[Chronicle]

Jan. 10, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 7

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    Early applications rise 35 percent over last year

    By Carrie Golus
    News Office

    The Office of College Admissions is riding an early applications tidal wave this fall with an applicant pool increase of 35 percent over last year. According to a December story in The New York Times, Chicago’s gain was one of the largest among selective universities.

    The College received 2,435 early applications this year, compared to 1,801 last year. Early applications have increased dramatically every year since 1998, when just 862 prospective students applied early.

    Even as the pool of applicants has increased, their academic credentials have grown stronger. Applicants’ SAT scores, for example, are higher this year, with more than 10 percent of early applicants reporting scores in the top tier (1,500 or higher out of 1,600).

    “The fact that the increase in early applications is so heavily weighted with students with strong academic credentials shows that we’ve been presenting the University accurately, as an intense academic experience,” said Michael Behnke, Vice President and Dean of College Enrollment. “In the overall pool, we’ve seen a marked increase in applicants with strong credentials and a decrease in those with weaker credentials,” he added.

    “We’ve had more applications year after year, both early applications and total applications,” said Ted O’Neill, Dean of College Admissions. “It’s a trend that snowballs: more people apply, they tell their friends and their friends apply.”

    The increase in early applications is spread fairly evenly across all areas of the country. The largest increase came from the West (47 percent), followed by the Southwest (39 percent), the Midwest (25 percent) and New England (25 percent).

    Applications from Illinois increased 35 percent, more than the overall Midwest. “We were down in Illinois last year, so we made special efforts,” said Behnke.

    The distribution of early applicants who reported ethnicity showed a marked increase in Hispanic or Latino applicants (71 percent), while African-American applicants increased 16 percent. “There’s a strong correlation between Illinois applicants and minorities, because most Illinois applicants come from the greater Chicagoland area, said Behnke. Were excited about that, because were always looking to improve our outreach to students of color.”

    Early action applicants also showed a slightly higher percentage of women applicants (51 percent) than men (49 percent).

    This year was the first that students could apply online, which might explain some of the increase, ONeill said. In addition, the Admissions Office has begun using the Web more as a recruiting tool. Prospective students are now directed to informal pages created by current students, rounding out the official information on the Admissions site.

    Chicago remains one of the few “early action” institutions, meaning students are not required to enroll if they are accepted early, unlike “early decision” schools, which do require students to enroll. Nevertheless, more than 40 percent of Chicago’s early applicants are expected to join the class of 2006.

    Among selective institutions, only Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University offer early action admission. None of these has seen a percentage increase as large as Chicago’s.