Jan 11, 2013

Colleges Receiving the Most Applications

Any day now, this year’s applicant tallies will begin rolling in.  Banner headlines will appear as colleges love bragging about how many more applications they receive from one year to the next. It’s good press and feeds the need to appear increasingly more popular and selective.

But rumor has it that we won’t see very many double-digit percent increases even among big name colleges and universities this year.  And don’t look for colleges hurrying to release numbers reflecting decreases in total number of applicants.

As the University of Virginia continues to sort through applications for the Class of 2017, assistant dean Jeannine Lalonde (Dean J) projects UVa will see a “slight” increase in the number of UVa candidates over last year.

“This is a good thing,” commented Dean J on her blog.  “We are not on a mission to dramatically increase admission numbers at UVA.”

And with the addition of 35 new colleges this year including Ohio State University, which annually draws close to 26,000 applicants, the Common Application has so far only seen a 10 percent increase in the number of applications it received over this time last year—far less than the nearly 20 percent increases seen in previous years.

In fact, some colleges are alarmed enough about their numbers to be quietly contacting prospective applicants with notices of unpublished deadline extensions.  One big-name Midwestern university (a recent competitor for the Bowl Championship Series), contacted my cat with news that she could still submit her application “by the end of day Sunday, January 13, 2012”—two weeks after deadline.

Yes, colleges continue to compete for application numbers.  According to NACAC’s 2012 State of College Admission report, 64 percent of colleges experienced an increase in the number of applications they received last year.  The US Department of Education says the average number of applications received per institution increased 60 percent between 2002 and 2011.  And US News reports that more than 8.2 million applications were sent to US colleges by prospective freshmen vying to enroll in fall 2011 and calculates a per-school average of 6,170 applications—up from 5,948 the previous year.

It's no wonder, if the Irish want my cat so much.

To give these numbers some perspective, USNWR number-crunchers recently generated a list of the top ten application recipients for fall 2011 (2012 numbers will not be fully tabulated for months):

  1. UCLA:  61,564
  2. UC San Diego:  53,448
  3. St. John’s University (NY):  52,972
  4. UC Berkeley:  52,966
  5. California State University—Long Beach:  49,287
  6. UC Irvine:  49,287
  7. UC Santa Barbara:  49,008
  8. Drexel University:  48,450
  9. UC Davis:  45,806
  10. Pennsylvania State University—University Park:  45,502

Do you see a theme here?  California is a big state with lots of high school grads wanting to take advantage of low in-state tuitions. And as the second highest application recipient among private institutions, Drexel engages in notoriously aggressive applicant recruitment campaigns.

Locally, the colleges drawing the most applications are also predictably public institutions, but a few “name” private universities with much smaller class sizes attract almost as many applications.  Here are all the colleges in Maryland, Virginia, and DC that received over 10,000 applications for the fall of 2011:

  1. University of Maryland—College Park:  26,310
  2. University of Virginia:  23,580
  3. James Madison University:  22,864
  4. Liberty University:  22,415
  5. George Washington:  21,591
  6. Virginia Tech:  20,828
  7. Johns Hopkins:  19,391
  8. Georgetown:  19,254
  9. US Naval Academy:  19,145
  10. American University:  18,706
  11. George Mason University:  17,548
  12. Towson University:  15,880
  13. Virginia Commonwealth University:  14,336
  14. College of William & Mary:  12,825
  15. Loyola Maryland University:  12,066
  16. Hampton University:  10,569
  17. Old Dominion University:   10,276

So look out for the press releases in the coming weeks.  Numbers will no doubt be up, but maybe by not quite as much as in the past. 

And that’s a good thing.  According to NACAC, the average admission officer was responsible for reading 662 applications for fall 2011 admission—up from 359 for fall 2005.  But that’s a whole other problem.

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