March 8, 2002

Grad School Applications On Rise

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Cornell University Graduate School applications are up 16 percent from last year, according to Douglas Elliot ’82, the associate director of admissions and the coordinator of statistics for the graduate school.


The graduate school administers research-based master’s degrees, master’s in professional studies, and research-based doctoral degrees. Admissions to the Cornell Law School, the Johnson School of Management, the Cornell Medical College, the Graduate School of Medical Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine are not handled by the graduate school.

“Students apply through the Graduate School to one of Cornell’s 90-plus graduate fields, fields ranging from anthropology to zoology,” said Sarah Hale, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid.

The Graduate School has received 12,400 applications thus far and generally makes offers to about 3,500 students for each fall term. New enrollment has ranged from 1,300 to 1,450 over the past few years, according to Elliot.

“Though the number of offers may increase slightly this year, there are several constraining factors, such as budgets for fellowships and assistantships, research facilities and lab space available, class size, and faculty advising load,” Elliot said.

Often during periods of recession, college seniors and recent graduates apply to graduate school in an effort to suspend entry into the job market and to make themselves more marketable upon graduation, reported Karin Ash Ph.d. ’99, director of Cornell Career Services, in an interview last week.

“Numbers are up across the board. Graduate applications have typically increased when the economy is down, but the increase is usually in the order of two to five percent, rather than 16 percent, as we’ve had this year,” Elliot said in comparing this year’s rise in applications with past increases.

Neither Elliot nor Hale could say for sure what has caused such a drastic increase in applications. However, Elliot speculated that, “in addition to the economy, there may be some sort of ‘Sept. 11 effect’ at work here, though I’m not sure exactly what it is.”


“The average age of our entering grad students this past fall was 26, which is several years beyond the typical age of college graduation. Also, about 75 percent of our entering students were older than 23. In contrast, from 1997 to 2000 — when the economy was roaring along — two-thirds of our entering students were older than 23,” Elliot said. “One thing to keep in mind is that many of our professional master’s degrees, as opposed to the research degrees, are geared to students who have spent some time in the work world. In addition, these programs have experienced steady growth in applications and enrollment over the past several years, so they are likely a major factor in the increase.”

The total enrollment in the Graduate School, as of Fall 2001, is 4,363.

Archived article by Laura Rowntree