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Applications Hit New High

Admissions office reviewing nearly 32,000 applications

EVANSTON, Ill. --- For the ninth consecutive year, applications to Northwestern University have reached a new high. At 31,991, total applications for the class of 2016 are up by 3.5 percent.

This follows a 15.2 percent increase in early-decision applications, from which a record 814 students, or approximately 40 percent of Northwestern’s Class of 2016, already enrolled in December are feeling the purple pride. A total of 2,450 applied early.

The record 40 percent of the Class of 2016 enrolled at Northwestern via early admission compares with 33 percent of the Class of 2015 and 28 percent of the Class of 2014.

The 31,991 applications received this year are almost double the number Northwestern received in 2005 (16,228), and the 15 percent increase in early-decision applications for the Class of 2016 follows a 26 percent increase the year before.

“In the world of research universities, Northwestern is increasingly known for achieving a sort of critical mass of creative and analytical students,” said Mike Mills, associate provost for university enrollment. 

“Students with highly diverse interests regularly come together in creative collaborations, whether in seminars, classes, fieldwork or informal ways,” he said. “You’ve got trombonists interacting with chemical engineers interacting with drama, theater and dance majors, interacting with the social policy majors who want to change the world.”

Perhaps there is no more visible representative of the Northwestern model than Stephen Colbert, the wildly popular alumnus who, in character, delivers his outrageous comedic news nightly on “The Colbert Report.”

“But there are so many more examples of alumni from all walks of life, who exhibit the same blend of creativity and analytical skills,” Mills said. “In the same vein as Colbert, of course, there is Virginia Rometty, IBM’s new president and chief executive officer, Andrew Mason, the founder and CEO of Groupon, and Will Butler of Arcade Fire.  The list goes on and on.”

The University’s new strategic plan emphasizes Northwestern’s rich undergraduate education as a central comparative advantage. The plan challenges Northwestern to continue to integrate learning and experience in and outside the classroom, whether students work at a science lab or in a Chicago news office or on a play or in an orchestra or on developing a robot. Increasing co-curricular opportunities here and abroad is a major goal of the plan. 

The numbers of Northwestern undergraduates doing research and creative projects beyond the classroom continue to grow each year in just about every field of study, whether students are studying high-mass star formation with an astronomy professor or examining how school performance evaluations affect housing choices or traveling to the former Soviet Union to interview people who, as children, spent time in forced labor camps.

And the major fellowship competitions that Northwestern undergraduates, graduate students and alums increasingly are winning strongly indicate the high quality of teaching and undergraduate research opportunities available at Northwestern.   

This academic year Sarah Smierciak, a recent Northwestern graduate, won a Rhodes scholarship, one of the most prestigious international fellowships in the world. Smierciak, who knew little about the Middle East when she came to Northwestern as a freshman, now speaks fluent Arabic and lives in Cairo, where she travels an hour and a half daily to write curriculum and teach street children at a makeshift school. She will use her scholarship to acquire the necessary tools to conduct research on development in the Middle East.    

This school year Northwestern also produced the second highest number of Fulbright grant recipients among the nation’s research institutions, according to a ranking published last fall in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Fulbright winners, who currently teach, conduct research or study in countries around the world, represent every Northwestern undergraduate school as well as the law and medical schools.

"With their emphasis on global leadership and citizenship, the Fulbrights reflect what Northwestern is all about,” Mills said. 

Admissions officials now are poring over regular-decision applications to select the remaining approximately 1,225 students who make up next year’s freshman class.

"We’ve had an extremely successful year in attracting a very strong pool of high quality applicants,” said Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions. “The Northwestern name increasingly is known both in the United States and internationally. Now our staff will be making difficult choices as we make our admissions decisions."

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