What spike in applications means for Northwestern

Jenn Suh

For Northwestern’s Office of Undergraduate Admission, a surge in the number of applications it received this year is a “happy problem,”according to Dean of Students Burgwell Howard.

NU has received 30,529 applications for the class of 2015 thus far, a 10.5 percent increase from last year, and a few more are still expected to trickle in. The spike in applications – NU received nearly twice as much this year as five years ago – may result in a record low admission rate of less than 20 percent, according to University officials.

The administration’s efforts to publicize NU and recruit more students through college fairs and admission-related publication materials may be one of the principal reasons for the increase, said Christopher Watson, the dean of undergraduate admissions.

“We certainly expanded our outreach,” Watson said.

Associated Student Government President Claire Lew listed “outreach to Chicago public schools” and “an effort to increase student happiness” as some of the other possible reasons for the increase. NU also offered the new “Good Neighbor, Great University” Scholarship Program this year, which offers aid of up to $7,500 for Evanston- and Chicago-area students by eliminating the student loan and work study portions of the financial aid package, said NU Ambassadors Program coordinator Bradley Akubuiro.

Technology may have been another prominent factor in the increase. NU became a member of the Common Application during the 2007-2008 school year, causing an ongoing rise in applications.

“It’s far easier to file 10 applications online than the time when I had to use a typewriter and do individual apps,” Howard said.

Other institutions have seen similar increases in application numbers after instituting the Common App.

“Columbia joined this year and they were up tremendously,” said Michael Mills, the associate provost for university enrollment.

While NU’s admissions office did make an extra effort to attract high-caliber candidates, the increase in the number of applications seemed to be a general pattern across the nation this year.

Mills also said the number of applications at all of NU’s competitors have risen in what appears to be a national trend.

As a result of the spike in the number of applications, NU’s admissions office hired an additional full time staff member and part-time application evaluators.

The admission process will be much tougher for the class of 2015, Watson said.

“It certainly means that we’re going to be much more selective this year,” he said. “The acceptance rate will be below 20 percent for the first time ever.”

Along with a 25 percent increase in the number of Early Decision applicants, a large number of applications means there are more students who really want to attend and thrive at NU, Watson said.

If rising application rates continue, Mills said NU could benefit from more racial and socioeconomic diversity on campus, perhaps a result of a larger applicant pool with more financial aid offers from scholarships like GNGU.

Akubuiro hopes to expand the outreach programs for students of underrepresented populations.

“I would like to see expansion of the program within the next few years, reaching out to the Midwest and urban areas across the country,” the Medill senior said.

Though more applicants means more work for the admissions office, NU is happy to have higher numbers.

“There would be bleary eyeballs reading all the essays,” Howard said. “NU is just a super hot school because we blend the best elements.”

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