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Does Chicago Have a Problem?

The only other major school to suffer a significant drop in total applications this year that has come to our attention is the University of Chicago (-9.5%). Alert readers have written in to ask why.

First of all, let’s compare the recent application figures for Dartmouth and Chicago:

Chicago Dartmouth Totals Apps Comp.jpg

Dartmouth’s 14% decline in applications this year dropped the College back to where it was in 2010 (Class of 2014); in contrast, Chicago’s 9.5% decline still had it 42% above the number of applications for the Class of 2014.

In addition, early decision applications at Dartmouth have varied only marginally over the past six years; whereas early action applications at Chicago continued their unbroken, six-year run of increases this year (almost tripling in this time period):

Chicago Dartmouth Early Applicants.jpg

Explanation? The folks in Chicago talked about glitches in the Common App this past fall as having hurt their total application numbers. Like Dartmouth, they delayed closing the application period as a result. That rationale is nonsense, of course. There is no reason why the Common App’s problems affected Chicago to this extent, when they did not affect other schools, including Illinois schools like Northwestern.

The more likely reason is simply that the Chicago numbers saw a momentary pullback after a fantastic rise, which people in the Windy City attribute to the hiring in 2010 of superstar admissions director Jim Nondorf and to his energetic efforts to market the university. None of the articles in the Maroon cited scandals or policy changes in Hyde Park.

In contrast Dartmouth’s admissions charts look different: they point to a school that has been dead in the water for a while now, beset by problems that are particular to it.

Addendum: The evolution of the total number of applications received by Chicago and Dartmouth is striking. Chicago has 5,607 undergrads and Dartmouth has 4,276 — a difference of 31%. Chicago received 43% more applications last year than Dartmouth (27,499 vs. 19,235). More interestingly, looking at the above charts, it appears that Chicago and Dartmouth received about the same number of applications five years ago (even though Chicago had many more students then, too), but since that time Chicago has pulled ahead of the College. Like almost everything else in Hanover, our admissions department needs some shaking up.

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