The record-high number of applications for the Yale Class of 2010 was in line with the growth that most other Ivies, excepting Harvard, saw in their applicant pools.
This year, Yale received 21,051 total applications — an 8.2 percent increase over last year — and except for Harvard, whose application pool decreased slightly, all of the Ivies that have released their application numbers have seen 6-10 percent increases in total applicants this year. Admissions experts cited a number of possible reasons for the trend, including increased recruitment efforts on the part of these colleges, a recent tendency for high school seniors to apply to more schools regular-decision and a simple increase in the total high school student population.
Though Harvard’s total applications figure only barely declined, from 22,796 after a 15-percent jump last year to 22,719 this year, the other Ivies posted significant jumps and. Like Yale, Princeton and Columbia universities enjoyed record highs in total applications, spiking 6 percent to 17,478 applicants and 9 percent to 19,730, respectively. Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania received 20,350 regular-decision applications, a jump of 8 percent from last year, and Brown University’s number of regular-decision applications rose 6.7 percent as the school’s total reached 15,871. Dartmouth University received approximately 14,000 applications, a roughly 10 percent increase from last year.
At Yale, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said population growth and the “wider national reach” of the top colleges were likely explanations for the increase.
“We have all, the Ivies plus MIT and Stanford, been traveling to more high schools … over the past several years,” Brenzel said. “Also, as admissions to the most competitive schools has tightened, the national press has focused more and more on the story of how hard it is to get in. Of course, this only acts to put a handful of top schools increasingly in the spotlight, making them seem even more desirable.”
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the number of regular-decision applications jumped 7 percent. Stanford received a total of 22,223 applications, a 10 percent increase over last year.
Total applications have also increased because individual students are filing more applications than they have in the past, said David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association of College Admissions Counselors.
“It is much more difficult now for colleges to predict yield,” Hawkins said. “The net effect is that colleges are more aggressive in trying to get students to come.”
Hawkins also attributed the increase to a gradual rise in the total number of high school students, which he said is currently at its peak.
“Though the number of high school graduates will start to decline over the next decade, the number applying [to top colleges] is unlikely to decline much,” he said.
Brenzel said he believes the trend will continue until something major changes in the college admissions landscape.
“We know the high school population will remain high for several years into the future, so a change to the increasing number of applications would have to come from some other direction,” he said.
University of Pennsylvania Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson said he believes the allure of an Ivy League education could be attracting students in larger numbers.
“It is all part of the uncertain economy in general, as job competition becomes more of an issue,” he said. “People want an investment for the future. The reputation of schools is important.”
Kevin Newman, associate director of college counseling at the Brentwood School in Los Angeles, said students at his school are applying to more colleges than they did in the past.
“Students have a tendency to think that they’re better off applying to more schools,” Newman said. “They want to go to the most difficult school that they think they can get into.”
Students are often encouraged by the top universities to apply no matter their academic standing, Newman said.
“The schools are doing more to market themselves,” he said. “The power of the Web helps a lot. Most colleges and universities don’t want to discourage students from applying, so they’ll say, ‘Apply.'”
The trend has both positive and negative ramifications for Yale, Brenzel said.
“From the Yale standpoint, we are exceptionally blessed by this trend, since even among [the Ivies] we stand out for the quality of the undergraduate experience, with ample testimony to that from our own students,” Brenzel said. “So if you will, we are seeing the best of the best applicants. The primary drawback of attracting so many applications is simply that we cannot take more students and must disappoint so many.”
Cornell University has not yet released its admissions data for this year.