January 13, 2009

Despite decline in early applications, admin expects overall rise in submissions

Applications for undergraduate admission to the University of Chicago increased this year, according to preliminary estimates. Though the admissions office is still in the process of opening and processing applications, Vice President and Dean of Enrollment Michael Behnke estimates that as of Friday, 13,280 applications have been received this year, about a seven-percent increase from the 12,409 applications last year.

The increase is a result of increased applications for regular admission. Applications for early admission, by contrast, decreased by 15 percent from last year’s record high.

Of the 3,795 applications for early admission, 1,146 students were sent acceptance letters over winter break. Behnke said that the admissions committee tried to maintain an early acceptance rate similar to the previous year’s acceptance rate of 27.8 percent. “We don’t want it to be or appear to be easier to get in early than regular admission. We don’t want students to feel they should apply early just to get an edge,” he said.

Dean of Admissions Ted O’Neill said the University chose to admit fewer students early this year in order to save room in the class for strong applicants applying later. “Last year saw a 45 percent increase early on, and we thought there wouldn’t be more later. We admitted 1,400 as opposed to the 1,300 we’d admitted the year before.” But space grew tight as the admission period wore on and strong applications continued to pour in—there were 400 more students on last year’s waitlist than in the previous year. “This year we decided to admit fewer. We more or less told ourselves to admit 1150 or so, and then it turned out that we had fewer applications early,” O’Neill said.

Though more students were admitted early last year, O’Neill noted that the large jump in the number of early applications made applying early appear more selective. Behnke suggested that this might have contributed to the falloff in early applications this year. “We became much more selective early that year,” he said. “I can imagine counselors saying that if you’re putting time and effort to apply early somewhere, there’s no advantage.”

But admissions officials are not sure what accounted for the fall in early applications, given the clear continuing interest in the University. “Early applications were surprising. There’s no obvious reason we should have been down. It’s very puzzling,” Behnke said. He suggested that the decrease was simply a “correction” after last year’s huge increase in early applications. O’Neill echoed this. “We were up so much early last year, 45 percent, it probably set an unusual standard,” O’Neill said.