January 8, 2010

Banner year for early applications

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The University accepted 28.4 percent of its early–action applicants for the class of 2014, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, slightly less than last year’s 29.9 percent. The University received a record 5,883 early applications this year, leading its peers.

While many of those peers, including Duke, Cornell, and Columbia saw increases in the low hundreds in their binding early decision applications, the U of C received over 2,000 more early applications than last year, and almost a third more than its previous high in 2007.

A number of factors contributed to the increase in applicants, University spokesman Jeremy Manier said. Students pointed to a concerted University marketing campaign and the financial flexibility of early action as reasons the school was attractive this year.

“The underlying reason for the increase is that this is a great university. There are a lot more ways we are communicating that to students,” Manier said. “There were at least five separate mailings sent out.”

Students who were admitted early said that campaign played a part in their decision to apply. Sandra Korn from Basking Ridge, NJ, said the University’s materials gave a strong sense of community, and gave the U of C an edge in her decision to apply.

“It [U of C] was my top choice because it has stellar academics, but the culture is part of it,” said Korn, a senior at Ridge High School. “They had a very good marketing campaign to high schoolers, so at least how they portray themselves seemed like a good fit for me.”

The recent economic recession has put an increasing focus on university financial aid programs. High-school students pointed out that the University’s non-binding early action plan offers more flexibility in an increasingly unstable economy. If bound to a school through an early decision program, students lose the opportunity to search for the best financial aid available, they said.

“Most of my friends didn’t apply Early Decision because of money reasons,” Jamie Keiles of Doylestown, PA, said. “A few years ago almost everyone would have applied Early Decision.”

The University’s switch to the Common Application in 2008 may also have contributed to a spike in applications; according to Manier, schools usually experience an increase in applicants two years after adopting the Common Application.

“There can be a lag with guidance counselors at secondary schools,” Manier said. “It can take time for the word that a school is on the common application to trickle down.”

Dean of College Admissions and Financial Aid James Nondorf, in his first year at the U of C, declined to comment, but said the increase “suggests a growing pool of students who are passionate about the institution” in a December 3 press release.

Applicants agreed; Keiles, a senior at Central Bucks High School West, said that U of C is currently one of her top choices.

“There are a couple of schools that aren’t on the Common App that I didn’t apply to because they’re weren’t on the Common App, but I would have applied to U of C either way,” Keiles said.

The University is anticipating a class size of about 1,350.