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Early Decision Applications Reach All-Time High

Applicants making Northwestern their first choice doubles over five years

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November 21, 2012 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s early decision applications for undergraduate admission have reached an all-time high – and are now more than double the number received in 2007, only five years earlier.

Early decision applications at Northwestern are up for the eighth consecutive year, with the number for the Class of 2017 so far totaling 2,625 and representing a 7 percent increase from last year.

The rising number of students committing early to Northwestern -- and to Northwestern only, if admitted -- follows the record number of applications received overall for last year’s class. Applications topped 32,000 for the Class of 2016, the most academically gifted in the school’s 161-year history.

Northwestern increasingly is being recognized nationally and internationally for the excellence of its students and its highly diverse education offered inside and outside the classroom. The education crosses disciplines, continents and 12 schools and programs, on campuses in Evanston, Chicago and Qatar.

And Northwestern graduates increasingly are being noticed, whether for leading at the highest echelons of business and technology; for producing, directing, writing and performing for theater and music productions on major stages; for reporting and producing the most important stories of our day; or for breaking world records as six-time Olympic medalist Matt Grevers did once again this summer, winning a gold in the 100-meter backstroke. The list goes on.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro reflected upon the Northwestern difference in the fall issue of Northwestern, the University’s alumni magazine: 

“Northwestern is likely one of very few institutions that can claim to have had its students, faculty or alumni win all of the following: Nobel Prizes, Academy Awards, Tony Awards, Rhodes Scholarships, MacArthur ‘genius grants,’ Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards and World Series and Super Bowl rings.”

Winning big scholarship competitions is widely used as measures of the quality of undergraduate teaching, and Northwestern students increasingly have been winning Rhodes, Marshall, Churchill and Fulbright scholarships.

Last year Sarah Smierciak, who graduated in 2011 from Northwestern summa cum laude, won a Rhodes Scholarship, widely considered the world’s most prestigious international scholarship. A triathlete, Smierciak came to Northwestern knowing little about the Middle East and ended up speaking fluent Arabic, living in Cairo and traveling one and a half hours daily to a makeshift school, where she taught street children and helped develop the curriculum.

For the eighth year in a row, Northwestern is among the top 10 producers of U.S. Fulbright grant recipients at the nation's research institutions, according to a ranking published in the Oct. 24 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Northwestern Fulbright winners currently teach, conduct research or study in countries around the world, representing every Northwestern undergraduate school as well as the law and medical schools.

Lydia Hsu, another 2011 Northwestern graduate, for example, is one of the first two recipients of a Fulbright student English teaching assistantship in Rwanda. A class about Africa that Hsu took her junior year at Northwestern led to three trips to Rwanda, the most recent one on the Fulbright. While in Rwanda, she focused, both intellectually and personally, on the country’ resilience, economically and otherwise, following the horrific 1994 genocide.

During her senior year, Hsu developed a curriculum that was the basis of a conference she organized for professors and secondary school teachers about the teaching of Africa -- with African voices -- in American secondary schools.

“The breadth of opportunities made available by Northwestern’s six strong undergraduate schools with the cross-school collaboration between faculty and students truly sets Northwestern’s culture apart,” stressed Michael Mills, associate provost for University enrollment.

“Sixty-five percent of Northwestern students graduate with more than one major -- with a double major or a major, minor and a certificate or various other combinations of studies -- sometimes in completely different fields,” added Christopher Watson, dean of admissions at Northwestern.

Applied learning also is a hallmark of a Northwestern education.

“An overwhelming majority of our students are doing things outside the classroom –internships, co-ops, research abroad, civic engagement, you name it -- to enhance the classroom experience,” Watson said.

But Watson stressed that Northwestern is not about all work and no play. “Yes, Northwestern students are quite focused on academics,” he said. “But they also take advantage of all kinds of clubs, sports and other opportunities and lead surprisingly balanced lives.”