Cornell’s undergraduate admissions rate dropped this year from 31 percent to 21 percent, a feat described as “extraordinary” by interim president Hunter R. Rawlings III at a recent Board of Trustees meeting.
As the University’s goal for enrolling 3,050 freshmen has remained the same from last year, this decrease reflects growth in the number of applications received. The Class of 2010 had 15 percent more applications than the class of 2009 did, and 35 percent more than the Class of 2008.
The Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering saw the most applicant growth and the increase was uniform across different geographical regions of the country. Large increases were seen in the number of African-American and international applicants.
Cornell’s jump in applications is due to many factors, including rising use of the Common Application, which facilitates the process for students who want to apply to more than one university. Cornell joined the Common Application group two years ago, but Doris Davis, associate provost of admissions and enrollment, said that the Common Application only “contributed somewhat” to the change; according to statistics, students submit the Common Application to only four universities on average.
Rather than increasing use of the Common Application, Davis cited the work of the admissions office and “Cornell’s own appeal” for the influx of applications.
Daniel Cohen grad, co-chair of the image committee of the Student Assembly, works to increase Cornell’s appeal to prospective applicants. He feels an important contributor to the increase was the overhaul of both Cornell’s print materials and website. He called the jump in applications “positive reinforcement” for the image committee that will encourage future efforts.
All Ivy League schools besides Harvard saw an increase in the number of applications from last year, with Cornell’s jump ahead of other schools. Such increases ranged from 6 percent at Princeton to 10 percent at Dartmouth. Acceptance rates have not yet been released at other Ivies yet.
A lower admissions rate is a positive factor in U.S. World & News Report’s annual rankings of colleges, but according to Davis, it is impossible to tell exactly how these numbers will affect Cornell’s ranking, as there are many different contributing factors.
However, Cornell’s acceptance rate drop is part of a positive feedback cycle.
“Acceptance rates are a measure of a school’s desirability,” Cohen said. “A lower acceptance rate makes Cornell more appealing to prospective students. That appeal makes more students likely to apply, further lowering the acceptance rate.”
Davis said the increase in applications has forced the admissions office to work “longer, harder … and smarter.” In order to improve efficiency in the processing, filing and reviewing of applications, the office implemented a new document imaging system this year.
Cornell will inform its applicants for the class of 2010 of their admissions decisions by or on March 31.
Archived article by Laura Rice