Undergraduate Applications Up By Record 28 Percent
The number of students applying to UConn has risen dramatically this year - from 14,000 in 2002 to 18,000, an increase of 28 percent.
The jump, part of a steady trend at the University since 1995, is the most dramatic increase to date in a single year.
And, since the freshman class of 2003 is set to be the same size as last year's incoming class at the main campus, this year's applicants face greater competition than ever before.
"We admitted 62 percent of applicants last year," says Dolan Evanovich, associate provost for enrollment management, "and this year we're admitting less than 50 percent."
Applications are also up at the regional campuses, with 838 students applying to a regional campus as their first choice, an increase of 20 percent over last year's total of 696.
The growing demand has enabled the University to be more selective. The average SAT score of this year's incoming class is expected to be 16 to 20 points higher than last year's average of 1149, and that will be 57 points higher than in 1996 when the SAT scoring system was recentered.
"Clearly, the bar has been raised," says Evanovich.
Officials attribute the increased interest to a number of reasons - the support of the state through UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn; the success of the Husky athletic teams; and the efforts of the University's academic depart- ments - but the bottom line is value, says James Morales, director of admissions.
"More families and more students are considering what UConn has to offer in light of what they would pay at other schools for double the cost. They're asking if there is value added at those schools, and the answer is no," he says. "UConn has a top quality education to offer at a reasonable cost."
Other contributing factors are the increasing numbers of high school graduates, as the children of the baby boom generation apply to college, and the growing ease of applying online, which may encourage individual students to apply to more colleges.
This year UConn received 4,000 online applications to the Storrs campus alone, compared with a total of 1,300 in 2002. But these factors affect colleges nationwide, and none is reporting growth on the scale of that at UConn.
"It's not uncommon to have a 2 percent, or 5 percent, or 10 percent increase from year to year," says Morales, "but nobody is experiencing a nearly 30 percent growth in just one year, on top of significant growth the previous year."
As admission to UConn becomes more competitive, high school students are starting to send in their applications earlier. Many are applying through the early action program to improve their chances of getting in. As with other selective schools, the class fills early, and just meeting the March 1 application deadline may not be sufficient.
There has been a strong surge of interest from out-of-state students, with a 50 percent jump in applications from outside Connecticut in the past year: 9,400 applications were received in 2003, compared with 6,200 in 2002. Interest was high in states from Maine to Maryland, and even as far afield as California and Minnesota.
Notes Morales, "These students are comparing UConn with schools in their state and finding it very competitive - despite the higher sticker price they have to pay compared with the in-state rate at their own state university."
UConn is also seeing a shift in who its competitors are. Once vying mostly with other New England public universities, the University is now competing for students who are also applying to schools such as Syracuse, Rutgers, Penn State, and the universities of Delaware and Maryland.
"As we become more selective, our rankings go up and our reputation improves," says Chancellor John D. Petersen. "It's an upward spiral."
Although officials had anticipated a rise in applications this year, the actual increase surpassed expectations, posing a challenge for admissions staff. "We were stretched to capacity and beyond," says Morales. But with overtime, temporary help, and staff from other areas pitching in, all the applications were processed on time.
While freshman enrollment at Storrs will remain steady this year, the number of students at the campus will continue to increase, as the larger freshman classes of the past couple of years work their way through the system.
The boom in demand, coinciding with cutbacks in the state budget, is expected to create some challenges for the University.
"Expectations of services are higher at a time when the state's ability to support us is challenged," says Lorraine Aronson, vice president for financial planning and management. "We will need the cooperation of all our faculty, staff, and administrators to continue our momentum. And we will continue to pursue all possible efficiencies in order to provide the services students need."
In addition to applications for freshman admission, UConn is also receiving more transfer applications. The number is up by 300 from last year, a 17 percent increase. The majority of transfer applicants are students from private, four-year institutions.
The University's surging popularity may not be welcomed by everybody. Stiffer competition means some students will not make the cut.
"Many parents and students say they were surprised when a student wasn't accepted," says Morales. "Our response is, 'You shouldn't be surprised. This is a top-notch school, with a competitive pool, and you may or may not get in.'"
Adds Morales, "We tell everyone not to take admission for granted."