The number of applications to the College for the Class of 2015 increased to 21,669 this year, representing a 12-percent jump from last year’s numbers. University administrators are attributing the growth in part to a projected 8 percent increase in financial aid awards for the current school year.
The larger applicant pool represents continued growth even after last year’s dramatic 42 percent rise in applications, which was the largest of any university that year.
While last year’s increase was exceptional, the U of C’s applicant pool this year reflects a comparable trend in other universities as high school seniors apply to a larger number of schools than in the past. Dartmouth College reported a 15.7 percent increase from 2010 and Northwestern University has reported a similar increase—10.5 percent—in this year’s applicant pool.
According to University Spokesman Jeremy Manier, increasing the available financial aid has attracted more students to apply to the college. In the 2010–2011 year, the University plans to award $81.9 million in both need- and merit-based aid scholarships, he said. The move represents an increase from the 2009–2010 year when the University awarded $76 million in aid.
“Scholarships are good incentives for students in low-income families to consider the University,” Manier said.
Manier also attributed the 12-percent rise to additional alumni outreach to prospective students. The outreach has come specifically from increased participation in one-on-one interviews and informational visits to high schools.
The University’s location in the city of Chicago is always a major factor in the growing number of applicants to both the College and other graduate programs. “There is a constant increasing interest in the city,” Manier said.
The rising popularity of the U of C and the use of the Common App haven’t stopped the U of C’s unique reputation from drawing applicants. High school senior Andrew Postman elected to apply after reading the unusual supplement and hearing about the quirkiness of the student body.
“I thought [the applicant pool] would be like every other year,” said Postman. Yet, after last year’s dramatic increase in applications, he feared the admissions would be too competitive. “I should cut up all my Chicago clothes. I’m not going to get it.”
Still, Postman was one of 6,960 students, or roughly one-third of the class’s applicants, who submitted early action applications to the University. Early applications were also at an all-time high this year.
Looking toward next year, Manier could not predict whether the applicant pool would continue to grow. Instead, he praised the ongoing work of Admissions in seeking out passionate students. “I think really the precise number is less important than the fact that there are efforts to reach out to prospective students to find people who are really interested,” he said.