April 11, 2008

New Policies for Class of 2012 Affect the Admissions Process

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In high school, Daniela Arias of Mountainside, N.J. was involved in what she described as “a pretty diverse range of extracurricular activities.” An active member of her school’s chapter of Amnesty International and a writer for the student newspaper, Arias made it her goal to attend an Ivy League school.
On March 31, Arias was one of approximately 6,730 to receive an acceptance letter to Cornell. While this year, Cornell received a record-high of 33,011 applications for freshman admission, representing a 9-percent increase from last year, its overall admit rate of 20.4 percent only fell a tenth of a percentage.
“Initially, when I learned that Cornell had an acceptance rate of 20.4 percent, I thought that it was pretty low, however, compared to the other Ivies, it’s pretty high,” said Mitchell Fried ’10. [img_assist|nid=29756|title=Admissions Data for Class of 2012|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Schools such as Columbia, Stanford, Yale and Harvard all saw record low admissions rates, admitting less than 10 percent of their respective applicant pools.
Across the Ivy League, a number of factors contributed to what were unprecedented admissions statistics. In the past year, Cornell and many of its peer institutions instituted significant changes to their financial aid policies. Additionally, this admissions season Harvard and Princeton did not accept applications for early admission.
“Because of new admissions policies, the overall applicant pool in all Ivy League schools has increased,” said Amanda Greenbaum ’10. “I think Cornell’s yield may decline because the students who would have otherwise been accepted early decision elsewhere are now applying to Cornell with no intention of coming here.”
Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, could not offer an estimate of Cornell’s expected yield — a percentage of accepted students who matriculate — but stated that the admissions office has made “estimates based on the number who have enrolled in previous years.”
According to Davis, Cornell’s admissions rate cannot be compared to that of other universities.
“Cornell does not manage its admissions process according to what may be happening at other schools; in addition, we were not aware of the admit rate at other schools until the information was publicly announced,” Davis stated in an e-mail.
However, Davis stated that Cornell’s admit rate reflects the University’s attempt to admit the greatest number of students that it can.
“Essentially, Cornell tries to admit as many students as we can without over-enrolling,” she stated. “I think some of the peer schools try to admit as few students as possible.”
Additionally, Davis asserted that the admissions office admitted more students this year in an effort to accept fewer students from the wait list. Last year, according to Davis, Cornell accepted over 100 students from the wait list.
“This year, we’d like to admit fewer students from the waitlist,” Davis stated, “so we admitted a larger number of students during the regular decision process.”
Despite this effort, Cornell offered 3,432 students a place on the waitlist this year, more than the 3,223 students who were waitlisted last year.
Changes in Cornell’s admission policy also affected admissions statistics. This year, applicants were permitted to apply to two of the University’s seven undergraduate colleges.
Twenty-two percent of applicants applied to two colleges, according to Davis. Ninety-eight percent of all admitted students were accepted to their first choice college, while only two percent were accepted to their second choice.
“These are the targets that we established, so we are very pleased with the results,” Davis stated.
Across the undergraduate colleges, acceptance rates ranged from 15.3 to 32 percent.
Aside from changes to Cornell’s application, The Sun reported in Sept. 2006 that the University was “very seriously” considering implementing changes to its current early decision program, which permits applicants to apply in November and be notified of a decision in December in exchange for a binding agreement to attend pending acceptance. Critics of the policy say that it puts poorer students at a disadvantage by preventing them from comparing financial aid offers from different schools.
“I think Harvard, and now Princeton, have taken important steps that have the potential to ensure greater equity among applicants and prospective applicants,” Provost Biddy Martin told The Sun in 2006.
The University has yet to revise its admissions policy in respect to early admissions.
“At this point in time, we foresee no major changes in our early decision policy,” Martin stated in an e-mail last Sunday.