Waiting for the Word

By Emily Gold Boutilier / March / April 2005
August 10th, 2007

Come April, more applicants than ever will find an envelope in their mail that is far too thin to signal good news. Undergraduate applications at Brown are up 10 percent this year, setting a new record for the school and mirroring increases at other Ivies. Last year, the University accepted 17 percent of applicants; this year’s rate will be lower still. “The numbers are overwhelming,” says Director of Admission Michael Goldberger. “It will make this the most selective year we’ve ever had.”

The admission office tallied 16,835 undergraduate applications, up from 15,286 last year. The previous record, 16,801, was set in 2000. After that year, Brown started prohibiting early admission students from simultaneously sending early applications to other colleges—a move that resulted in a decrease in total undergraduate applications.

Until now. Nationwide, the population of college-age students is climbing. But Goldberger attributes this year’s jump to other factors: the much-publicized $100 million financial-aid gift made by Sidney Frank ’42, as well as the Initiatives for Academic Enrichment. At a time when many colleges and universities are cutting faculty and reducing course offerings, Goldberger says, undergraduate applicants and their parents are learning about growth in the Brown faculty, as well as in its financial aid and campus facilities. “It gives people the sense of confidence,” he explains.

Harvard received a record 22,717 undergraduate applications this year, 15 percent more than last year, a change that administrators there attributed to a new financial-aid initiative. Likewise, Princeton received 16,077 applications, a record number and a 17 percent rise. Princeton said the increase was due to better recruiting and the introduction of a Web-based application form.

Among those anxiously awaiting word from Brown this April will be a Midwesterner named Pete, who, according to his blog, justpetehere.com, was devastated when his early decision application was deferred to the regular admission pool. (He was not alone; only 28 percent of early applicants got acceptance letters.)

In December, Pete, who lists his SAT scores as 720 for math and 710 for verbal, received words of encouragement and commiseration from visitors to his blog: “My name’s Keith and I, too, was deferred early from Brown,” wrote one. Another poster said, “My daughter learned today that she was also deferred from Brown.… You seem very bright and with it. You will find your place.” A third poster had better news, but tried not to gloat: “Hey Pete … I got in; I’m sorry you were deferred, but hopefully I’ll see you next year.”

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March / April 2005