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But Would I Have Gotten In?

This just in from Jason Locke, at Cornell's Undergraduate Admissions Office:

I am pleased to report that the university has experienced another significant increase in applications this year. Doris Davis, Associate Provost for Admissions and Enrollment, recently announced that Cornell University received over 28,000 freshman applications this year. This is a 15% increase from last year and a 35% increase over 2004. We have approximately 3,600 more applications this year than last and approximately 7,000 more applications than in 2004. Early reports indicate that our selection committees are once again pleased with the quality of the applicant pool.

We are hearing the positive buzz about Cornell from all sectors! The word is definitely out about Cornell. We continue to be very aware of the critical role that the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network plays in creating excitement about Cornell in communities across the globe. Thank you.

A 35 percent increase in two years is very impressive and major kudos should be given to the Cornell Admissions Office, the Image Committe, and all of the various other aspects of the University that contributed to this success. However...

... without sounding too skeptical, I might also caution that there are some fairly straightforward explanations for why this large jump in applications occurred.

First, the University is still benefiting from the adoption of the Common Application process. This streamlined application makes it much easier for college seniors to apply to multiple universities by simply checking a list and completing some required, supplemental, college-specific essays.

Second, part of this may be explained by simple demographics. America is approaching the peak-year of the 'post-boom' generation -- the year when the most number of children of the baby boom generation will be graduating from high school and applying for college.

Only after partialing out these effects, the University still has good reason to congratulate itself on its rise in applications.

Still, the true test will be whether or not this increase in applications will amount to qualitative gains for the University -- will the entering class of 2010 be more selective than years past?

In raw percentage terms, yes -- I can't image the acceptance rate being higher than 22 or 23 percent this year, especially if the University starts relying more on early decision applicants to fill its pool.

But, hopefully the entering class will also have a higher yield rate -- indicating a higher affinity for Cornell, as well as higher test scores and class ranks -- indicating that the entering class is actually brighter/smarter than previous years. Increases in these two statistics are the true mark of a university on the rise.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on February 23, 2006 (#)

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