Folks ask us each and every year something like, “If you had to pick only one school, which school became more difficult to get into this year?” There are some years in which we have to think about it. And there are other years in which the choice is clear. In our opinion, for the 2016-2017 admissions cycle, it was Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois that ramped up its competitiveness more so than any other school.
There is no more comprehensive purveyor of admissions statistics through the years than Ivy Coach. But it’s important to note that admissions statistics — on their own — often don’t paint the full picture. As an example, just because an admission rate at a given university dropped this year…that doesn’t mean it became more difficult to get into that school this year. It means they had more applicants. But more ‘C’ students applying doesn’t make a college more competitive to earn admission to — not that this is the case for every school that boasts a lower admission rate. It’s not. We used an extreme example to belabor our point. But it can sometimes be the case, particularly as colleges become better and better at motivating students — even unqualified ones — to apply in the hope of boosting their all-important “US News & World Report” ranking.
We have a feeling we just inspired a celebratory email circulating around the Northwestern admissions office today. Congratulations to Dean of Admissions Christopher Watson and his team!
Our Northwestern answer has little to do with the university’s number of applicants. It has little to do with the university’s admission rate this year. We are all about data. “Moneyball” is a favorite book of ours. But Mark Twain taught the world about “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Sometimes the real answer sits in the middle of objective data and gut instinct. Northwestern received about 23% more Early Decision applicants this admissions cycle than last year (with international applicants up about 39%). In the Regular Decision round, Northwestern’s admission rate hit a record low — 10.7%. The school received a record total number of applicants — 35,099. So the numbers tell one story. And our gut instinct tells us, in this particular case, that very same story. Northwestern University ramped it up this year. Big time. And, yes, we see you Northwestern admissions officers jumping for joy reading this post as it circulates in your office. Congratulations! And after the Wildcats’ March Madness bid, we anticipate the university will be even more selective next year!