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Applications fall slightly, despite larger international pool

Total applications to the University decreased slightly from last year, with international applicants making up a record 16 percent of the applicant pool. The 28,671 total applications for the class of 2016 — 25,744 regular decision and 2,927 early decision — represented a 7 percent decline following a record-setting year in which the University received the largest number of applications in its history.

This year's total ranks behind only the applications for the classes of 2015 and 2014, respectively, according to a University statement released to The Herald last Friday. In 2011, total applications rose by 3 percent, and in 2010, they increased by 20.6 percent compared to the previous year. Over the previous five years, the number of applicants grew by almost 50 percent.

"We've anticipated this kind of leveling-off in application numbers for several years in the wake of slight declines in the number of high school graduates nationally," said Jim Miller '73, dean of admission, in the statement. "And the reintroduction of early admission programs at several peer schools increased the likelihood that applications would be lower."

Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia reinstated early admission programs last fall. These universities had not offered early application options since fall 2006.

While the total number of applicants decreased, the number of international candidates increased with China, Canada, South Korea and India being the largest contributors to the international pool. Last year, the top countries of origin for international applicants were China, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Turkey. The University received applications from 141 countries, two more than it did last year.

"We've done about the same amount of international recruitment that we've done in the past," Miller said. "I do think the U.S. in general, and Brown in particular, continues to be perceived overseas as a very valuable experience, and I think for a lot of international students American higher education is really a gold standard."

Miller said the acceptance rate for international students tends to be slightly below that of the entire class, in part because Brown is still only need-aware to international applicants.

Brown is not the only school to experience a drop in applications this year. Columbia, Harvard and Penn all received fewer applications, though only Columbia's decline was greater than Brown's.

Harvard, which reinstated its early action program this year, received 34,285 total applications, a drop of 1.9 percent, according to an article published in the Harvard Crimson.

Princeton, which also suspended early applications after the fall 2006 round, has not yet released its numbers for regular decision applications. It accepted 726 of its 3,443 early action applicants in December.

The University of Virginia saw its applicant pool increase by 17.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of applicants increased at Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke University, Stanford University and Yale, according to the New York Times. These schools saw their applications increase by 3.53 percent, 2.98 percent, 6.13 percent, 6.98 percent and 5.05 percent, respectively.

Bruce Breimer, director of college guidance at the Collegiate School in New York City from 1970 until 2007, called this year's drop in applications a deviation from the norm. "I don't see it being a trend," he said.

Breimer cited the drop in Princeton's applicant pool for the class of 2008 as an example of how one year may not mean very much, as the number of applicants increased the following year. "Everybody was panicking (about) one year aberrations," Breimer said.

Breimer emphasized that a decline in the number of applicants is not inherently bad. "You have to find out … what the 7 percent decline represents. In other words, is it a higher percentage of marginally qualified people decided not apply? That's probably a good thing," Breimer said. "Any Ivy League school that's experienced 7 percent decline can still fill its class three times over without diluting the quality."

Breimer, like Miller, said demographers predicted a drop in the number of high school graduates around this time.

The percentage of applicants seeking financial aid rose from 67 percent to 68 percent. Director of Financial Aid Jim Tilton said in the past five years a consistent two-thirds of applicants applied for aid.

Miller estimated that applications to the Brown/Rhode Island School of Design Dual Degree Program are down from last year, while applications to the Program in Liberal Medical Education have increased. The University received 504 applications for the dual degree program and 2,493 for PLME.

Miller said the proportion of accepted students who will matriculate may increase due to the fact that high school students had the option of applying early to Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia.

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