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Class of 2018 Applications Hit New High

Freshman applications total 33,200 and are on the rise for 11 consecutive years

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January 13, 2014 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

EVANSTON, Ill.  --- Northwestern University has received 33,200 applications for the Class of 2018 -- setting a new record and illustrating the University’s growing appeal.

With this year’s 1.3 percent increase over last year, freshman applications have been on the rise at Northwestern for 11 years in a row.   

Applications have risen by more than 10,000 since 2007, when the University admitted 27 percent of all applicants.

The growth in applications typically results in lower acceptance rates.

Northwestern received 32,772 applications for the Class of 2017, with an acceptance rate of only 13.9 percent -- down by almost half since 2007.

Continuing the upward trajectory, Northwestern’s applications rose this year despite problems with the common application.

“The rollout of the new version of the common application -- called CA4 -- did not go as smoothly as everyone had hoped, and applicants, high school counselors and teachers were forced to contend with myriad problems and glitches,” said Michael Mills, associate provost for University enrollment.

“Given this context, we're excited to have set another new record,” he said. “It's a real testament to the appeal of the University.”  

For nine consecutive years, early decision applications also have been on the rise. The early commitment to Northwestern is another key indicator of the University’s rising appeal. Northwestern has received 2,828 applications for the Class of 2018 under its early decision program -- a 14.73 percent increase from last year.

Through the early decision program, 45 percent of the Class of 2018 already is filled.

“Based on the early decision admits and overall applications, this year’s acceptance rate is likely to fall somewhere between 12 and 13 percent,” said Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions at Northwestern.

The University increasingly is being recognized nationally and internationally for the excellence of its students, the highly diverse education offered inside and outside the classroom, leading faculty research regularly covered in the news and a popular president, Morton Schapiro, who is well known for his expertise in the economics of higher education.

“We’re doing an excellent job of raising our visibility across the nation and the world,” Mills said, “through outreach by staff, student volunteers and faculty, and the president through his international travel.”

The sheer number of classes and the flexibility of the curriculum across Northwestern’s three campuses in Evanston, Chicago and Qatar offer students unparalleled classroom opportunities for defining and developing their ambitions.

 “Northwestern attracts students who are both creative and analytical and provides a left-brain, right-brain type of education that provides plenty of opportunities for them to explore multiple interests,” said Watson.

The classroom experience, he said, is deepened by a variety of experiential learning opportunities that cross disciplines and continents. In recent years, for example, one student has worked with a professor on high-mass star formation and another studied development of a robot; one worked with a jazz musician in Chicago and another in an orchestra in the city; and another traveled to the former Soviet Union to study people who as children spent time in a forced labor camp.

Applied learning is central to Northwestern’s strategic plan and, accordingly, the University is strongly committed to supporting undergraduate research.

Last summer, for example, students who traveled abroad on undergraduate research grants explored industrial development in Trinidad and Tobago, Saudi religious transnationalism in the United Kingdom, water resources in Tanzania and Uganda and an innovative approach that has effectively eliminated bullying in a school in Norway.

“While many of these projects are ways for students to complete their studies, like a senior thesis, we have noticed that students increasingly use them not just to advance their own careers, but also to ‘do good’ in the world,” said Peter Civetta, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

The number of Northwestern undergraduates doing research and creative projects beyond the classroom -- internships, co-ops, research abroad, civic engagement -- continues to grow each year in just about every field of study.

More than 60 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.

Related to the University’s rising visibility and jump in applications, Northwestern students increasingly have been winning elite fellowship competitions, which are widely used to measure the quality of undergraduate teaching and student performance.

For the eighth year in a row, Northwestern is a top 10 producer of U.S. Fulbright grant recipients among the nation’s research institutions, according to a ranking published in the Oct. 28, 2013, online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Twenty-three Northwestern seniors, graduate students and recent alumni have been awarded the prestigious 2013-2014 scholarships from the flagship U.S. government-sponsored program that funds international research exchange.

“With their global and service-oriented emphasis, the Fulbrights reflect what Northwestern is all about,” Mills said.

The breadth of the learning opportunities allows students to explore multiple interests; ask the right questions, often in real-world contexts; and deepen critical thinking skills necessary for success in today’s world.

The University’s highly successful NUvention program, for example, brings together undergraduate and graduate students from Northwestern’s two Chicago-area campuses, involving varying combinations of schools and colleges, to engage in the entrepreneurship process and to learn from industry leaders and others about the process of design and innovation. All students gain knowledge about building a product and a company. In its first four years, the course has spawned a number of promising companies.

“Northwestern students get broad exposure to what is relevant in our global world,” Watson said. “They get an education that prepares them well for a variety of careers.”