College Admissions

Reliable and Current College Admissions News, Advice and Tips from a Professional College Counselor

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States

Monday, March 30, 2009

For Top Colleges, Economy Has Not Reduced Interest (or Made Getting in Easier)

New York Times
March 30, 2009
The recession appears to have had little impact on the number of applications received by many of the nation’s most competitive colleges, or on an applicant’s overall chances of being admitted to them.
Representatives of Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown, among other highly selective institutions, said in telephone and e-mail exchanges in recent days that applications for the Class of 2013 had jumped sharply when compared to the previous year’s class. As a result, the percentage of applicants who will receive good news from the eight colleges of the Ivy League (and a few other top schools that send out decision letters this week) is expected to hover at – or near – record lows.
Bill Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard since 1986, said that the 29,112 applications Harvard received this year represented an all-time high, and a 6-percentage point increase from last year. He said the percentage of applicants admitted would be 7 percent, down from 8 percent a year ago. Dartmouth said that the 18,130 applications it received was the most in its history, too, and that the 12 percent admitted would be its lowest.
Stanford said that the 30,350 applications it received represented a 20 percent increase, and that while it estimated a 7.5-percent admission rate, which would be its lowest, it declined to specify a final figure until later in the week.
Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Princeton declined to release their final admission rates in advance of sending out most of their decision letters via e-mail at 5 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday. But Brown said it had received 21 percent more applications, overall, compared to a year ago; Yale was up 14 percent; Columbia was up 13 percent and Cornell was up 3 percent. Princeton said that, as of January, it had tallied a 2 percent increase in applications, but anticipated the pool had gotten even larger since then. At the University of Pennsylvania, the number of applications increased by 4 — to 22,939, from 22,935.
However, applications to highly selective colleges were not up universally. Many of the best-known liberal arts colleges had fewer applications this year.
Williams College in western Massachusetts said that applications were down 20 percent this year, with 6,024 having applied to the Class of 2013, as compared to 7,552 a year ago. Williams’s acceptance rate, in turn, is expected to be about 20 percent, which is higher than in recent years. The reason for the change was not immediately clear, though applicants outside New England who are concerned about their finances would have to take into account that Williams is not close to a major city or airport – and thus could be expensive to get in and out of.
Similarly, Middlebury College in Vermont, which is also relatively remote, had a nearly 12 percent drop in applications. Amherst, another Massachusetts college and Williams rival, said that applications were down about 1 percent - and that its admissions rate would increase slightly, to 16 percent, in part because Amherst is aiming to increase its first-year class by about 25 students. (Wesleyan University in Connecticut, which sometimes competes for students with Amherst and Williams, has drawn substantially more interest this year: its applicant pool was 22 percent larger than last year’s; its admission rate fell to 22 percent, from 27 percent.)
Amherst had a nearly 10-percent increase in early-decision applications. It enrolls about 30 percent of its first-year class through that program, and – like most schools surveyed – it said it had not lost a single one to due any change in family finances since the fall, when such applications are made.
“Given the economy, it’s very surprising to me,’’ said Tom Parker, dean of admission and financial aid, “and when I told the board, they found it hard to believe, too.’’
In a sign of how hard it is to draw broad conclusions about an admissions season that has been set against a stark economic backdrop, just over half of the nearly 350 institutions that accept the Common Application, a shared online admission form, received more applications this year than last; just under half received fewer. Bryn Mawr and Wellesley were among those that were up slightly, while overall applications to Grinnell and Pomona were down (as compared to their early applications, which were up quite a bit.)
Among the best-known public universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville all recorded gains in applications – a sign, surely, of some applicants’ desire to stay closer to home, and pay less than they might at an elite private college. Applications to the University of Wisconsin in Madison fell nearly 3 percent.
Of course, applying to college is one thing; being able to afford to go is another.
Harvard, which like many colleges raised its financial aid budget this year, said that between this week and May 1, when applicants’ decisions are due, it was bracing for many to make impassioned appeals of their financial aid offers, whether by phone or e-mail or in person. In response, Mr. Fitzsimmons said that the Harvard financial aid office would be open every day in April, with expanded hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“We’re going to listen,’’ he said. “We don’t have a policy of matching other schools’ awards. But we’re going to listen to what a family thinks its unusual circumstances might be. We learn a lot about our families in April.’’
By:Jacques Steinberg & Tamar Lewin

