Northwestern’s acceptance rate hits record low at 10.7 percent

Dan Waldman, Reporter

Northwestern’s acceptance rate dropped once again this year, with the University only admitting 10.7 percent of applicants.

NU accepted 2,690 students to the class of 2020 from the Regular Decision pool last week, adding to the 1,061 students the University admitted through Early Decision. The University’s admissions rate declined 2.3 percentage points from last year, marking the seventh consecutive year the acceptance rate has dropped.

Along with its historically low admissions rate, NU also set a new record for total number of applications received with 35,099 — an increase of roughly 9.5 percent over last year’s total.

Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions, said the University accepted about half as many students through Regular Decision as it did five or six years ago. He said this class was one of the most qualified application pools ever, and the smaller freshman class — which will shrink from 2,025 students to 1,925 students for the Class of 2020 — forced the University to make challenging decisions.

“The academic quality is just phenomenal,” Watson said. “We had some very difficult choices to make because of that. We could have admitted several other classes just based on the quality of the students we couldn’t admit, but it was for just lack of room.”

University spokesman Al Cubbage said having a smaller freshman class size allows the University to allocate more resources to each student, providing a better first-year experience.

Cubbage said during the past few years, the University has overshot its 2,025-student benchmark, resulting in a larger-than-expected freshman class.

“This is an effort to make sure we’re at the size that we feel is ideal,” he said.

Following Early Decision admissions, the University had already filled more than half of its incoming class. NU also admitted a record number of international and Chicago Public Schools students during Early Decision.

Watson said after the Regular Decision process, the University either broke or nearly broke the record for the most international students accepted in a class, and NU did set a new mark for Chicago Public Schools students accepted.

But Watson said the main focus during the application process was making NU more inclusive.

“We certainly were focused heavily on — with all of the initiatives — recruiting … students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Watson said. “We did, despite one of the lowest Regular Decision admit numbers, admit a record number of Pell-eligible students.”

In early March, University President Morton Schapiro announced new financial aid initiatives, including eliminating student loans for incoming undergraduate students. Schapiro said the number of Pell-eligible students had increased to about 15 percent for last fall’s incoming class and he wants to increase that number further to 20 percent for the Class of 2020.

Watson said the new policy played a part in the application process, and allowed NU to admit more students who are eligible to receive Pell Grants.

“(The new policy) does definitely coincide with our initiatives to recruit more lower socioeconomic students, and to make Northwestern a more attractive University,” Watson said. “So that these students, these families, aren’t scared off by the price tag.”

Josh McKenzie, director of first year experience at New Student and Family Programs, said next year’s Wildcat Welcome will revert back to eight days. Last year, it lasted 10 days because Rosh Hashanah fell in the middle of orientation.

Shane McKeon contributed reporting.

Twitter: @Dan_Waldman