International Applicant Numbers

International Applicants, Foreign Applicants, Foreign College Applicants

We forecasted after the election of President Trump that undergraduate international applicant numbers would remain strong at our nation’s most selective universities — in spite of his anti-immigrant rhetoric. We stand by this forecast.

There was a piece in “The New York Times” yesterday by Stephanie Saul that focused on the impact of the Trump presidency on the wave of international applicants coming to American universities. In the piece entitled “Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants,” Saul writes about how nearly 40% of U.S. universities — of the 250 schools reporting to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers — have indicated they’ve received fewer international applications this year, notably from the Middle East.

But as Mark Twain taught us: “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s not that this figure isn’t true. We’re confident in this reporting, but the figure masks an important fact — many highly selective U.S. universities are actually reporting increases in undergraduate applicants this year rather than declines. Indeed many of these declines are the case for graduate school programs rather than for undergraduate admissions. And many of these declines are at universities that are not among the most highly selective in America.

As Saul reports, “Graduate schools appear to be feeling the worst pinch, with nearly half reporting drops. ‘Our deans describe it as a chilling effect,’ said Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools…Slumping graduate school applications can now be seen at universities ranging from giant Big Ten public universities like Ohio State and Indiana University to regional programs such as Portland State, with just over 27,000 students, including more than 1,900 international students. At Indiana University, international applications for undergraduate programs increased 6 percent, but graduate applications for some programs are posting big drops, said David Zaret, vice president for international affairs.”

Shortly after the election of President Trump, we forecasted — with the help of our famous crystal ball — that highly selective universities in the United States would not, contrary to the forecasts of many, see declines in undergraduate applications from international applicants. We forecasted that international applicant numbers would remain strong. As we await word from some of our nation’s most elite institutions on their Regular Decision admissions figures, we stand by our forecast. Yesterday’s piece in “The New York Times” focuses primarily on less selective American schools and on graduate programs. Let’s wait to see the data on international applicants coming out of America’s most highly selective universities in the weeks ahead.

Have a question about international applicant numbers? Post your question below and we’ll be sure to write back.


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  • Eugene says:

    We will not see big changes this year because most of the international applicants already in the middle of the applications process or already submitted for some EA/ED when 2016 election finished on November 8. For year 2018, we will see a much more clear picture in this fall. The question is not whether the numbers of international applications will go down or not. It will be going down how many, 10% or 20%…

    For those most selective colleges, the absolute number of applicants can be still big in terms of how many students can be admitted, so it will not have much impact for the admission rate on international students. However, there is no doubt we will see a big negative impact on international students applications in coming fall. I hope I will be wrong but…

    • Ivy Coach says:

      We disagree, Eugene. You can’t state with certainty — as you did — that it is not a question that the number of international applications will go down next year. Nobody can state that with certainty. And indeed we predict that the number of international applications won’t drop significantly. But that’s just our prediction…not a certainty.

      • Eugene says:

        I am sorry if I sounds too certain. It should just a predication based on recent information. Early indication start to show some international families are already looking other countries and drop some pre-arrangements to apply US colleges.

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