Admissions, prospective students react to increased difficulty of acceptance at NU

Sean Lavery

Northwestern’s acceptance rate plummeted from 23.1 percent to 18 percent this year after the school admitted only 5,575 out of 30,975 applicants.

Associate Provost Michael Mills said the admissions process was “an unpleasant means to an end” this year, with the end being “the best class the University could have in the fall.” He said the more competitive acceptance rate reflects a trend that is likely to continue in the coming years.

“Nobody is happy about rejecting more people,” Mills said. “Nobody is jumping up and down. We don’t take that lightly.”

Mills said the University had to guard against a higher-than-anticipated yield after almost 3 percent more students matriculated than expected for the class of 2014, when NU accepted 23.1 percent of applicants.

“We are completely jazzed about what the class could be like,” he said. “And we have a nice wait list we can dip into if we decide we need to.”

Wooster School senior Huston Julian found himself on the wait list this year after official decisions were released. The Danbury, Conn., native said he was looking for a school that was academically challenging, but still provided a good social scene.

“I would guess it’s a more competitive year. All the letters I received cited a strong applicant pool,” Julian said. “The qualified kids may not have gotten into Ivies, but they got into very good schools otherwise.”

Julian was rejected in the early decision round from Harvey Mudd College, which left him scrambling to find second options. He said he really enjoys NU’s campus and found the academics to be “solid.” He has decided to pursue the wait list in hopes of garnering an acceptance into the McCormick School of Engineering.

High school senior David Zheng, who attends Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind., said his acceptance caught him off guard.

“I thought decisions were supposed to be sent on that Friday, but they were actually sent Thursday, ” Zheng said. “One of my friends who also applied texted me to tell me that Northwestern’s decisions were up.”

Zheng applied to 10 schools and indicated that NU’s U.S. News & World Report ranking made the school more competitive in his mind. He has tentatively committed himself to matriculating, and has been accepted to the Honors Program in Medical Education, guaranteeing admission to the Feinberg School of Medicine upon graduation.

Mills said the admission rate would likely continue to drop in the near future. He said the low acceptance rate has not deterred prospective students from applying.

“The reality is, in our competitive set, 18 percent is pretty generous,” he said. “With so many schools entering the single digits, NU still looks like a safety school to some students.”

Several of NU’s peer institutions accepted similar, or lower, percentages this year. The University of Chicago accepted 15.83 percent of applicants, Washington University in St. Louis accepted 15.4 percent and Duke University accepted 12.59 percent.

Julian said he is glad to have some options after a very competitive year.

“I’ve kept it out of my mind as much as possible,” he said. “Some of the less qualified students have found it very hard to get in anywhere.”

Mills confirmed his excitement about a “very qualified” field of potential students for the class of 2015.

“We think we’re going to have a great class,” he said.

[email protected]