Incoming Freshman Class Largest In University History

By Katie RessmeyerThe Daily Northwestern

Don’t be surprised if it seems as though freshmen are everywhere this year. With 2,071 students starting at Northwestern University this fall, the incoming class is the largest in NU’s history.

The increase comes as a result of a 13 percent rise in applicants from the year before, the largest increase since 2004. Despite NU’s growing popularity, the Admissions Office accepted the same percentage of students in 2006 as in the previous year, about 30 percent. Additionally, about 40 percent of admitted students enrolled at NU in both 2005 and 2006.

The biggest increase came in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, which is enrolling about 80 more students than in 2005.

Each of the other schools maintained a similar size.

“Compared to some of our peer institutions, our entering freshman class size has been quite stable,” said Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment.

The target number for incoming freshmen is set by the provost’s office. Many factors are assessed, including the size of both the preceding class and the graduating class, as well as financial considerations.

“The overarching principle is to enroll a freshman class that will result in the best experience for our students,” Mills said.

Part of that experience is housing, which was easily assigned to the large freshman class, said Mark D’Arienzo, associate director of undergraduate housing administration.

“We have experience in doing this before,” D’Arienzo said. “It came as no surprise.”

To accommodate the Class of 2010, more double rooms were reserved for freshmen in the most popular dorms, such as Allison Hall and Bobb Hall.

Although many upperclassmen were initially placed on the waiting list for housing, most were later put in the dorm of their choice after freshmen were assigned housing, D’Arienzo said.

According to Mills, the Admissions Office does not plan to continue increasing the size of incoming classes, but it is expecting an even larger number of applications in coming years due to NU’s adoption of the Common Application.

The decision to accept the Common Application was based on the benefits it would bring to applying high school seniors and to the university, Mills said.

“Everything is easier with a large applicant pool,” Mills said. “We can be more discriminating.”

Mills said he expects the acceptance rate to decrease as the number of applicants continues to increase.

But while a low acceptance rate is a key component in judging the selectivity of a school, a large applicant pool could fill a more pertinent need: a more diverse freshman class.

“Other highly selective schools who’ve joined the Common Application have seen an increase in applications from first-generation college students, international students and students from low-income families,” Mills said. “We hope that this will be our experience as well.”

Reach Katie Ressmeyer at [email protected]