The University’s Office of Admissions received a record-breaking 10,034 applications for the class of 2013, a 22 percent increase since last year. Early Decision I and II applications rose by 38 percent and Regular Decision by 21 percent.

Many other private liberal arts schools across the nation have reported larger applicant pools than in previous years, though few have seen similarly significant increases. According to Maureen Norcross, Admissions Assistant at Vassar, applications increased by 200, a 2.7 percent increase from the previous year. Harvard reported a five percent increase, Dartmouth a nine percent increase, and Yale a 13 percent increase. Brown saw a 21 percent rise.

“It’s the biggest increase we’ve had, it’s the biggest number of applications we’ve ever had, and it’s the first time we’ve ever been over 10,000,” said Gregory Pyke, Senior Associate Dean of Admission. “In the thirty years I’ve been here, I can’t begin to remember a year when [applications increased by] 22 percent.”

Pyke is unsure how the surge in applications will affect the acceptance rate.

“I can make a very good case in absolutely opposite directions,” he said. “I could spin out an argument that more applications means more interest means higher yield or I could spin out an argument that more applications to more colleges, but the same total number of seats in these colleges, means that we’re going to have to admit more students to enroll the same number.”

Despite the 38 percent increase in Early Decision applications, the acceptance rate for Early Decision I applicants remained about the same as in past years.

“[It is] a reflection of the strength and diversity in the pool, as well as our anticipation of a slightly larger class,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, in an e-mail to the Argus.

While the administration’s proposal to enroll 30 more students in each incoming class over the next four years to generate additional revenue has not officially been approved, it is something the Office of Admissions has been taking into account while reviewing applications.

“If we’re going to have a slightly larger freshman class, that is going to be the result of the admission process,” Pyke said. “I don’t know that any decisions have been made but [the Office of Admissions] needs to be thinking about how many students we would need to admit if the class size is going to be x, y, or z.”

Despite reports that suggest that the Early Decision process is unfair toward minorities and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the number of minority Early Decision I applicants this year increased by a larger percentage than the overall application increase. The number of African American applicants increased by 50 percent and Latino applicants increased by 67 percent. Students applying for financial aid increased by 40 percent.

“That would suggest that the message we’ve always wanted to send is in fact getting out there, which is that financial aid is available in Early Decision, financial aid is the same whether it’s in early or regular decision, and that if you’re admitted to Wesleyan you’ll get the financial aid you need to meet the cost difference between what your family can pay and the cost of Wesleyan,” Pyke said.

While fully explaining such a drastic change in the number of applications may take years, Pyke offered some theories for the 1500 application increase.

“I think each year is a response to a particular set of circumstances, some of which we know and most of which we don’t know anything about,” he said. “I think one reason [for the increase] is that Michael Roth is here. He has been a terrific spokesperson for liberal arts education and for Wesleyan in particular and has been reaching audiences that we don’t typically reach.”

Pyke also suggested that Barack Obama’s speech at last year’s graduation might have influenced the application pool.

“The fortune of having the person who is now the president of the United States give our commencement address in May was something that certainly had to be good for Wesleyan,” he said. “This would be the first year that kids looking at college would have been affected by that. We certainly told everyone we could think of to tell.”

While there is no way to predict whether or not the number of applications will continue to increase in future years, Pyke hopes that the University is attracting more interest as a result of the direction in which American society is moving.

“I think that among people of college age now, there is more reason in the air to think that making a change in the not too terribly distant future is possible,” he said. “I think that Wesleyan really enables people to be effective in the use of their ideals in the world and to make a difference in the world, and not just to talk about it or dream about it.”

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