Graduate schools see flat app. rates
By Ashley Ulrich, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 8, 2013
Applications to Dartmouth’s graduate programs in medicine, engineering, business and arts and sciences have remained relatively flat over the last five years, despite a national trend of increasing applications to graduate schools.
A few programs experienced modest increases in the number of applications, including the Geisel School of Medicine’s master’s program in public health, Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business’s master’s program in engineering and management and Thayer’s master’s of science and engineering and PhD programs. Most programs, however, experienced only a one-year spike in 2008, the worst year of the financial crisis, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
In the last two years, applications to U.S. graduate schools have grown at a rate of 7.8 percent, largely due to an increase in applications from China, India and Turkey. In a ten-year report on applications from 2001 to 2011 by the Council of Graduate Schools, applications from permanent residents increased by an average of 3.3 percent per year, while applications from temporary residents increased by an average of 1.8 percent per year.
Overall, applications for U.S. graduate schools increased 4.3 percent between the fall of 2010 and 2011 and averaged growth rates of 5.6 percent from 2001 through 2011.
The greatest increases were in applications to health sciences programs and the least to education programs. In total, more than 441,000 students enrolled in graduate programs for the fall of 2011.
Geisel receives the most applications of any of Dartmouth’s graduate program — over 5,000 annually — and averages the lowest admittance rate, about 5 to 6 percent annually.
While applications and acceptances to the school’s doctorate of medicine program have remained relatively constant over the last five years, Geisel has received an increasing amount of applications to its doctorate of medicine and PhD combination program, a small and research-intensive track. Applications to the program increased to 305 in 2012 from 167 in 2008, causing its acceptance rate to fall to 4 percent from 7 over the same time period.
Applications to Geisel’s master’s program in public health, tracked by the Graduate Arts and Sciences department, remained fairly constant at around 200 applications. The acceptance rate for this program has fallen from 80 percent in 2008 and 2009 to about 60 percent for 2010 through 2012.
Thayer has seen a trend of increasing applications for its master’s program in engineering and management with Tuck, as well as for its master’s of science and PhD programs. Thayer received 209 applications for the co-program in 2008 and 414 applications in 2012 while its program size has stayed fairly constant at 100 admitted students per year. The admissions rate fell to 21 percent from 55 percent over the period.
Applications to Thayer’s master’s of science and PhD programs have increased to 404 in 2012 from 256 in 2008, causing its admissions rate to fall from 23 percent to 13 percent. The number of admitted students has stayed relatively constant at 50 per year.
Thayer has benefited from the poor job market in the struggling economy, admissions administrator Candace Potter said. It has averaged admissions gains of 10 percent annually in recent years.
“As far as outreach is concerned, we have increased recruiting in the areas of email campaigns, webinars and social media,” Jane Seibel wrote, director of graduate recruiting and diversity, in an email. “We will be tracking these over a period of time to determine their effectiveness.”
Thayer is still eviewing applications for the fall, but so far this year, it has noticed a 33 percent decline in applications from China since last year. Seibel attributed this decline to a change in Chinese domestic policy.
Overall, Thayer’s applications for this year are below what they were last year, when Thayer experienced a “blip” bulge due to uncertainty about the economy, Seibel said.
Tuck received about the same number of applications from 2008 through 2012, averaging about 2,600 applications a year. Its program size and admissions rate have remained fairly constant at 500 admitted students a year, yielding an admissions rate of just under 20 percent.
Dartmouth applicants to Geisel and Tuck were accepted at a much lower rate than non-Dartmouth applicants, with a 3 percent acceptance rate to both schools between 2008 and 2012. About 150 Dartmouth students apply to Geisel each year, and about 70 students apply to Tuck. The Office of Institutional Research tracks the number of Dartmouth applicants to Geisel and Tuck, but not to Thayer and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Accepted Dartmouth students also enroll in these programs at a much lower rate than their non-Dartmouth peers, with 15 percent of accepted students enrolling at Geisel compared to 30 percent overall, and 5 percent enrolling at Tuck compared to 55 percent overall.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences saw a slow increase in the number of applications it received from 2008 through 2012 but has increased the number of accepted students to its program as well, so the school’s acceptance rate stayed between 25 and 30 percent.
Year-to-year changes in applications are not necessarily indicative of changing admissions trends because of the small overall number of applications, Gary Hutchins, assistant dean of graduate studies, said.
“It depends on the program, but we haven’t noticed any large trends happening in our admissions,” Hutchins said. “The only thing we’ve really increased is our presence on the web.”
Dartmouth’s master’s of arts in liberal studies has received an average of 90 applications a year since 2004, when it accepted about 85 percent of prospective students.
The MALS program experienced a 25 percent decrease in applications last year, which English professor and MALS chair Donald Pease said was likely due to a temporary vacancy in its director position. Besides last year, applications to the school have been fairly constant since 2004.
Pease said the program anticipates a more regular number of applications for its next admission deadline on February 15.
The program recently began increasing its outreach to Graduate Record Examination test-takers who indicate an interest in pursuing studies in the liberal arts.
“We aim to grow to a maximum 250 from 230 current students, but we don’t want to exceed that,” MALS director Wole Ojurongbe said.
The MALS program is also in the process of developing a new track in environmental studies, as well as an intensive summer teaching certificate program, which Ojurongbe expects to be attractive to prospective students.
At Dartmouth’s graduate schools, the number of accepted male and female students remains relatively even. The MALS program has the highest percentage of international students of all of the graduate programs, Pease said.
A significant number of Dartmouth employees enroll in the MALS program, especially as part-time students. Dartmouth employees make up 10 percent of MALS students, Ojurongbe said.
Dartmouth’s graduate arts and science program currently has no Dartmouth employees enrolled in its classes, because the program involves an intensive full-time commitment over a five-year period, Hutchins said.
Geisel officially initiated a program last year to recruit Dartmouth juniors as applicants, but no other Dartmouth graduate school has a similar program.
Seibel said that most undergraduate students do not choose to pursue graduate studies at the same institution they attended as undergraduates. Many applicants to the graduate arts and science program are from Bates College, Bowdoin College and Colby College, Seibel said.
Representatives from Dartmouth’s graduate programs said that it can be challenging to recruit potential students to study in rural New England. Applicants from urban undergraduate institutions are often excited to take advantage of the outdoors, while students at Geisel can benefit from the close collaboration at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and regional connections with hospitals in Boston, Seibel said.