Categorized | Culture, Education

College Applications Up Dramatically

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The undergraduate admission office at NYU is housed in an unmarked building on Broadway.  But it is where important decisions are made – well, important to the 42,000 applicants for the class of 2015.  And that’s an increase of 11 percent from last year.  Shawn Abbott is the assistant vice president of NYU’s undergraduate admission.

“We are pretty much at the capacity of what our admission officers can read,” Abbot said. “We have just about 26 admission officers that are responsible for the review of these 42,000 applications.  When the dust settles, we would have hired 3 or 4 additional part-time readers.”

Columbia is facing an even more dramatic increase.  It received more than 34,000 applications this year, a surge by almost a third from the previous year.  The admission office is so swamped that they don’t even have time for an interview.  Bari Norman is a former admission officer at Barnard College and now an independent counselor.

“Even though the economy has slowed, and we would think the interest might go down as a result because these places have pretty hefty price tags on average,” Norman said, “I think almost the sense that a degree from this place is important, or increasingly important in light of the economy, becomes more significant. Hence more applicants come their way.”

But it also got easier technically to apply for Columbia this year because it finally adopted the Common Application: a generic undergraduate application system accepted online by more than 400 colleges in the United States. And Columbia was the last holdout among Ivy League universities.

“The common application is always going to give some sort of a boost,” Norman said.  “You see it in the initial year, and some schools see an even bigger boost in the second year.”

On top of that, financial aid also plays an important factor. Janaye Pohl, a junior from California, chose Columbia over Berkeley for exactly that reason.

“The UC system doesn’t give out a lot of financial aid,” Pohl said. “I would have to end up paying more even though the tuition rate is lower.”

In 2008, Columbia introduced a “no loans” policy.  That means Columbia will make up the difference between the tuition and family contribution with university grants.

“It’s around a thousand or 15 hundred a semester for me, which is like fantastic,” she said.

A fantastic deal indeed.  But for Bari Norman, the independent counselor, her experience tells her ultimately it is the school’s reputation that really matters.

“Columbia will always be a place, so long as the reputation stays as it is,” Norman said.  “It’s an Ivy League school.  The admit rate is very low.  Many people just want what they can’t have. And that would always create the cycle that we have at Columbia and that we have elsewhere. ”

For the 34,000 who applied to Columbia, the chance of getting what they want is getting smaller. Based on previous admission numbers, only about one out of 14 applicants will get in.

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