February 6, 2008

New Undergrad Application Lets Students Pick Two Schools

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Starting this year with the Class of 2012, applicants to Cornell now have the opportunity to apply to two colleges or schools within the University rather than just one. In addition to their primary choice, applicants also have the option of selecting one alternate choice college. The change to the application — the first since the University switched to the Common Application in 2004 — is permanent.
In addition to satisfying the admissions requirements for both colleges, these applicants must also write an essay for each college about why they have selected the particular school. Applicants, however, will only receive one decision.
According to Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, Davis introduced the proposal to allow applicants to apply to more than one school based on applicant preferences. The proposal was then approved by Provost Biddy Martin.
Many high schoolers Davis visited wanted to know why they were not able to apply to more than one school even though once admitted they would be able to take classes in any college and have the option of transferring between colleges. Additionally, Davis acknowledged majors such as biology and computer science that are available in multiple schools.
“Cornell is where majors and academic interest span more than one college,” she said.
She said the new decision, which is loosely based upon the application processes at schools such as the University of Oxford and Carnegie Mellon University, “acknowledges the range and depth of our students … who are equally interested in multiple things.”
The decision to let applicants apply to more than one college was aided by the Office of Admissions’ recent decision to place all applicant material online. Since applications do not have to be moved manually anymore — a time-consuming process — there is now time for the offices of more than one college to read the applications.
Typically, the admissions office of the primary college will read an application. If the applicant is accepted, the process ends. However, if the applicant is rejected, the application will then be read by admissions officers in the alternative choice college.
Davis said, however, that in some cases — if for example the primary choice college may want to put a student on the wait list — the alternative choice college may request to admit a student whom they feel would be a good match.
Although there are no numbers available yet for the Class of 2012 as a whole, Davis said 21 percent of this year’s applicants applied to two colleges.
She added that of the 1,139 students admitted early decision to Cornell, 13 were admitted to their alternative choice college. Davis said the number was low because “students are making really good choices about choosing their colleges.”
She said that while applicants who chose two colleges generally chose schools that are both good matches, the students were typically a better match at their first choice school. Davis also acknowledged that the pairings had a broad range.
Admitted students unhappy with their choice of college, will continue to have the ability to apply for transfer once they are enrolled.
One applicant, who was accepted early decision into the Class of 2012, said that she applied to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, choosing the school of Industrial and Labor Relations as her alternative choice. She said she preferred ILR, but due to her high math and science scores, indicated CALS as her first choice thinking she would get in more easily. After being admitted to CALS, she said she intends to apply for transfer after arriving at Cornell.
Davis said that the new application “can increase the chances for some applicants because if the students don’t get into their first choice, students who wouldn’t have been accepted to Cornell can now get into their second choice.”
Regardless of this perk, Davis said that the University did not receive any more applications than usual besides the typical yearly increase that has been found across the Ivy League since 2004.
Most Cornell students had negative reactions to the change to the application.
“As someone who knew what they wanted in Arts and Sciences, I think I would have been a little upset if someone who had Arts as a second choice had gotten in over me [because] it was my first choice. There’s something to be said for knowing what you want,” Jacob Shapiro ’10 said. Some students expressed concern about the effect on the competitiveness of the already extremely selective process.
“It just encourages the idea of doing anything you can to get into [Cornell] for its name,” said
Lauren Steinberg ’10 said. “It encourages the competitiveness of the application process, which is already too competitive.”