the quality of their Core classes, like Humanities sequences capped at 19 students.

“The small class sizes were a major plus when considering UChicago, and now I’m disappointed that those sizes won’t be what were advertised,” said Maira Khwaja, a senior at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA.

A larger class of 2016 is, “well within the ability of the College and the Office of Campus and Student Life to accommodate,” Manier said. “The College will bring in additional junior faculty to help meet teaching needs.”

More students will be placed in Midway House in New Graduate Residence Hall, which housed first-year students for the first time this year. International House will also accommodate a new College House for roughly 78 students.

Francisco Meyer, an incoming international student from Buenos Aires, is still skeptical about the quality of student life offered by newer dorm options after receiving an e-mail addressed to incoming students.

“I would prefer to go somewhere with a more established culture where I can get the legitimate college dorm experience,” Meyer said.

However, Edouard Brooks, a senior at the U of C Laboratory Schools, requested I-House as his first choice, optimistic that newer dorms can have a college culture, too.

“Dorm life is what you make of it,” he said.

The U of C joins other private universities and peer institutions with rising yield rates, including Case Western Reserve and Pitzer College, according to data from The Choice, a higher education blog of The New York Times.