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Letter: Students should apply to fewer colleges to reduce admissions selectivity

Herald File Photo
Herald File Photo

To the Editor:

Thanks for your detailed coverage of the selectivity of Brown admissions and the April 3 column on the subject by Alissa Simon ’25.

Reviewing the data as best I could, the total number of students enrolling as college undergraduates is down from its most recent peak in 2010. But Brown has a target enrollment of 1,700 students this year, a greater than 10% increase from its actual enrollment of 1,504 students in 2010. The number of students enrolled at Brown has risen steadily since I was a first-year student in 1972.

A frequently overlooked aspect of this issue is the rising number of applications each applicant submits. In 1971, when I applied to Brown, college counselors recommended submitting three to four applications. Now students are advised to apply to 4-8 colleges. Thus the number of applications per student has increased by a factor of two to three while the number of students enrolled has slightly more than doubled. This trend alone makes colleges seem increasingly competitive. It also lowers an applicant’s probability of getting into any given school because of the greater number of applicants, making the submission of lots of applications the most sensible strategy. This just exacerbates the problems associated with increasing numbers of applications — more application fees, less thoroughness at admissions offices and greater uncertainty in where students will be admitted, not to mention the burden on applicants of writing so many applications and essays.

Maybe a partial solution to this problem would be to gradually lower the maximum number of applications each student can generate. It would decrease the financial and time burden on students and increase the predictability of where they would be admitted.

Rick Fleeter ’76

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering



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