Penn received the highest number of applications in University history this year, following a four-day extension of the regular decision deadline.
Together, the early decision round and the regular decision round produced a total of 37,264 applications, a 3.9 percent increase from last year and a 38.3 percent increase from the admissions cycle five years ago.
This application cycle was unusual in that some applicants had a few extra days to submit their materials. In an email sent on Dec. 30, Penn extended the Jan. 1 regular decision deadline to Jan. 5 for students who had begun the Common Application to Penn but had not completed it.
This year marks the first time the Admissions Office has extended the deadline without extenuating circumstances. In the past, Penn admissions deadlines have only been extended to compensate for major events, such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and widespread Common Application glitches last year.
“I wanted to give students an opportunity to use more time over their school holiday,” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said in an email.
However, only students who had already added Penn to their college list in the Common Application received the extension. “The outreach was very directed,” Furda said.
The later deadline may persist in the future. “I am examining what date makes the most sense for the regular decision deadline as I want to move away from a date when high schools and the University are closed,” Furda said.
Penn was not the only school to extend its application deadline. Dartmouth College, Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago also provided applicants with additional time to submit materials.
Dartmouth, the only other Ivy League university to extend its deadline, allowed applicants to submit materials until Jan. 6. According to an email sent to Dartmouth applicants on Dec. 23, the deadline was moved in order to assist students having trouble submitting materials and to allow students to balance holiday plans and college applications.
Several other schools made the same decision. In an email sent to applicants on Dec. 27, the University of Chicago extended its deadline to Jan. 5 “in honor of the New Year.”
“The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of friends and family, maybe sleep in, and eat cookie after delicious cookie. We hope you enjoy yourself this holiday season and take these extra days to relax a bit,” the U. Chicago admissions office said in the email.
Vanderbilt also extended its deadline to Jan. 5, but did not provide a reason in its email to applicants.
Bev Taylor, founder of The Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, believes that colleges extended their deadlines in order to attract more applications and ultimately drive down acceptance rates.
“It’s a strategic move on the colleges’ part,” she said.
However, Taylor does not criticize the decision, since it gives students much-needed time to complete their applications.
“It’s a good move for students, it’s a good move for the colleges,” she added.
Penn’s hike in applicants could also be attributed to an increase in exposure. In recent months, Penn has been featured prominently on several rankings lists and has been named the nation’s top party school and biggest producer of billionaires. Penn’s party scene was also the subject of a widely circulated New Republic article.
Furda said that Penn’s performance on rankings lists could have contributed to the rise in applications by increasing awareness of the University among college applicants.
For Penn, the increase in application numbers this year will likely lead to a record-low acceptance rate, following the trend of decreasing admission rates in previous years.
“Admissions officers have begun the full evaluation process of the regular decision applicant pool which will take place over the next few months,” Furda said. “Penn along with the other members of the Ivy League will post decisions on March 31 at 5 p.m.”