Ivies see fall in application growth
By Stephanie Mc Feeters, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, February 6, 2012
The modest growth in the number of applications received by the College for the Class of 2016, amounting to an increase of 3 percent from last year, reflects a trend among several peer institutions, although some universities saw a decrease in applications, according to Dan Parish, director of admissions recruitment. Dartmouth was one of three institutions in the Ivy League — in addition to Yale University and Cornell University — to experience an increase in applications this year.
Harvard University and Princeton University both saw a decrease in applications, each receiving approximately 1.9 percent fewer applications than last year, according to The Harvard Crimson and The Daily Princetonian.
Columbia University, Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania also received fewer applications for the Class of 2016, with respective decreases of 8.9 percent, 7 percent and 1.7 percent, according to the schools’ student newspapers.
The decline in application growth has a variety of causes, including the shrinking population of college-age students and continued economic uncertainty, as well as the reintroduction of early action programs at Harvard and Princeton that reduce the need for students to apply to a large number of schools, according to Parish.
Dartmouth and its peer institutions saw a decade of “very dramatic growth,” and the relative decline in growth experienced this year was expected, Parish said.
Until three years ago, the nationwide population of 17- and 18-year-olds was growing, as was the economy, according to Parish.
“People felt very confident because of that economic growth, and so more students were applying to college, and more students were applying to highly selective colleges,” he said.
Although population and economic growth began to fall, application growth at highly selective schools continued over the past three years, he said.
“Our more recent sustained growth goes partly to the level of interest in American higher education from abroad and the level of interest in quality education from all parts of the population,” he said.
The College continues to attract high-achieving students even as “the economy becomes more unsettled and the population levels off,” Parish said.
“Dartmouth is a well-known, highly-respected institution with a very extensive financial aid program,” he said. “Dartmouth has a very strong presence, a very long history and high quality of undergraduate education.”
Harvard and Princeton’s decisions to reintroduce early action programs affected a number of their peer institutions, according to Parish.
The “high overlap” of potential applicants shared by Harvard, Princeton and Columbia likely influenced the volume of applications received by Columbia admissions officers, according to Jessica Marinaccio, the school’s dean of undergraduate admissions.
While students who were admitted early to Harvard or Princeton still have the option to apply to other schools during the regular decision process, many likely did not submit applications to other schools. As a result, the return of early action programs “took a certain number of students out of the regular decision market,” Parish said.
A decrease in applications alone is not a cause for concern, according to Lee Melvin, associate vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University, which experienced a 3.7 percent increase in the volume of applications this year.
“However, if the decline in applications reveals similar patterns in diversity, gender, geographic and SAT/ACT scores, then I would be concerned,” Melvin said in an email to The Dartmouth.