A quotation in the 19th paragraph of this article was misattributed in an earlier version of this story. Mary Sue Coleman made the statement.
University administrators expect international applications to soar this year, and they’re saying that Michael Phelps might be one of the reasons why.
Provost Teresa Sullivan reported that while the number of undergraduate applications is expected to remain in line with previous years, international freshman and graduate applications have greatly increased. Sullivan said she is concerned with whether admitted students will choose to attend the University.
The largest increases among international applications have been from China and India, she said.
“We really don’t have anything more than some hypotheses about it,” she said.
One possible reason for this increase is Michael Phelps’s success in the Olympics and his appearances in Michigan apparel, University President Mary Sue Coleman said with a laugh at a meeting last month.
“The Michael Phelps hypothesis is an interesting one,” Sullivan said.
The meeting took place before a recent incident involving a photograph that showed Phelps smoking a marijuana pipe.
Sullivan said other possibilities are the University’s “very successful” joint institute in Shanghai or another program that has allowed 70 transfer students to join the College of Engineering.
“One possibility is that they’ve e-mailed people back home and said Michigan is a great place to be,” she said.
Taking into account the increased number of international applications, Sullivan said she is uncertain about whether or not the University will be able to accurately predict this year’s yield. A school’s yield is the percentage of admitted students who actually choose to attend.
“We’re holding the line in the sense that we’re going to admit the number of people that we think will give us the right size class,” Sullivan said. “Because we’re not sure about the yield, we could be wrong about that.”
Each year, schools across the country estimate their yield ratio. They then admit a higher percentage of students than they can accommodate, taking into account that some of the students they admit will not end up attending their school.
Sullivan said the University is not the only college with doubts about this year’s yield.
“The reason we’re uncertain about this is not that we aren’t sophisticated,” she said. “I think if you called any college in the country right now, you’d get a similar answer.”
In recent history, the University has received between 20,000 and 30,000 undergraduate applications from high school seniors. Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 of these applicants are admitted to the University.
Usually less than 50 percent of students admitted to the University choose to attend.
For University administrators charged with balancing each year’s class size, an inaccurate prediction of the yield could drastically affect students’ experiences on campus. Even a 1-percent increase in yield could translate into a surge of approximately 130 more students.
In 2005, the yield spiked, producing a larger incoming class. The large class resulted in a small incoming class in 2006, and more cautious approaches by University administrators.
“Three or four years ago yields went up … more than we expected and so that was this kind of big bulge working its way through the system,” Coleman said. “So we had deliberately decided we were going to be very careful to ratchet back because we didn’t want to have more students than we had the capacity to give this great education to.”
Despite uncertainties about the yield, Sullivan said students should know that the University will use approximately the same standards in making their admissions decisions.
“The word I would give to a high school senior right now is assuming good grades, good test scores, and a reasonable portfolio of other activities, is your odds of getting into Michigan this year are a lot like they were last year,” she said.
Despite the increase a few years ago, Coleman said this year’s number of applications is very similar to last year.
“I feel like we’re about the same as last year,” she said. “There are no big surprises out there, that we’ve seen.”