Early Applications Surge

Nicholas Joy

November 18, 2005

More international, minority students apply; all four undergraduate schools see big increases

Applications for early admission to Penn rose dramatically this year, officials announced yesterday.

The University received 4,148 undergraduate applications to the Class of 2010, a 21 percent increase from last year’s 3,420.

All four schools saw an increase in applications.

“I sensed during the fall that we would be seeing an increase,” Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson said. “Needless to say, these are … record numbers for Penn.”

Stetson expects students admitted early to make up about 47 percent of the Class of 2010, a number similar to that of previous years.

Under Penn’s early-decision policy, students apply by Nov. 1 and find out if they have been accepted, rejected or deferred a month and a half later. By applying early decision, students commit to attending the University if accepted.

Penn was among the first of its peer universities to release early-application data. While Harvard officials would not release their university’s numbers, The Harvard Crimson reported that “nearly 4,000 students” applied to the university early, marking a slight decrease from 2004. Columbia University reported a 5.5 percent increase, with 2,275 students applying to Columbia College and engineering school, according to the Columbia Spectator.

Penn received a record number of applications from 26 of the 46 states represented in the applicant pool, including 352 applicants from California, compared to 241 last year, 96 from Texas, up from 86, and 10 from Kentucky, up from five.

Applications from members of racial minorities increased from 1,143 to 1,605, with the number of Latinos increasing from 149 to 201, Asians submitting 1,219 applications, up from 858, and applications from blacks rising from 128 to 176.

Legacy applicants submitted 590 applications, up from 523 for the Class of 2009.

Despite worries that antiterrorism laws would decrease the number of applicants from abroad, 534 applied early this year, as compared to 391 last year.

While Stetson said that the increase in students applying early is not necessarily indicative of how many students will apply during the regular-decision process, he called the numbers a “very fine start.”

Stetson believes that the rise in applicants is due in part to the University’s recent recognition in national publications, such as the Kaplan College Guide’s naming Penn the “Hottest for Happy-to-Be-There” school.

“I think Penn’s visibility has been rising,” Stetson said.

He added that Penn’s many specific and cross-disciplinary academic programs may also be a key factor.

Aliza Kempner, an early applicant and senior at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, agreed.

“Penn seems to grab our attention with some of the outstanding programs,” Kempner said, adding that she is interested in the Communication program at the Annenberg School.

However, Kempner added that Penn’s reputation for taking a large percentage of its students from the early pool factored into her decision to apply early.

“I knew Penn was my first choice for a really long time,” Kempner said. “So to some degree, it was strategic.”

Penn has relied heavily on early-decision applicants to fill its classes as a way of boosting its yield rate, since students accepted early must attend, according to college counselor Jeannie Borin.

Bev Taylor, an independent college counselor and creator of theivycoach.com, also emphasized this aspect of Penn’s admissions.

“If you’re going to apply to Penn, apply early,” Taylor said. Many prospective students “love [Penn], but they know that they don’t have a shot regular-decision.”

The selection committee will begin reviewing applications on Nov. 28, and its decisions will be available starting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 14.