Hoping to reverse last year’s precipitous drop in applications, the University has cause for optimism this year. So far, with the application deadline just over a week away, it has received more applications overall and from underrepresented minorities than it had by this time last year.The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has received 18,561 applications as of Jan. 17 — a 13 percent increase from last year. The office has received 1,420 from underrepresented minority students, a 10.5 percent increase from the same date last year. Admissions staffers would not release information on what specific minority groups saw an increase but said the numbers were consistent across racial lines.First-year applications from international students also rose 13.7 percent from last year, despite continual restrictions placed on immigration and shaky world opinion of the United States. “We’re certainly on track to receive more applications this year than last year,” Director of Undergraduate Admissions Ted Spencer said. “Right now, it looks like we are doing better than we were last year, and that’s about all that you can assess from the data that we have right now,” he added.Last year, the University received a total of 21,293 applications, a number that was 4,650 less than the year before. Before that year, the number of applications received had been rising steadily. The University had also received 25 percent fewer applications from black students last year. Administrators hope that last year was an outlier in admissions trends.“These are things that we have not seen in the past,” Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, has said about last year’s numbers. This year’s numbers, Spencer said, should follow the trend of increasing applications seen in the years previous to last year. From 2001 to 2003, the University received over 24,000 applications each year. So to return to those trends, the University would have to collect about 6,000 applications in the next few days.Whether that will happen is difficult to gauge. Likening admissions season to tax season, Spencer noted that many applications come in on the last day before the deadline. “We don’t know what that trend may be,” he said. “I think the good news is that it’s up.”The University is not alone in its desire to rebound from a steep decline in minority applications. After the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court cases rejecting the University’s point system but affirming the principle of affirmative action, several schools of comparable size saw a similar drop in minority enrollment. Ohio State University saw a 31 percent drop over two years in black enrollment, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The University of California at Berkeley saw a 23 percent drop from one year before the cases to one year after.But other schools that admit similar numbers of black and Hispanic students saw sizable increases of 10 percent or more, including the universities of Florida and Maryland.Most schools are still trying to figure out why the drops occurred, though a few theories exist. One attributes the drop to the affirmative action court cases, suggesting that media reports might have deterred students from applying. Some prospective applicants might have perceived the University as unwelcoming to minorities — even though, as Spencer noted, the University was defending the principle of diversity and the use of race in college admissions.“We do want them to understand that we are welcoming and that we’re not placing barriers for them to get into the university,” Spencer said. For that reason, the University mounted an education campaign to try to woo more high school students into applying. Some also speculate that the new application — adopted because the point system was declared unconstitutional — deterred some from applying. The application most notably features more essays than the previous one, and some have theorized that low-income parents are less likely than affluent ones to help with the essays.

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