to data released this week, both Harvard and Princeton
universities saw record numbers of applicants for the class of 2011, a stark
departure from the 9.7 percent decrease in applications to Yale.
The number of applications increased by 8 percent from
last year at Princeton, while Harvard's
applicant pool increased 0.7 percent. Two weeks ago, Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel announced that the number of applications to Yale
decreased from last year's record-high of 21,101 to 19,060. Counselors and
admissions consultants offered various theories as to why Yale saw a decline
while Harvard and Princeton did not, but most
agreed that these shifts are due to normal fluctuations in the admissions
received 22,796 applications for the class of 2009, dropped slightly to 22,753
for the class of 2010, and this year, received a record-high 22,920 for the
class of 2011. Princeton received 16,516
applications for the class of 2009, 17,478 for the class of 2010, and 18,891
for the class of 2011.
Brenzel said he does not believe it is useful to examine yearly
changes in the number of students applying to top schools.
think it is a mistake to look for a cause in year to year changes in
application numbers," he said. "There are simply too many variables and too
much random variation."
fall, when early applications to Yale decreased by 13 percent, Brenzel suggested several reasons for the decline,
including a response to last year's Ivy League record-low acceptance rate and
the publicity Harvard and Princeton received
in September for their decisions to eliminate early admissions next year. Yale
announced in January that it would retain its single-choice early action option
for the next year. In addition, the University decided not to include hard
copies of applications in packets mailed to prospective students this year,
which may have been a factor in the number of students who chose to apply.
year, Yale accepted 8.6 percent of applicants, while Harvard accepted 9.3 percent
and Princeton accepted 10.2 percent.
counselors echoed Brenzel's theories, saying Princeton may be increasingly seen as an appealing and
realistic option for students worried about their chances of getting into Yale.
Slattery, a college counselor at the Harvard-Westlake
School in Los Angeles, Calif.,
said there is a tendency for applicants to stop applying when they simply
believe they do not have a chance of acceptance.
perception that people might have may be due to Yale having the lowest
acceptance rate in the Ivies," she said. "Perhaps kids have the perception that
it's the most challenging place to get into and that would deter them."
Hughes, president of the college admissions counseling firm Road to College and
a senior admissions officer at Harvard from 1995 to 2000, said Princeton may have become more popular with applicants
because of recent efforts to increase ethnic and socioeconomic diversity among
its student body. Although Yale and Harvard have also improved their financial
aid policies in recent years, he said, Princeton's
image has always lagged among the Big Three due to perceptions that the school
is overly homogeneous, and these recent efforts likely helped to counter this
year, Harvard announced it would eliminate the parental contribution for
students from families with annual incomes below $60,000 and reduce the
parental contribution for students from families earning between $60,000 and
$80,000 a year. In March 2006, Yale eliminated the parental contribution for
students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for families
earning between $45,000 and $60,000 per year. Last year, 55 percent of Princeton's incoming class received some form of the
university's need-based, no-loan financial aid.
said the media attention surrounding Harvard and Princeton's
decisions to eliminate their early admissions programs likely generated
positive publicity for the two schools. In addition, students following
acceptance trends were probably irrationally discouraged from applying to Yale.
are making macro-assessments and saying, 'I have a 1 percent better chance at
Harvard and Princeton so I'll apply there,'"
school students said Princeton was seen to be
more attractive this year in part because of Harvard and Yale's selectivity.
Stephanie Martin, a senior at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts,
said her classmates at Andover have increasingly
seen Princeton as a more realistic goal.
feel like some people were more intimidated by Harvard and Yale this year, and
I think the perception is that fewer people apply there in general, so they
thought less competition from other Andover
students would be a good way to sneak into a top Ivy,"
counselors said even 10 percent shifts in application numbers mean little
unless they are part of a larger, long-term trend.
Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College
Admission Counseling, said it is not unusual for application numbers to
fluctuate. For example, Harvard's applications actually decreased for the class
of 2010 from the year before.
the level that we're dealing with in terms of caliber of students,
attentiveness to the admissions process and their knowledge of it, as well as
advice from their helpers, may have had some role in [these changes]," he said.
"But I think the bulk of it can be attributed to the volatility of the
over the next few years would be worth examining, said Amy Sack, president of
the college admissions consulting firm Admissions Accomplished.
the trend continues next year for Yale and doesn't for the other schools, then
I might think something else is going on," she said. "But after a
record-breaking year, it wouldn't be unusual for applications to Yale to go
the other Ivies for which statistics are available saw increases in their
Columbia University received 21,303 applications for
their Class of 2011, a 7.3 percent increase over last year. Brown University
reported a rise of 3.8 percent, for a total of 18,951 applications. Cornell's
pool increased by 7.5 percent to 30,191, and University of Pennsylvania Dean of
Admissions Lee Stetson said Penn received approximately 22,500 applications,
marking a 10 percent increase. Dartmouth
College does not release
its numbers until it announces how many students it accepted.