College Admissions

Archive for February, 2011

Application Numbers Up Again This Year

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Yesterday, I was at a luncheon with admissions officers from 34 colleges, all actively recruiting California students. That’s the good news that I hope will help reduce the anxiety so many students and parents feel when they read about the increasing competition for admission to college.

When you look at the numbers, it seems like we’re in for another very tough year. Some highly selective private schools have been reporting significant increases in applications.

Applications are up 15% at Harvard, and the admit rate will likely fall from last year’s record 6.9% to a new low of 6%. Yale is also having another record year, with applications up 5% over last year.

With more than 30,000 applications, Northwestern is up 11% this year, but what’s even more daunting is the fact that this is double the number of applications the school received just five years ago.

My alma mater, University of Pennsylvania, has also crossed the 30,000 mark this year, with applications up 14% over last year.

New York City remains a popular destination. Columbia’s applications are up a whopping 32% this year. Applications increased more than 11% at NYU.

But rural New Hampshire is also drawing students. Dartmouth’s applications are up 16% this year, and California is now the most represented state.

Duke is up 10% over last year, and the school’s applications have risen 50% in the last three years.

In California, applications are up almost 7% at Stanford and more than 6% at USC.

The increases are not limited to the most elite schools or to schools of a particular size. Applications are up more than 13% at Northeastern University, perhaps in part because students concerned about job prospects after college appreciate the school’s co-op program, which provides work experience that enhances resumes.  

American University’s new test optional program may have contributed to the 10% increase in applications at that school.

Some small liberal arts colleges saw big gains, including a 22% increase in applications at Colby and a 28% increase at Dickinson.

Of course, not every school received more applications this year. Tulane’s applications are down 13%. Colgate and Cornell had small decreases in applications.

And since much of the increase in applications can be attributed to anxious students applying to more schools, colleges may end up accepting additional students from waitlists when students who have multiple acceptances choose other schools.

On the public side, despite concerns about budget cuts impacting the quality of education at public colleges in California, the University of California has received 6% more applications this year, with some campuses reporting double-digit gains. Freshman applications are up 11% at San Diego, close to 8% at UCLA, 6% at Davis, and roughly 5 percent at Berkeley and Santa Barbara. Irvine and Santa Cruz had more modest increases in freshman applications. With continuing budget problems, UC won’t be able to admit larger freshman classes this year, so competition for admission will be intense.

Much of the increase at UC was driven by applications from high school students outside of California. Applications from in-state students were up 3.6 percent over last year. Freshman applications from international students were up by almost 23 percent over last year, and out-of-state freshman applications climbed nearly 11 percent. These numbers are in response to a new push by UC to recruit nonresident students, who pay much higher tuition.

The good news is that while there may be more competition for students applying to UC, public universities in other states that are also experiencing budget problems are recruiting out of state students as well, creating opportunities around the country. Honors programs at some public universities can offer the small classes, personal attention and sense of community of a small, liberal arts college. Many of these schools offer merit scholarships to out of state students, which can bring the cost down considerably. Some schools lock in tuition for four years, so families can plan on relatively stable costs, though room and board will still go up each year.

So when April comes around, and you read about the record low acceptance rates at colleges, don’t panic. As the admissions officers at yesterday’s meeting made clear, there are many great schools that remain accessible and affordable.