As The Polytechnic reported earlier this year, applications for undergraduate admission to RPI have surged over the past few years. Just two years ago, RPI received only 5,575 applications for freshman admissions. Last year, this number climbed to 6,875, and this year 10,153 high school seniors applied to become a part of the Class of 2011. On Saturday, over 1,000 of these prospective students and around 3,000 visitors total came to RPI for the Accepted Student Celebration to see what Rensselaer has to offer, the largest turnout in the event’s history.
Vice President for Enrollment Jim Nondorf said it seemed that the day went really well and that Enrollment has received great feedback from the day. He said that the number of prospective students who decided to enroll with their deposit on-the-spot during the visit doubled this year. Overall and date-to-date RPI is currently about five deposits ahead of where they were at this time last year. He thanked everyone who helped out and said “everybody went above and beyond [to ensure] that every student got their questions answered.”
A couple of prospective students spoke with The Poly about their visit and their college choice. Gino Miglio, a student from Cape May, N.J., is a prospective computer and systems engineering major. He said “I liked the glowing orb,” referring to one of the student demonstrations at the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Lab. He also said he enjoyed Dean of Engineering Alan Cramb’s session. While he did not have much criticism of the celebration, he joked that the cookies could have been better. Miglio said he was leaning toward RPI but was also considering Case Western.
A second prospective, Lea Sidoti, from Armonk, N.Y., said she really enjoyed the LITEC demonstrations. She said the rest of the day and some of its schedule, however, were “kind of confusing.” She was choosing between RPI, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Northeastern University and as of yet, was undecided.
Nondorf said, “We were certainly excited” at this year’s application increase and that “maybe there was a little bit of panic at one point” with just how to manage that many applications. According to Nondorf, to account for the increase, each admission officer read about 30 applications per day from November 1 until about April. Applications were also read regionally, so that officers were more familiar with the schools that applications were coming from.
Since the target size for the class has not changed, the spike in applications coincides with a plunge of RPI’s acceptance rate. In 2003, RPI accepted 80 percent of applicants; in 2004, 75 percent; and in 2005, 78 percent. Last year, this fell to 67 percent and this year, RPI accepted fewer than half of all applicants; just 49 percent of applicants were admitted.
According to Nondorf, the quality of the applicant pool as a whole increased a bit, but the quality of the admits greatly increased. For example, while the applicant pool only saw a one percent increase in the number of applicants who were in the top 10 percent of their classes, the percentage increased 8 percent for those who were actually admitted. As a result of the increased selectivity, Enrollment expects yield, or the percentage of students who accept admission offers, will decrease somewhat. While last year, RPI accepted 4,574 of 6,875 applications, this year the Institute admitted 4,990 of 10,153. The waitlist has around 600 students on it and Nondorf said many of them expressed the desire to come if admitted. Last year, around 40 students were admitted off of the waitlist.
Other statistics he supplied stated that the accepted students represent all fifty states and 92 countries. In addition, the SAT verbal and math average of those admitted went up 20 and 8 points, respectively. This year, applications from women grew 112 percent and about 31 percent of those offered admission are women. Nondorf explained, “My personal goal was to have [the percentage of the class that is women] in the 30s this year.”
Nondorf explained, “I think Rensselaer was undervalued previously.” He continued that the Newsweek/Kaplan naming of the “New Ivies” and the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations announcement helped to get more people excited about RPI. This helped to increase visits, which ultimately led to more applications. Indeed, annual total inquiries for the Fall 2003-2006 cohorts climbed slowly from 22,381 to 26,187. This number more than doubled to 53,950 this year. He pointed out that the U.S. News & World Report rankings lag a year behind, so any impact that the selectivity changes this year have on our ranking, will not be seen for at least one more year.
The vice president for Enrollment is anticipating that applications will remain at their current level next year. His expectation is based in part on the increase that has also been seen in inquires and visits from current high school sophomores and juniors. As a result, the Office of Admissions is expecting to hire two additional admissions officers to begin in the fall to help manage the growing number of interested prospectives.