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Higher Ed in the News

Raining applications

November 9, 2010

Each year, selective universities tout their application totals, along with the credentials of their applicants. For this fall's freshman class, the statistics reached record levels.

The biggest boast came from the University of California at Los Angeles. In a news release, UCLA said its accepted students had "demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their lives." Citing its record 57,670 applications, the university proclaimed itself "the most popular campus in the nation."

Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called "simply amazing," and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff "deeply impressed and at times awed." Nine percent were admitted.

Although the tension between mission and marketing has long defined admissions, many believe the balance has tilted too far toward marketing.

Today's application inflation is a cause and symptom of the uncertainty in admissions. As application totals soar, colleges struggle to predict yield—the number of admitted students who actually attend—leading to longer wait lists and other competitive enrollment tactics. Students hedge against the plummeting admissions rates by flooding the system with even more applications.


Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.