Several grad. programs see applicant increase
By Turia Lahlou, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The number of applications to Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, as well as the arts and sciences graduate programs, have seen significant increases in comparison to last year, according to College officials. Several administrators said they believe the economic downturn has affected application numbers -- driving some to further their education, while pushing others to remain at their current jobs.
The total number of applications for the Thayer School of Engineering's Master's and Ph.D programs are up between 18 and 20 percent, though there has been little to no increase in applications to the Thayer School's Master's of Engineering Management program, which is administered separately. Master's and Ph.D applications in arts and sciences have increased 6 to 8 percent.
In addition to new advertising methods implemented by several of the Master's and Ph.D programs, the economic situation has contributed to the general increase in applications, Dean of Graduate Studies Brian Pogue said.
"It is definitely a trend that hasn't been happening for a couple years," he said. "It seems to be something new. Of course, as [the economic situation] is getting worse -- it seems every day -- I think if we look at total applications in April or May, they will be up quite a bit more."
Pogue also expects admissions selectivity to increase, as more students will be competing for the same number of slots.
"We can't really expand admissions unless we receive additional grant funding to support that," he added.
While Pogue, who is also the outgoing director of the Thayer School's Master's-Ph.D program, said applications have gone up because of the recession, professor Ursula Gibson, who is taking over as director, said there has been a consistent increase in applications at Thayer over several years, and that the downturn was not primarily responsible.
"The graduate programs at Thayer have been growing at a moderate pace, and will continue to do so," Gibson said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.
Since 2006, applications to the Master's-Ph.D engineering programs have doubled, but the Thayer School will not increase enrollment, she added.
Robert Graves, the MEM program director, said the increase in applicants from the United States was dramatic, with twice as many in this year's applicant pool as compared with last year's.
"My guess is this is due to the economy," Graves said. "Overall, we are at the same pace as last year, but the dust has not all settled."
The MEM program has two application deadlines, one on Jan. 15 and the second on March 15. Graves will not know the final numbers until May. Generally, half of the students who are offered admission -- usually around 50 students -- enroll in the program, he said.
Dartmouth Medical School, meanwhile, has seen a 5.3-percent decrease in applications. DMS had 5,289 applications this year, as compared to 5,586 last year, according to the DMS Admissions Office. DMS representatives declined to comment further.
The number of applications to the Tuck School of Business has seen little to no change, according to Dawna Clarke, director of MBA admissions. Clarke said that it is too early in Tuck's admission cycle to know what the final application total will be.
"Typically, when an economy is weak, applications to full-time business schools initially increase, but over time tend to go down because what happens is students who do have jobs in big cities tend to keep them and go on to get their MBA on a part-time basis," she said.
Tuck will maintain its class size of 240, even as applications increase, Clarke said.
Career Services has had fewer appointments this year from current students interested in graduate school in general, a trend that Karen Whittet, assistant director of Career Services, said she found surprising.
"Anecdotally, seniors have made more comments that they are looking into graduate schools after college because they are concerned about finding a full-time job," she said.
The majority of students would like to work before going to graduate school, Whittet said, but as seniors face an increasingly difficult job market, more are examining graduate school as an alternative to joining the workforce, or are considering attending graduate school after a gap year.
Whittet has not heard of any institution increasing enrollment to accommodate greater demand, she said.
"I think if the number of applications increases it will become more competitive because they will still have same number of seats," Whittet said. "It is hard to tell right now, and we won't know how that plays out until after this admissions cycle."
Whittet has not made any changes in the way she advises graduating students.
"People are sharing that they are worried about finding a job," Whittet added. "We want to make sure graduate school is right for them and something they want to pursue to reach a certain career goal."