University snags record 42,000 applications for fall 2013 in part of decade-long trend

Less than a third of accepted applicants actually enrolled in the University in 2012.

by Tyler Gieseke

Despite a statewide decrease in the number of high school graduates, the University of Minnesota received a record number of applications for fall 2013 admission.

The University has had more than 42,000 freshman applications for fall 2013 admission already — an increase of about 12 percent over the year before. An official application count won’t be available until fall 2013, since the University is still receiving applications.

Students seeking admission applied for about 5,400 spots in the class of 2017.

Because of the increased number of applications, more academically capable students — who likely have many college choices — are offered admission, said Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

Of the almost 19,000 applicants who were offered places at the University in fall 2012, less than a third actually enrolled. That’s an 11 percentage point decrease from fall 2003.

The increase in applicants was surprising because of the declining numbers of high school graduates in the Midwest, McMaster said.

In the past six years, Minnesota’s number of high school graduates has dropped by almost 9 percent, or 5,200 students, according to a report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

“Our whole [collection] area is going down,” McMaster said. “So we thought that we’d see the same trend in applications, and we didn’t.”

Also, the number of applicants for fall 2012 decreased slightly from the year before, according to University data.

But this drop was an exception to the trend of increasing applications. The number of freshman applicants has more than doubled in the past decade.

This growth is something the University wants to see “to a point,” McMaster said.

It’s important to have a high enough number of applications to hit an enrollment target, said Rachelle Hernandez, interim director of admissions.

But as a result of the rising number of applications, McMaster said a lot of students who have good academic records are denied admission.

In the past decade, the portion of applicants who are granted admission has significantly decreased.

About three in four applicants were offered admission in 2003, while less than half were admitted in 2011. 

“Our goal is not to reject students — good students,” McMaster said, adding that he thinks the application numbers will eventually level off or begin to decrease.

“We are not looking to artificially increase the number of applications we’re receiving,” Hernandez said.

Rather, she said the focus is working with students who are interested in the University and who would likely be successful.

Some students said a decreasing acceptance rate isn’t bad news.

Having a more competitive application process also improves the classroom atmosphere, said sports management sophomore Brianna Tahti, because it results in more academically skilled students.

“I think it’s a good thing to make it more prestigious,” said freshman Taylor Ader.

He said increasing numbers of jobs require a college degree, which may boost the number of people applying to the University.

“There’s a higher need for college,” Ader said.

Reasons for growth

The main reason for the increasing number of applications is the recruitment work carried out by the Office of Admissions, McMaster said.

Hernandez said the University focuses on communicating its policies and expectations to high school counselors to help identify potential students.

Anticipating a decrease in high school graduates, about a decade ago University administration began to “work Illinois pretty hard” in terms of recruiting, McMaster said.

In addition, he said the University employs a regional recruiter in southern California to attract applicants.

Still, McMaster said the University strives to build classes where two-thirds are Minnesota residents.

“Our focus is really on attracting great students from the state of Minnesota,” he said.

Another potential reason for higher application numbers is a trend among high school students to apply to many colleges, Hernandez said.

Newer initiatives like the University Honors Program and new buildings like the Recreation and Wellness Center could also contribute, McMaster said. 

Art and biology freshman Michelle Bluem said she wasn’t surprised the University was receiving more applications.

She said she’s heard from younger students that admission to the University has become more competitive.

“I think the University’s very happy to be in demand by great undergraduates,” McMaster said.