The admissions office saw a four percent decrease in the number of regular decision applicants for the Class of 2008, as the 8750 electronic and paper submissions fell short of last year's record number of 9100.
"We knew early that we lost three to four percent in the Early Action group," said Ted O'Neill, dean of Admissions for the College. "We thought those applications would come back. It looks as though they never have because we're down more or less the same number overall."
Explaining why he thought the applicant pool for the College has decreased, O'Neill said interest in competitive colleges has somewhat leveled off nationwide.
"We don't know why that would be," O'Neill said. "The number of high school graduates went up a bit. You never know how the economy affects these things."
Harvard University saw an almost 10 percent decrease in its applications, from over 21,000 to roughly 19,000. Other peer institutions, including Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Northwestern, experienced a slight surge in applications.
Yale and Stanford, both of which received about 19,000 applications, showed a seven percent and four percent increase, respectively. Columbia, up two percent from last year, received 14,899 applications, and Northwestern, up ten percent from last year, received 15,575 applications. Both Yale and Stanford changed their early admission plans from Early Decision to Early Action this year, which may have played a role in their application increasesand, conversely, Chicago's decrease.
The number of applicants to the College has risen steadily over the last 10 years. O'Neill attributes this upswing to the College's active recruiting efforts.
O'Neill said he was not concerned about the diminished applicant pool, and he described it as "strong or stronger" than in previous years.
"Suffice it to say that it's a minor change and I don't think it will hurt us," O'Neill said.
Jon Ryan Quinn, chair of the Prospective Student Advisory Committee (PSAC), said he has not noticed any significant change in the quality of applicants in his three years working with the volunteer student group, which conducts campus tours and phone-a-thons. It also coordinates communication with prospective students and their parents, houses prospective students overnight, and helps staff program days. He acknowledged the difficulty in assessing overall trends in the applicant pool, though, since much of the contact PSAC has with the prospective students is brief.
"The concerns that people have remain pretty similar throughout the years: "the social scene, safety, and the Core," Quinn said.