EA applications rise for fourth consecutive year

The number of students who applied to the U of C through an early, but non-binding, decision, increased by nearly 20 percent this year.

By Sam Levine

The College received the most early action applications for admission in its history this year, the fourth straight year that the number of early applicants has increased.

This year, 10,316 students applied through the College’s early action program, a 18.6 percent increase from last year. There has been a 75.4 percent increase in early action applications since 2009, the year James Nondorf took over as Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and the year after the College switched to the Common Application. Just 3,777 students applied early in fall 2008.

In a University statement released earlier this week, Dean of the College John Boyer said that the increasing number of students applying early to the College signaled that the U of C was the first choice of more and more applicants.

Because the U of C’s early action program is non-binding, applicants can also apply to other schools even if they apply early to the College. However, some of the University’s peer schools, such as Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton, have restrictive early action programs, which prohibit early applicants from applying early to other private institutions but do not require them to attend if admitted.

Fourth-year Claire Hou said she thinks that because the College’s early action program was non-binding, students who apply early might do so to have a “safety net.”

“Honestly, I think the mindset of most of the people who apply is ‘Oh well, if I get in I have a backup. If  I’m able to get into UChicago maybe I’ll try and get into even better schools or schools that I want to go to more,’” she said.

University spokesman Jeremy Manier said in an e-mail that the “most important new factors” in the increased number of applications were new opportunities such as those offered through the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, the Institute of Politics, and the Institute of Molecular Engineering.

Hou speculated that the growth could be attributed to the College’s rising national ranking and the decision to switch to the Common Application.

“The UChicago name and the brand has gotten out more, and I guess every year you see it in the rankings,” she said. “And even though the rankings might not necessarily indicate what they say they indicate, for people, it’s a prestige factor.”

Last year, early applicants made up 34.4 percent of the College’s 25,271 total applicants. According to the New York Times blog “The Choice,” the College accepted 18 percent of those who applied early in the first round of admissions, while it accepted 13 percent of all applicants.

When fifth-year Alexander Conway applied early in 2008, he wasn’t sure what his first-choice school was. He said that he chose to apply early because there was a higher acceptance rate for early applicants, but chose to apply to other schools after he was admitted.

“[The U of C] ended up being the best school that I got into. I ended up applying to other schools after I got in early, which was a big mistake because I didn’t really want to go to any of them anyway,” he said.

The increased popularity of the College has meant that housing administrators have had to find new places to house students that choose to attend the U of C. In the last two years, more students than projected chose to attend the College, causing students to be placed in International House and New Graduate Residence Hall, dorms not traditionally offered to first-year students. Even though the College will lose 250 beds when it closes Pierce residence hall at the end of this year, Manier said that the dorm’s closure would not impact the number of students admitted.

“The closure of Pierce will not affect admissions projections. The plan for relocating Pierce houses provides the same capacity to accommodate College students in the house system that we have today,” he said.

Manier said that the Admissions Office would still project an incoming class size of 1,400, a number that has not changed from previous years.

Although the College will accommodate the same number of students, Hou thought that the temporary homes for students would affect housing culture.

“I think maybe you lose a little bit of what I guess we’re pretty proud of here, which is the house system, which is supposed to transition first years into college life,” she said.

While the official deadline for early applications was November 1, the admissions office offered an extension for applicants affected by Hurricane Sandy. Applicants will be notified of their admissions decision in mid-December.