College sees record number of applications

By Blake Rachowin

Applications for admission to the College are up eight percent to almost 10,400 from 9,542 last year, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The number of applicants is the largest in College history.

The boost follows the University’s entrance into U.S. News & World Report’s top ten list, moving from 14 to nine in the past year.

The Admissions Office did not cite any particular reason for the boost.

“Applications have been going up almost without halt for 15 years,” said Ted O’Neill, dean of Admissions in the College. “I cannot identify any one cause for the rise this year.”

O’Neill said new admissions publications and expanded recruitment events are some possible explanations for the increase.

Next year’s switch to the Common Application is also expected to increase the applicant pool.

Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania switched to the Common Application this year, and they saw jumps of 19 and 10 percent, respectively.

“We can account for a large portion of the rise from the Common Application,” said Keith Todd, director of Admissions at Northwestern. “Although the size of the rise is likely to be unique to this year, we expect steady growth in the future.”

UPenn Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson was surprised by the increase in applications. Stetson told the Daily Pennsylvanian that he anticipated about 1,000 additional applicants. UPenn actually received more than 2,000 additional applications, reaching a record high 22,427 applicants to its undergraduate programs.

Both Northwestern and UPenn appear to have obtained greater economic and ethnic diversity in their application pools as a result of the switch. “We especially had more students in lower income brackets apply,” Todd said.

The U of C saw some increase in the diversity of its pool, but the scope of this increase was more limited than the Admissions Office had hoped. “I know we had an increase in applications from African-American students,” O’Neill said. “But there was no substantial increase in applications from other ethnic minorities.”

Because admission to the U of C is need-blind, the office is unaware of any changes in economic diversity at this time.

Northwestern and UPenn both considered concerns about switching to the Common Application but ultimately decided to make the change in order to increase interest, student diversity, and standings in national rankings.

“We spoke with peer institutions and felt that very strong students would be guided by using the Common Application,” Todd said.

Todd said Northwestern expected the switch to improve the school’s visibility among students of lower socioeconomic classes, many of whom lack the guidance counseling available to wealthier applicants.

Similarly, University President Robert Zimmer has said the switch will encourage a larger, more diverse applicant pool and drive up competition with peer institutions.

O’Neill, who had been a vocal advocate of the Uncommon Application, said an increase in numbers from the Common Application is not assured.

“I am guessing that we will see some increase, but I can’t be sure,” he said.

Although the Northwestern admissions office is pleased with its surge in numbers, Todd said the change is not right for every school.

“Our experience with the Common Application has been very positive,” he said. “But each college has to consider the merits of the switch.”