March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. colleges that have been hard to get into are getting even harder.
Duke University offered admission this year to 3,972, or 15 percent of aspirants, down from 18 percent last year, after applications soared, according to Duke officials. Stanford University admitted 2,300 -- or 7.2 percent, the least ever -- said Shawn Abbott, admission director. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology saw its admittance drop below 10 percent for the first time, said Stuart Schmill, admissions dean.
Applications are surging because colleges are marketing themselves more vigorously, and the tougher they are to get into, the more students seek entry to multiple schools and increase competition for slots, said Jon Reider, director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School. The typical senior applies to a dozen colleges, 50 percent more than 10 years ago, Reider said.
“This is without any question the hardest year ever,” Reider, who is also a former admissions officer for Stanford, near Palo Alto, California, said in an interview. “This is unprecedented. No question.”
Seven of the eight members of the Ivy League, a group of four-year private colleges in the northeastern U.S., had an increase in applications, according to data from the institutions. The exception was Yale University, which had a decline of 134 applications, or less than a percent, from 26,003 last year, said Jeffrey Brenzel, admissions dean.
Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut, expects to announce its admissions rate tomorrow. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which admitted 7 percent of 29,114 applicants last year, may disclose this year’s figures today, said William Fitzsimmons, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid.
Put Up or Go Away
Colleges are beginning to notify high school students, by e-mail or through the U.S. Postal Service, of admission decisions. Most applicants who are offered places must pay deposits by May 1 to secure the spots.
“Students are looking at a wider range of schools because they are less certain of their chances of being admitted to colleges that typically would have been reasonable choices for them,” said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke, in Durham, North Carolina.
Applications to Duke rose 12 percent, and the university had to hire three part-time readers to help evaluate candidates, Guttentag said.
With a 42 percent increase in applications, the University of Chicago offered places to 3,560, or 18 percent, of 19,370 applicants, said Jeremy Manier, a spokesman. That compared with 27 percent last year. As recently as 1993, Chicago’s acceptance rate was 77 percent, according to the university.
Chicago began a campaign in 2009 to increase applications by sending more mailings and targeted e-mails to prospective students who showed interest.
MIT, in Cambridge, said yes to 9.7 percent of 16,632 applicants, Schmill said. About 6 percent more students applied than a year earlier. Last year, MIT admitted 11 percent and drew from its waiting list to reach that share, Schmill said.
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, a member of the Ivy League, received 18,778 applications this year, about a 3.5 percent increase, said Maria Laskaris, dean of admissions and financial aid. Dartmouth admitted 11.5 percent this year, down from 12.5 percent.
Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, accepted 23 percent of applicants, down from 27 percent last year, said Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admission. While applications increased 9 percent to 27,615, the university took about 500 fewer students because it overenrolled last year and wants a class of about 2,025, Watson said in an interview.
Applications from students in California rose 15 to 20 percent, Watson said. Northwestern stepped up recruiting on the West Coast and in the South and Southwest because the college- age population is expected to increase in those regions while declining in the Midwest, he said.
“If they’re considering migration from their home state, we are certainly on their radar,” Watson said.
--Editors: Jeffrey Tannenbaum, Robert Greene
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