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 16, 2009

A New Factor In Making That College: Loving It

Boston Globe
March 15, 2009

Like wary suitors, colleges are searching for signs of commitment from applicants before they extend admissions offers, hoping to find out whether their affection is mutual.
In the increasingly tense courtship of college admissions, more selective schools are smiling upon high school students who show sincere interest in attending, closely tracking such things as whether they visited campus, responded to recruiting messages, or even joined an online chat with an admissions officer.
"You're going to want those students who also want you," said Gil Villanueva, dean of admissions at Brandeis University. "Everything else being equal, between a student you know and a student you don't, you will go with the known commodity."
Villanueva, like many admissions officers, said keen enthusiasm for a school is no guarantee but can sometimes tip the balance in students' favor.
The growing importance of "demonstrated interest" is the product of a number of overlapping factors. High school students are applying to a greater number of colleges to better their odds of acceptance, which has made it harder for colleges to estimate how many actually plan to come. This year, the financial downturn and the credit crunch have further complicated the process, with families expected to base their decisions more on cost.
Amid such unpredictability, students who seem excited at the prospect of arriving on campus in the fall are in high demand, admissions officers say. In an ironic twist, the volatile nature of admissions has given students a measure of control over the process.
In its annual survey of admissions trends, the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that 22 percent of colleges gave interest "considerable importance" in admissions, up from 7 percent in 2003. Another 30 percent of schools rated it as moderately important.
In terms of influence, it outranked such admissions standbys as counselor and teacher recommendations, interviews, and extracurriculars, and was narrowly behind class rank and personal essays.
"We track every single contact we have with students," said Kelly Walter, executive director of the admissions office at Boston University.
Parents and applicants take note: Walter and other college officials said they do not hold it against students who cannot afford to visit campus, particularly in the slumping economy. There are many other ways students can let colleges know they are among their top choices, including attending a college fair or reception in their hometown. Even better, they said, is introducing themselves to an admissions officer and striking up a conversation.
"I remember," Walter said, speaking of such chats.
Admitting more students who truly want to be there, college officials say, creates an energetic and close-knit culture on campus. And by producing loyal alumni with soft spots for their colleges, it also pays long-range dividends in fund-raising.Continued...
Giving preference to students whose interest seems genuine also helps colleges boost their image. By targeting students who are more likely to attend, they can admit a smaller percentage and still fill out their freshman class, making them appear more selective and more desirable.
Families have caught on to the new approach. John Mahoney, director of undergraduate admissions at Boston College, said parents who visit the campus often scan the premises for the sign-up sheet that will let them make their presence known.
"We tell them we're not tracking that," he said. "But they want to make sure they let us know they were there."
Mahoney said BC does not consider student interest and said he suspects some students feign interest to boost their odds.
"Students are being conditioned to express interest, but if they are doing so at 16 Northeastern schools, how good of a barometer is it?"
But some say that students who cultivate relationships with schools - through the delicate art of admissions flirting - gain a much better chance of winning their hearts.
"It's almost like a dating game," said Phil Meisner, founder of CAPS, the College Application Processing Service, in Washington. "No one wants to commit, but everyone's looking for a signal. Why shouldn't students be able to let colleges know they want to go?"
College officials say students rarely go overboard in their self-marketing campaigns, although they fear more will as the practice becomes more prevalent. Others worry that judging students by expressions of interest could unfairly help wealthier students whose parents and counselors know the system's subtleties and how to exploit them.
"We don't want to penalize students who don't know that 14,000 contacts with an admissions officer could tip the balance," said Gail Berson, dean of admission at Wheaton College in Norton.
This spring, a student whom Berson met at a New York City high school has become a "steady pen pal," even sending her copies of his latest short stories. His persistence convinced Berson he would attend, and his writing ability convinced her he should be admitted, despite a so-so academic record.
Alex Michel, a senior from Weston, said she knew that Wheaton was her top choice as soon as she visited the campus, and she immediately made her intentions known. She visited campus several times, including an overnight stay with students, and e-mailed admissions officers with questions. In December, she was accepted, and now she chats on Facebook with her eventual classmates.
"I know colleges are looking for students who are enthusiastic," she said. "When I visited campus, I always made sure the admissions office knew I was there."
By Peter Schworm

Labels: , , , ,