An across-the-board decrease in undergraduate applications to
the University this year may have been caused by reluctance on the
part of high school students to write the extra essays included in
the new application, according to a preliminary admissions
report.

The LSA application, which the University implemented at the
beginning of this school year after the U.S. Supreme Court forced
it to discard its point-based, race-conscious policies, includes a
set of three essays designed so that applicants provide more
information about their backgrounds.

While the current admissions cycle is not yet over, preliminary
data released by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions indicate
significant drops this year in applications. The number of total
applications received as of March 30 was 18 percent lower than the
number received by the same date last year, and applications from
underrepresented minorities decreased 20 percent over the same
period.

The number of accepted students meanwhile dropped 3.5 percent,
while minority admissions decreased 11 percent.

According to a background report on undergraduate admissions
released by the administration, the new application’s
extensive essay portion may have discouraged some students from
applying to the University. The administration reasons because the
new application is relatively time-intensive, students for whom the
University was not a first- or second-choice school may have
decided that the added effort was not worth their time. According
to the report, this speculation was based on discussions between
University staff and high school counselors.

Melissa Pierce, a guidance counselor at Grosse Pointe North High
School, estimated that applications to the University this year
from her students have dropped 10 to 20 percent. She noted that
some students didn’t have the patience to fill out the new
essays.

“There were students who chose not to fill out the
application because they felt it was too hard to fill out, or they
were concerned about how their essays would be rated,” Pierce
said. “It’s a difficult application.”

Counseling staff at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School
& Academy also reported a 14 percent drop in applications to
the University this year, based on a Jan. 5 preliminary report from
the University’s admissions office. Lynn Rinke, the college
counseling secretary at that school, said the report indicated that
67 of its students had applied to the University as of Jan. 5,
compared to 78 by the same date last year.

But despite the declining numbers, University officials maintain
that the group of students applying to the University remains just
as strong as in previous years.

Prospective students who are likely to attend the University
seem to be largely unaffected by the new application. According to
the background admissions report, paid enrollment deposits have
increased slightly since last year. In addition, this year’s
enrollment for Campus Day — a spring tour of University
facilities which according to the report is attended by the
students who are most likely to enroll — is currently running
at 97 percent of last year’s number, which was the highest in
the University’s history.

Nancy Siegel, a guidance counselor at Millburn High School in
New Jersey, said she sees “better than 20 applications a
year” to the University, and that the new application has not
affected that number.

“Kids at Millburn consider Michigan a public Ivy,”
Siegel said. “(The new application) certainly doesn’t
have any effect on them at all.”

Still, the University’s report concedes that
administrators are “concerned” that applications from
underrepresented minority students have decreased at a greater rate
than the applicant pool as a whole. The report speculates that
controversy over the past year regarding affirmative action
policies — including last June’s Supreme Court decision
and the “hostile language” surrounding the Michigan
Civil Rights Initiative to ban affirmative action — may have
discouraged some minority students from sending in
applications.

But the final application numbers, which will be released in the
fall, may prove less troubling than the preliminary data. According
to the report, minority applicants tend to apply relatively late in
the admissions cycle. A comparison between two admissions reports
released February 8 and March 30 lends credence to that observation
— in the later report, minority admissions were down 11
percent from the same date last year, while in the earlier report
the drop was close to 30 percent.

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