In a collaborative article between the New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Eric Hoover takes a close look at the phenomenon of college application inflation and the widespread boasting from the colleges that accompanies such high numbers.
Stanford University, for example, received a whopping 32,022 applications for this fall’s freshman class, accepting only 7% of its highly qualified applicants. Brown also hit a record high of 30,135 applicants. UCLA was proclaimed “the most popular campus in the nation,” receiving its record of 57,670 applications.
So, you must be wondering, what has caused such a mammoth jump in college application volume?
For one, explains Hoover, the college-bound population has grown. Also, online technology makes it both easier for applicants to apply to a longer than ever list of colleges and for colleges to recruit more aggressively.
At the University of Chicago, another school that hit a record high in application volume, some attribute the rise in popularity to the fact that President Obama taught at the university.
Hoover also explains that “admission officers are chasing not so much a more perfect student as a more perfect class.” Therefore, more minorities are being sought out, as well as more international students or more students whose families will be able to pay the full cost of tuition.
Unfortunately, one result of a boom in applications is a boom in rejections. “I couldn’t pick a better class out of 30,000 applicants than out of 15,000,” says Fred Hargadon, former dean of admissions at Princeton and Stanford. “I’d just end up rejecting multiples of the same kid.”
A rise in selectivity makes a college seem more impressive in the rankings, encourages alumni to donate, and helps attract top professors. It also means that the crop of students at top colleges is getting more and more remarkable. In fact, in the 1990s, the College Board sold the names of about 35 million top high school seniors per year to colleges who wished to recruit them; that number is now closer to about 80 million names, sold to about 1,200 colleges, at 32 cents per name.
The article continues to detail admissions statistics at the University of Chicago, Georgetown University, Harvard, and other top-ranked colleges, each of which has experienced disproportionate application inflation this past year.
For a related article on the rise of early decision applications at the University of Pennsylvania, check out the Daily Pennsylvanian‘s article, “Early decision applications rise 17 percent.”
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