First-year applications reach all-time high of 4,940

By Kristin Riegel

Since 1996, the number of first-year applications for Macalester has steadily increased from under 3,000 to almost 5,000 per year.
This year, the Admissions Office received an all-time high of first-year applications at 4,940, a four-percent increase from last year’s record of 4,752 applications. The number of early decision applications has also increased from 213 last year to 228 this year. The steady increase is reflective of a trend in colleges and universities nationally.
While some other institutions have responded to this by adjusting their admissions process in ways such as eliminating early decision programs, Macalester has chosen to keep it in place.
Last year, Harvard announced it would eliminate early decision for students applying in the fall of 2007. According to the Harvard University Gazette, this action coincides with Harvard’s efforts to increase admissions to students of all backgrounds. Harvard interim President Derek Bok has said that early decision serves as an advantage to already privileged students.

Despite Harvard’s decision to eliminate early decision, Lorne Robinson, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, said that Macalester has no intention to change its current policy.
“Our early decision pool has never been a particularly wealthy or elite group,” Robinson said. “We haven’t had the same problem that Harvard has. Early decision suits Mac students well, and many of our early decision students receive financial aid.”

Robinson also added that East Coast colleges and universities usually accept between 40 to 50 percent of their students through early decision. Macalester has typically only accepted between 15 to 25 percent of the total admitted students through early decision.
Despite the increase in first-year applications, Robinson cautions that data from this year and last year is not entirely comparable because of a new application software being used in the Admissions Office. The new software allows applications to be entered electronically more quickly. Because of this, it might seem as though there is a more dramatic increase in applications compared to last year, since the applications have been processed faster until now, Robinson said.

“Generally, I think students are applying to more colleges,” he added.
Robinson attributes the increase in Macalester applications to a number of factors.
“Macalester is a better college than it was 40 years ago,” he said. “It has better name-recognition, and there have been some nice articles in national magazines.”

“First and foremost we are looking for good students, good community members who bring different perspectives. We are always looking for a little bit of everything to make a well-rounded class,” Robinson said.

Over the past several years, Macalester has seen an increase in the geographic diversity of its applicants. California is now second only to Minnesota for number of admitted students. Lorne has noted an increase in the number of applications from the West Coast, the Southwest and New York, while the South remains the most underrepresented region.
Despite more geographic diversity, Robinson said that the Admissions Office does not base its decisions on a quota system where applicants are given preference based on where they are from.

Robinson attributes the increase in applications from various regions of the United States in part to more aggressive marketing in these areas on part of the Admissions Office.