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April 2, 2010

Acceptance rate falls by one third, reaching record low of 18 percent

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The University of Chicago accepted 18 percent of applicants for the class of 2014, a record low that comes months after the University saw one of its largest jumps in applicants.

Of the 19,370 applicants—a 42 percent increase—3,560 were offered a spot at the University. Last year, 26.8 percent of applicants were accepted.

While this is the lowest acceptance rate the University has seen, University officials aren’t focusing on numbers, according to University spokesperson Sara Olkon. “The overall goal is to make sure that everyone who could contribute to and benefit from the distinctive academic culture here is encouraged to apply. That’s more important than any specific number or comparison to other institutions,” Olkon said.

The 42 percent increase in applicants reported in January was “eye-popping,” according to one education expert, and caused a stir in national media. Admissions officials have cited an array of factors contributing to the jump, including a new marketing campaign instituted last year, which included targeted e-mails on topics in which students expressed interest. The campaign also included traditional methods, like an increase in mailings to students.

The University also joined the Common Application in time for the previous crop of applicants. In its first year, there was a 1 percent decrease in the admissions rate, but the increased accessibility of the unified application may have contributed to this year’s jump, University officials said. Admissions officials have also described the “Obama factor,” which has created a higher profile for both the U of C and Hyde Park, contributing to the name recognition of the University.

Recent quality-of-life improvements at the U of C may also have drawn more students than in the past, officials said. Study abroad programs have been expanded in recent years, and a number of new buildings on campus make space for both academic and extracurricular pursuits.

The lower acceptance rate is part of a decades-long trend. In 1993, 77 percent of applicants were accepted; 38.5 percent of students were accepted for the Class of 2010, more than double that of the Class of 2014.

Admissions rates have decreased across the board this year as more students are applying to colleges than ever before.However, the U of C’s admission rate is still higher than that of its peers, which have also grown more selective. The University of Pennsylvania admitted 14 percent, down three percent from 17 percent last year. Harvard and Stanford’s admission rates dropped a few decimal points as well, landing at 6.9 and 7.2 percent, respectively.

According to the administration, the admissions office isn’t aiming to match admissions statistics of the Ivy Leagues. “I just want to reach out to every scholar in the country and let them make the decision if they’re a good fit,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jim Nondorf said earlier this year.

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