Application numbers rise by 10 percent

Sheila Burt

More than 15,000 students, including the largest number of Latino and foreign students ever, applied to Northwestern this year — a 10 percent overall increase from last year and the highest total since 1997, a university official said Thursday.

Enrollment officials are reviewing 15,575 applications to date, almost 1,000 more than last year, Associate Provost for University Enrollment Rebecca Dixon said.

Close to 800 Latino students and close to the same number of black students applied this year, Dixon added. More than 800 foreign students also applied.

“I attribute the increase in applications to the growing visibility of Northwestern,” Dixon said. “That’s something the administration has worked on consciously for years.”

The university hopes to have about 1,925 individuals in the undergraduate Class of 2008, Dixon said. The target number was lowered to compensate for the unusually large number of applicants who accepted NU’s invitation in 2002. Officials always accept more applicants than they anticipate will come to the school.

Prospective student Mary Kate Slattery of Los Angeles said the increase in applicants makes her “a little nervous.”

“But I know that if it’s the right place for me, I’ll be accepted and I’ll go there,” said Slattery, who applied regular decision. She was attracted to NU because of its location near Chicago and its literature program.

The growth in regular-decision applications follows this year’s 18.2 percent increase in early decision applicants. The office received nearly 1,112 early decision applications, which were included in the 15,575 total, Dixon said.

This year’s tally trails NU’s record high by about 1,000 applications. The university received 16,674 applications in 1997, following the football team’s appearance in the Rose Bowl.

Emily Swallow, a prospective student from Denver, said she doesn’t find the increase surprising because students are applying to a wider pool of colleges. She said her friends applied to an average of 10 schools.

Swallow, who participated in NU’s National High School Institute program in journalism, applied to six schools herself and said NU is her top choice.

“It’s getting more competitive to get into top colleges,” said Swallow, adding that students want to ensure they are accepted to at least one of their choices.

This year’s increase in applications follows a slight decrease last year, when the university received 14,137 applications — close to a 1 percent drop from 2002.

Dixon said fluctuations in applications occur, but this year’s jump is quite high — even if the increase cannot be attributed to one factor.

She said a greater number of students — almost 20 percent more than last year — applied online. Students also reported higher Scholastic Assessment Test scores.

The number of this year’s applicants could grow higher as admissions officials find application materials that end up in the wrong office or get lost in the shuffle, Dixon said.