February 16, 2006

C.U.'s Apps Jump 15 Percent

Print More

Applications for undergraduate admission to Cornell jumped by double digits for the second year in a row, according to numbers released by the University’s undergraduate admissions office in late January.

Jason Locke, director of undergraduate admissions, stated that Cornell received 28,012 total freshman applications this year, a 15 percent increase over last year and a 35 percent rise over 2004. The admissions office received 2,851 applications for early decision, an 11 percent jump over last year, and admitted 1,113.

“Double-digit increases in back-to-back years is quite remarkable,” Locke stated.

Other Ivy League schools also reported increases in their total number of applications this year, including Yale, which increased 7.5 percent, the University of Pennsylvania, which rose eight percent, and Columbia, which rose nine percent, and Brown, which increased 6.7 percent.

Locke attributed Cornell’s tremendous increase in applications to an overhaul of the University admissions office’s marketing strategy. The new brochures and recruitment packages were honored with a silver medal in the 21st annual Admissions Advertising Awards, announced by the Admissions Marketing Report earlier this month.

David DeVries, director of admissions for the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “the University has done a very good job reaching out, getting its message out in ways that are clearer than in the past.”

He explained that the University admissions office coordinated outreach for the colleges and “refined the material that we send out.”

Locke said that in addition to the “complete redesign” of admissions publications, the University’s use of the common application helped contribute to the rise in applications. This is the second year Cornell is allowing students to apply with the common application, which allows them to conveniently use the same materials for multiple schools.

But DeVries said the common application probably only explains a rise in applications of between five and 10 percent. “The common application can’t explain it all, and it doesn’t this year,” he said.

DeVries said one concern admissions officers had about participating in the common application was that they would see more “bottom candidates,” those with poorer test scores and class ranking and a less realistic chance of being accepted, who had applied just because it was now easier. But he said Arts and Sciences was pleasantly surprising, noting “no great change in the quality of applications.”

Arts and Sciences received approximately 12,000 applications this year. There was an eight percent increase in early decision applications and DeVries expects to see a jump in regular decision applications of 11-12 percent once all the paperwork is processed.

The School of Industrial and Labor Relations, on the other hand, saw no increase in applications this year despite continued aggressive marketing schemes.

Mary Van Arsdale, director of admissions for ILR, said she does not think the flat-lined numbers are necessarily bad. Because of the specialized nature of ILR, changing to the common application two years ago did not attract more students than in the past.

ILR has a “very self-selecting” applicant group, Van Arsdale said.

ILR sends materials describing the school to high school students who have expressed an interest in subjects like economics, history, political science and sociology.

“We pick students that we think would be qualified,” Van Arsdale said.

There were approximately 800 applications to ILR this year, and Van Arsdale said she is very happy with the caliber of applicants.

“I haven’t come across one student yet who isn’t appropriate,” she said.

The admissions office underwent a major overhaul in the way they process applications this year, scanning all paper elements of applications onto computers so admissions officials and faculty readers can view them off campus as well as in their offices. Because of the change, DeVries said, not all applications have been completely processed yet and the college-level numbers are not concrete.

“It saves a massive amount of paper for us,” DeVries said, noting the clean hallways that are usually filled with stacks of file folders at this time of year. “There were a couple of glitches, but fewer than anybody had feared,” he added.

Van Arsdale said ILR readers have decided not to use the online materials and prefer hard copies of the application materials, but they too still have to option to use scanned images if they want.

Admissions officers from the other colleges and schools were unavailable for comment on their early and regular decision application numbers.

Archived article by Melissa Korn
Sun Senior Editor