Admissions swamped with 6,000 first-year applications

By Kyle Coombs

Macalester’s Admissions Office received 6,029 applications for first-year admission this year, marking the second year in a row the school has received over 6,000 applications. Last year held a record high of 6,111 applications. “While application totals often fluctuate up and down on a yearly basis, over the last fifteen years applications to Macalester have steadily increased,” Director of Admissions Jeff Allen wrote in an e-mail. In 1998, he noted, the Admissions Office received just 2,886 applications for first-year admission. Allen wrote that this steady growth can be tied to two factors: “Macalester’s strength and position on the marketplace” and “specific efforts within Admissions and Financial Aid to recruit prospective students.” Allen noted that new buildings like the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC), Leonard Center and the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center renovations offer visible evidence of a “continued commitment to internationalism, competitive athletics and wellness programs and the fine arts, conveying the message that Mac continues to innovate and expand on its strengths.” Allen wrote that applicants make a connection between these strong programs and the Macalester commitment to offer a liberal arts education that places special emphasis on internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement. “To a certain extent, applications to Mac demonstrate that the college is healthy with a mission that is alive and well,” he wrote. Allen wrote that the general support and health of the Macalester community help make the second factor concerning the actions and efforts of the Admissions and Financial Aid Offices more successful. “In Admissions, within a calendar year, we continue to host thousands of prospective students on campus, visit hundreds of high schools each year and organize other activities, often collaborating with many campus community members, to whom we owe our thanks,” he said. Additionally, these offices are constantly looking to innovate and apply new strategies. According to Allen, a prime example is the revision of the Macalester publications and redevelopment of the Macalester website a few years ago, two platforms which “work well together and reinforce the college’s main messages.” However, this increase in applications is not unique to Macalester. Over the last 15 years many liberal arts colleges like Macalester have experienced similar increases in applications as it has become easier and less expensive to apply to multiple schools. “Because it is now much easier for applicants to apply to colleges through online tools like the Common Application, and because many institutions waive application fees, it is now common for students to submit seven or 11 or 20 applications.” Allen said that an increase in applications will not cause an increase in the size of the incoming Class of 2016. The size of that class depends on the number of admitted students who decide to enroll by the national reply deadline on May 1. “We’re in the middle of that work right now,” he wrote. “[We’re] selecting the admitted students from the many qualified applicants in the pool.”