May 18, 2020
If you have been paying any attention at all to the world of college admissions, you surely must have noticed a stark trend: Colleges are getting more applications every year. In some case, the increase is dramatic.
One particularly impressive example of this is the University of Chicago. This highly regarded institution reports a 42% increase in application this year. U.S. News' The Paper Trail blog reports some details:
The University of Chicago is a popular school—and rightfully so. It offers a world-class education in a fantastic city. But even with those positives, it was still surprising to read a report about the school in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.
The University of Chicago received a whopping 19,306 applications from prospective undergraduate students for the 2010–2011 school year, the Tribune reports. That's a 42 percent jump in applications from last year, which saw more than 13,000 applicants. Even at a time when many schools are seeing increases in applications, a 42 percent rise is significant. The university plans to accept 19 percent of the applicants, the report says. That's roughly 3,500 undergraduates.
The school tells the Tribune that its increased popularity could come from numerous factors: a more prominent national identity, publicity stemming from having President Barack Obama as a former faculty member, or even the second year of use of the Common Application for the admissions process. Whatever caused the change, it's a welcome uptick in applicants. And the quality of applicants has remained high.
"These kids are every bit as witty and intellectually engaged as students of the past," University of Chicago Dean of Admissions James Nondorf tells the Tribune.
This situation has sent some shock waves through the ranks of high school seniors and their parents, who weren't prepared for the unexpected level of competition in this year's Chicago applicant pool. As always, the College Confidential discussion forum reflects the attitudes (and anxieties) of those involved in the complex process of college admissions. Here are some pertinent comments from a U. Chicago-related thread:
Wow. So it looks like about a 12% RD acceptance rate.
maybe a bit lower- could be 11 and change depending on how many EA's were deferred, which is a figure i haven't seen. hats off to JHS for an accurate prediction. Also interesting to note positive commentary in the article on Chicago's changing reputation, and the university's decision to release the story to the tribune instead of burying it in the campus rags as usual. defs a new sheriff in town......
Very impressive move in one year. Here's a BusinessWeek story that goes into some depth. Even a brief mention of CC:
I agree, taxguy, and was always amazed by their relatively small applicant pool compared to their academic peers. A daunting application and a reputation for being a haven for relentless grinds were no-doubt off-putting to some applicants.
Kudos to Chicago for reversing that situation in such short order. I expect this could boost their ranking (not that it means anything), which will drive even more applicants.
Isn't this just a consequence , at least in part, of a prestigious school going to the common app? It is their second year and the word got out. All it takes is the click of a button and a charge card to apply. How do you think Harvard gets so many applications, guaranteeing a low acceptance rate?
>>a prestigious school going to the common app?
In Chicago's case, going to the Common App was a double bonus: not only did it make it easy to add Chicago to one's school list, it also replaced what was perhaps the most daunting application among US colleges. The app was many pages and included unique essays that couldn't readily be "repurposed" from other apps. To its credit, the challenging app did serve as a pre-screen which filtered out applicants who weren't all that serious about Chicago. It's one thing to check off a box saying, "hey, I might go there," and another to decide to spend hours laboring over essays and "short answer" questions.
It is a fact that many applied EA to Chicago along with another ED university with the blessing of counselors, and Chicago knows that hence they took in 500 more despite the spike. The strategy of many applicants was to use Chicago as a safety becos it is non-binding, not becos Chicago is their first choice. Out of the 4 EA admits that I know, 3 are not going because they are binded somewhere, and the remaining one is aiming for an ivy with a safety at hand. There are of course many EA applicants considered Chicago as their first choice as well, especially legacies.
Another unfairness is about the uncommon essays that UofC stressed so much about and applicants labored so much on...even up till the last minute of application as impressed by the love letter. Someone in this forum already suggested that adcoms won't look much at the essays this year because of the surge, we totally agreed. It seems that the so-called uncommon essays would amount to nothing more than a marketing slogan, for this year and the future.
UofC adcoms model concept to this year's uncommon prompts would be as follows.
We, and the applicants, got caught in the numbers games of today's admissions-the reality of life; we have outgrown all our peers in applications, and certainly the philosophical trousers of the former dean's that has made Chicago so distinctive; the essence of human personality is to outgrow your peers, and feel more superior (or never feel inferior) than all of them, especially Columbia; there are no rules of the game, all prior rules are discarded for a new era as long as the numbers look good; topic of your choice: the common misperception of uncommon essays--you are caught!
If you are still nervous I would suggest sending an email expressing your interest in the school to your admissions counselor. Good luck! Perhaps I'll be seeing you in the fall.
i flipped through some of the material. it's clear chicago spent a lot of money on this campaign and it sure has paid off! i just hope the school isn't giving up it's quirky and respectable reputation to be be a rank-whore.
i personally would never go to chicago for schooling...but that's just because i hate the cold, and i dont think i'd fit the mold in terms of student body quirkiness.
P.S. the true test of the success of this new strategy will be the strength of the incoming student body and not just yield/admissions rate. either way im sure all statistical categories will see marked improvements.
I remember when I matriculated (3 years ago), I heard that Zimmer had a goal of boosting the number of apps to 15,000 in 5 years. At the time, it sounded crazy to just about everyone. How do you increase 10k to 15k over the course of 5 years? Well, Chicago went from 10k to 19k in 3 years instead, and this is perhaps the biggest change in selectivity over such a short time span ever - from 35% acceptance rate to 19% acceptance rate in 4 years. Is it really such a big step to go from 19% down to 10% in a decade? Well, yes, frankly, it is a big step. But one in which I think the current admissions office has a very good potential to attain. With Ted O'Neill, I don't think that there was a chance at hell at that happening. With Nondorf, I think it would take an extremely amount of hard work, but I think he could make it happen over the course of a long time.
Of course, you're absolutely right that it's way to early to be making comparisons between Chicago and HYPSM. First comes Columbia, which Chicago is still lagging considerably behind, and it will take a while to catch up. But you can't deny that the admissions office probably has HYPMS in the back of their heads (as is the case with many highly selective universities, I'm sure).
At an expert's hand, a diamond in the rough can finally shine brilliantly, but no amount of polishing and cutting will turn a glass into a diamond.
I give a lot of credit to the faculty, the students themselves past and present, and the myriad of those who worked for a long time in the past to build this institution to be the bedrock of higher learning.
I hope the school does not lose its focus on the intellectual zeal and pursuit for the life of the mind. The day U Chicago starts to admit significant number of athletes and celebrities with seriously sub par intellectual qualifications is the the day I will be sorry to see this institution becoming just like another "luxury brand name goods".